held their meeting in the shade near the trunk of a huge tree whose
destruction they voted to authorize.
recognized that a shady spot was more comfortable than a sunny spot
on a day when the official high temperature was 100 degrees. Yet
they appeared not to understand that destroying numerous shade trees
is wrong for anyone and unforgivable for a group of people charged
with setting policy for the management of city parks.
of the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board were in
Greathouse Park on Aug. 26 to see the situation before taking a
final vote on a proposal to remove numerous trees of various sizes
and channelize a stretch of one of the tributaries of Town Branch,
itself a major tributary of the West Fork of the White River.
response to criticism of the project, members of the board said
that people in the neighborhood were in favor of the plan. And they
were right, to some degree. Residents of the south Fayetteville
neighborhood near Greathouse Park probably all would agree that
a bridge to allow people to cross the small stream to get from a
parking lot to the main area of the park is needed.
because a representative of Friends for Fayetteville and a representative
of Neighborwoods were on hand to say that people didn't know details
of the plan before the previous night's meeting of the board, it
appeared that maybe area residents also might not know the details,
which had appeared in local newspapers for the first time that very
day. I had only a few minutes to check the facts, but I learned
that a man who lives across the street from the park's parking lot
and whose brother lives next to that parking lot in a home their
grandfather lived in for decades, was in favor of a new bridge but
did not know or favor the destruction of streamside timber and the
dredging and widening of the creek. A lady who lives a block upstream
said "The neighbors are all against it." My survey wasn't scientific
or complete, but it suggested that the neighbors of the park, like
me and a few others at the meeting, had not heard all the facts.
members of the board confessed they hadn't previously been there
to learn the full details of the planned destruction of habitat
for fish, birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and people. But they
had committed $120,000 to the project.
board member asked "wouldn't you sacrifice these trees to save a
child's life." An answer from a person in the crowd was "Yes, one
tree." He was emphasizing the fact that no more than one tree would
need to be removed to replace the walking bridge taken down a few
years ago. But the fact is that kids are only pawns in this battle
over whether to degrade the park to increase its accessibility.
Kids want to play in the water. If broken glass is kept out of creeks,
wading to catch crawdads and learn about life in a mountain stream
is not dangerous, especially if the water is protected from pollution,
siltation and littering.
big reason the board has been under pressure to destroy the timber
to build the bridge is that the maintenance crew won't be able to
get its tractors to the site easily once the current owner of the
adjacent former Levi's clothing factory finds a buyer ‹ unless the
new owner realizes that allowing free access to the park and preventing
the destruction of the most beautiful part of the park would be
good for public relations. Has anyone in a position of power negotiated
that point with the current owner? Wouldn't the buyer, likely someone
whose business not only will provide some local jobs but also will
be hoping to get a good reception in the local market, want to provide
a public service? Park-board members argued that "closing the park"
would be the only alternative to destroying the stretch of timber
and natural shoreline vegetation to meet Federal Emergency Management
Administration rules to allow placement of the bridge at the site.
they are correct, it would appear that FEMA's flood-control regulations
conflict directly with other federal rules that mandate protection
of wetland habitat.
a safe bridge for people to enter the park, meeting federal guidelines
to avoid increasing the depth of flooding in the area and providing
access for maintenance equipment are all fine goals. The question,
however, is which one dominates the decision-making process? Kids
love the creek and the shade trees. The tiny, 6-acre park has little
else to offer; and adding more playground equipment won't reduce
the need to go to the shade on a hot day.
the desire to get tractors across the creek to mow be the main factor
driving the decision?
parks are mowed so often that wildflowers disappear just when they
are beginning to be outstanding in spring; and, during the annual
summer drought, the mowers pass over the grass without cutting even
the dried tops.
little more than half the acreage needing mowing, why not use small
mowers and go over only the areas with real need. Children don't
need to see baby rabbits that have been killed by the tractors,
something that happens in mowed fields and many large private yards
about the middle of every July. Another question: What does "closing
the park" mean? If it means ceasing to do the maintenance (mostly
mowing), so what? The public could still enjoy the area; and many,
particularly youngsters and nature lovers, would find it much more
interesting if left wild for however long it takes the authorities
to figure out a way to put the bridge in without destroying the
vegetation. A solution can be found. Youngsters and senior citizens
can get into the park safely, the timber can be protected and some
kind of mowing equipment can be brought in when needed.
key is getting influential people to see the problem and get involved
before the timber is destroyed. No matter what kind of trees are
planted, the channelized area will remain an ugly ditch for many
years, and most of us won't live to see a significant shady area
reappear on the northwest side of the park.
years ago or more I wrote that Fayetteville ought to buy every mountain
top to protect their beauty for future parks. And I should have
said the same about every floodway in the city. Future generations
can figure out how much, if any, development those areas need. Our
job is to protect the land for the future. Children and the wild
things will thank us if we do.
if mowing is required, there are dozens of youngsters offering inexpensive
mowing services in my south-Fayetteville neighborhood. They had
a bidding war in June. Their price range was something like $5 a
lawn, maybe $20 an acre, and they would push the mowers (some even
tow them behind their bicycles) for miles to get the chance to work.
Why tie up skilled maintenance crews mowing with those gas-guzzling,
air-polluting tractors when more important work could be done?