Let the grass grow


Comments to Habitat Stewardship Subcommittee March 9, 2010

Jim Carrier

Cofounder, Wild Warner Park

A group of people came together over a Northside plan that was detrimental to wildlife in Warner Park. Thanks to the Parks Commission we thwarted or slowed a number of developments in the park.

Hundreds of birds and a handful of critters share Warner Park with half a million people who use it every year. People constantly tell us that the existence of wildlife in this urban park surrounded by highways and apartment buildings – and their ability to see and hear wildlife — is what makes Warner Park a special place – year round. The fact that birds arriving from Chile make a home and raise a family – is a miracle of nature that deserves to be protected.

But this wildlife survives in a precariously narrow niche of habitat. It deserves better.

For three years I have watched the Parks staff increase its mowing, pruning and trimming of what was wildlife habitat. I would like to know what the object is. The park increasingly looks like an English manor, or a golf course. Is this a policy? Or is a de facto result of having machines that can do the job, and no policy at all.

Our group would like to see a park policy that manages Warner Park to enhance wildlife habitat – not destroy it.

Specifically we would like to see prairie restoration on the high meadow behind the sledding hill.

Secondly, we would like the meadow at the foot of the sled hill allowed to grow tall. This would attract a food base for birds and animals. A path cut through the meadow is fine.

Third, we would like a wild barrier left around all water, to reduce goose populations, and create an ecological edge.

Fourth, we would like any path pruning through the woods to be minimal, not using a bush hog that leaves a scarred and broken 15-foot swath, for example, for a Turkey Trot that encourage a true “cross country” atmosphere.

Fifth, We urge the parks commission and department to expend some of its institutional influence to influence our neighbors, including the railroad and ATC to trim minimally, and without poisons.

Lastly, we urge city parks to re-examine the debate about invasive species. A lot of habitat, specifically brush, is considered “bad” under this agenda. To a bird, brush is not bad. A hedgerow is not illegal. In a month birds will arrive from South America, expecting to find homes in plants and trees that they themselves sowed, and we’d like city parks to consider habitat from their point of view.