Editorials

Riverside Park: Protection plan needed

RIVERSIDE PARK

Protection plan is needed

What’s your relationship with Bean Creek and the land alongside the river? Do you appreciate it or do you just take it for granted? Do you think it should be nurtured and protected or largely ignored?

The destruction of habitat along the creek last week at Riverside Park shows a decided lack of appreciation. This incident is probably the worst assault in recent memory.

Even though city council designated Riverside Park as a natural area back in the 1970s, there are still attempts to tame the land. At various times, work crews have gone in and mowed down all vegetation to make maintenance easier and to give the park greater accessibility, like a city park.

Last week it wasn’t just mowing and hacking shrubs along the perimeter. A flood plain along a bend in the creek was cleared down to the soil, leaving absolutely nothing to hold the dirt in place. Trees, shrubs, grass and other vegetation are gone—there’s nothing left but bare earth. Erosion will occur with every substantial rainfall.

The floods that come at least once a year will result in a wholesale removal of soil and sedimentation of the creek. This section of the Bean no longer needs protection. It’s too late for that. Now restoration is in order. If it’s merely allowed to “grow back,” it will become ripe for scraping again a few years down the road.

Protecting the stream side reduces sediment in the river, moderates flooding, provides natural debris for aquatic life, and much more. What was done to our city park—with no previous discussion at a council meeting—borders on illegality through the state’s erosion and sedimentation control laws.

There are those who want Riverside Park to remain as somewhat of a wild area. There’s an interesting array of trees and other plants, although the number dwindles with every mowing season. Wildflowers that grew in the park 20 and 30 years ago are no longer seen. Having a “wild” park is quite unusual and it increases the value of the property. Most communities don’t have a jewel like Riverside Park.

Other people want the park cleared and planted with grass, much like the city’s other two parks. They see this as a way to increase use of the area, but there’s nothing unique about a third manicured park.

Rather than follow the approach taken now—mowing everything in sight—there should at least be a compromise in which some natural features are maintained. There are resources available to educate us on the best use of this precious property.

Bean Creek and the corridor of vegetation alongside the river can’t be taken for granted. Turn your head and something happens like the recent clearing of land. Nobody likes more rules and regulations, but an incident such as this shows why they’re necessary. It’s time for city council to examine ways to protect our natural resources.

    – DGG, Aug. 13, 2003