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Nature Nut: New digs offer a mostly old view

June 4, 2018 GMT

Before sleeping on my last night in the house Linda and I had lived in for three years, I finished the evening on the patio of what would be my new residence.

It was a house in the Jefferson School neighborhood I grew up in, overlooking Silver Lake and the downtown skyline. I could hear gray tree frogs and toads calling, even over the noisy geese.

The day before, I had watched warblers picking off insects in my backyard overlooking the park and lake lagoons, and last week I watched a red-tailed Hawk land near the parking lot below me with a squirrel in its talons.

Just the night before submitting this column, I enjoyed watching nighthawks feeding over the lake, only to be trumped by a deer prancing through the parking lot below my house.

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My new residence is not new by age, since it is almost 70 years old, but is a new chapter in my life. Without Linda, I was not in need of such a large nor new home, and I could now look for something smaller in my favorite neighborhood I had longed to return to for many years.

Although the house I grew up in was not directly adjacent to the park, I spent much of my youth in the park, fishing for crappies and bullheads, and stupidly throwing goose eggs against nearby trees. Aren’t we fortunate now to have places like Quarry Hill to bring kids out of such ignorance?

I have been working for four months trying to make this new residence habitable, although not yet presentable. But, I look forward to getting up every morning to the sights and sounds of the park, and the city waking up. For, besides the birds and other wildlife I see and hear, there is always a great amount of human activity in the park. Fortunately, most of it is what the park was meant for: people having fun, enjoying the out-of-doors.

However, one thing I have noticed watching activity in the park and biking around it myself, is how little it has changed since I grew up here 60 years ago. The limestone pavilion on the east side is as it was, with restrooms that “just do,” and the somewhat newer pavilion on the west side near the former fire station has also not changed much.

The iconic bridges, which I feel are almost the “heart of the park,” are still awesome looking, thanks to ongoing maintenance such as that taking place when I submitted this column.

However, what has changed in the past decade is the park shoreline, which has been converted to native plantings to help thwart the geese somewhat, as well as filter water flowing over that area into the lake. Unfortunately, it has also taken away the lake view for human users of the park, or just motorists and bikers as they pass by.

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I’ve written a bit on this in the past and still have not heard from anyone who feels lower growing native vegetation wouldn’t work just as well, instead of the seven-foot cup plants that deny a view for most of us.

Last week I did notice a private contractor in the park spraying some vegetation so I contacted parks director Mike Nigbur, who confirmed they were spraying some of the cup plants to try to control them, but mentioned “total elimination would be difficult.”

Biking around the Lake, I could see wilted cup plants on the east side, unfortunately being grazed on by geese. But the west side was dominated by thousands of healthy looking 3-footers that could be 8-footers by July 4.

Anyway, I suspect I will now be mixing up some of my columns on happenings at my backwaters cabin with occasional observations of goings-on at Silver Lake. So, if any of you have thoughts or stories on this “jewel,” I would certainly like to hear from you.