Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Leaving The Woods
I remember a cartoon by Gary Larson that depicted a safari-outfitted tourist at the edge of the woods. In front of him stood a bear with a broom, and above the bear a sign, edged with lights, that read The Woods. The bear instructed the man - one: we're closed, and two: we don't like your kind here anyway.
The woods cannot be closed, and the truth is that the woods are there for us. As one of Olmsted's and New York's finest works, we should cherish Prospect Park. And we cannot do this without feeling for the forest. In talking with WCBS radio today about the demise of this group of litter gatherers, I realized what is the most important task for all of us - to preserve the woods.
I've often talked with people about our cultural bias against the woods, any woods. On a warm day you can see the evidence of this firsthand -thousands upon thousands of people enjoying the greensward we call the Long Meadow, but hardly a soul in the woodlands. That grassy meadow would not feel the same, would not carry the intentions of Olmsted himself, however, if it weren't for the woodlands he designed to surround it. In other words, the woods defines the Long Meadow, and without it, we lose the essence of Olmsted's design. Try to imagine that glorious green lawn bounded with newly planted, ten-foot tall trees, or with no trees at all.
Prospect Park's woodlands are in danger. Several windstorms over the last 5 years have toppled several of the largest trees. Erosion from heavy rains on morainic slopes has undermined the foundation of a great woodland. Invasive weeds have moved into disrupted habitats. All of these combined is enough to threaten the health of Prospect Park's woodlands, but none alone challenge the future of them more than the trampling and disturbance caused by people regularly traveling and standing off trail. All these threats combined create a scenario of decline that we hope to stem, but feel discouraged from achieving. We understand that for the woodlands to remain healthy and viable, at a reasonable cost, we need the forest to regenerate itself. For that we need more than litter mobbing.
The discontinuation of Marie's volunteer group is not an act of hopelessness, it's a wake up call. The future of Prospect Park requires us, all of us.