May 19th, 2013

They Bulldozed Paradise And Put Up a Sign

I got back into bike riding this past week after a long stretch where I had a flat tire, zero time to fix it, and it was raining most days anyway. Unfortunately, my favorite route, along a nature trail/bike path, now makes me incredibly angry every time I go down it. The nature trail is along an old railroad right-of-way. It's never far from streets and houses, but until recently it had a screen of trees on both sides of it just thick enough to give the illusion that you were away from it all. It was also thick enough to give wildlife a corridor to live in. In past years I've seen a long list of animals there: Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, raccoons (late in the evening for both of those), and even deer.

Not this spring, and probably not for five or ten years. It seems that early this spring the local power company went in and bull-dozed all of the vegetation that was under or near their power lines, which ran along one side of the trail. They scraped it down to bare dirt, spread wood-chips along where they had bull-dozed to keep stuff from growing back, then planted a sparse collection of what will in ten years grow up to be low trees and shrubs in the compacted dirt.

One side of the nature trail now offers a pleasant view of drainage ditches with ponds of green, stagnant water, suburban backyards and a new shopping center that's being built nearby. I saw one squirrel picking desperately through the wood chips. That was the extent of the surviving nature.

Oh, and the power company added a final clueless touch to the tapestry: a self-congratulatory sign explaining how ecologically conscious they were for having planted the motley collection of foot-high pieces of vegetation that may in ten years be trees and bushes.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened in my community, though it's the first time I'm aware of that the power company has been involved. The is something about trees, especially trees that grow up on their own, that large organizations, whether public or private, don't like. There have been a couple of cases where the Army Corp of engineers or the city fathers decided that little groves of trees by the side of our local river "had to go." In one case that gave a large swatch of houses along one side of the river a wonderful view of the local sewer plant.

Quality of life for residents? So what? The fate of little bits of surviving nature? Who cares?  And the organizations involved are big enough and unaccountable enough that they can get away with it. Oh well. Maybe I'll find a different route, or get used to scum-filled drainage ditches and bare, compacted soil and lonely, desperate squirrels.