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Something Is Amiss At My Local Park

Something seemed different at the park today. From a distance, the “infield” area looks barer. It’s usually a thicket of deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines, complemented with a healthy stand of invasive phragmite. It doesn’t appear quite as dense today, but my first view is from a distance so I’m not sure.

bare

This park, the closest to where I live, is small – only 38 acres. A walking path around its perimeter is only a mile in length. But a mile rich in diversity and habitat.

The land is a peninsula, bordered by Taylor Creek on the west side and Foster Branch on the east. The tip juts southward, into the Gunpowder River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. This small tiny section of land in Harford County has woodland, edges, meadows, open fields, and wetlands.

The sections of the park, each distinctive, are lined up in a row, one after the other. The lay-out reminds me of the row-home I grew up in:  You have to go through the first room to get to the next, and the next, and the next. Each successive room you enter is completely different than the one you’re leaving behind. Each has its own treasures. So it is at this park.

My walks begin at the boat launch area.

launch areaI usually spend several minutes here, to see which birds and ducks are around, check on the osprey (in season) on the new man-made platform, and scan for eagles perched in the trees and herons along the stream bank on the other side of the creek.

eagle_Mariner

Leaving this section, an asphalt path leads you through an alleyway of trees. The main road continues on the left, to another parking area. But the walking trail takes you away from the road, closer to the water. The path has a border of trees and understory between it and the creek.

Mariner path and roadEvery so often, a short path takes you through the patch of woods to the stream-bank, where mallards cluster in the grasses along the edge, herons stalk for food, and all kinds of tracks can be found in the mud at low tide. Little piers have been built so you can fish, observe, or get to know each other better. They are good hangouts for teenage couples.

path_pier

The next section of the park is an open field with a playground and picnic pavilion. Here you’ll find parents watching their young children clamber on the equipment and big, boisterous groups holding family reunions. The park becomes much quieter after this.

Next is what I call the “infield” – a jumble of vegetation smack dab in the center of the park. A wooden fence circles the entire area and serves as a boundary, keeping human activity out. Past this infield area, at the tip of the peninsula is an open, grassy area, dotted with tall broad-leaf trees now bare for the winter, and a solitary conifer. More picnic tables are scattered around, but I rarely see anyone using them. Here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Gunpowder River.

picnic area

Today though, my attention is focused on the “infield”. It’s one of the better spots close to home for bird watching. A variety of sparrows have been found there, along with cardinals, bluejays, titmice, chickadees, towhees, and more.  In winter, trees fill with starlings, grackles, and cowbirds. The phragmite is a roost for hundreds of red-winged blackbirds. Bald eagles will soar over, hunting for a meal. I saw my first cedar wax-wings last winter, in the tulip poplars and sycamores along the edge. And a fox lives in the thick undergrowth. I’ve observed it a few times when I’ve been at the park right after sunrise or just before sunset. Other walkers have told me she had two cubs this year.

But today, red plastic fencing lining the wooden fence containing the “infield” confirms that something is amiss with that particular patch of land. A bulldozer sits a few dozen yards into the vegetation. A driveway of gravel has been formed. A Department of Public Works sign mentions grading.

dredging entranceThe field of phragmite is being cleared. And many of the trees have been chopped down too.

Here is what the infield looked like a few weeks ago:

before

And here is what it looks like now:

signs of clearing

phragmite

Other walkers tell me the work is related to dredging. I’ll make some calls and look into this.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Worrisome! Replacing invasive phragmite with native marsh grasses would be a good thing, but then wouldn’t the signs read “restoration” rather than “grading”? Keep us posted.

    December 31, 2013

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