Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Leave the Woods the Hell Alone

Is there any reason people can't leave the woods alone? Is there a reason why you can't have a park without some sort of "attraction" that defaces a natural area?

Red-tailed hawk (Margo D. Beller)
In a word, no.

Last winter the area at the end of Greystone's Reservoir Rd., where the old ice ponds are, was opened as a park. The ponds drew ducks (ring-necked ducks and hooded mergansers) and the path around the lower pond was pleasant. A trail heading up a hill into the woods provided us access to the upper pond, where there were wood ducks. It was nice to walk in silence except for the occasional scream of a red-tailed hawk aloft. 

Those days are gone. 

MH and I took a walk at this area for the first time in a long time last week. We expected the people fishing - we'd seen them the last time and the county stocks the ponds with trout - but while we were walking an orange Frisbee suddenly wizzed by us and hit a tree. It turns out, there is a "disk golf" course in the works.
The only sign at the pond of what's around you. (Margo D. Beller)
Frisbee golf tee area (Margo D. Beller)

Note the worn path - made from the tee above to the basket below. (Margo D. Beller)
The goal - get the disk into the basket. (Margo D. Beller)
This was not our first exposure to using a Frisbee to play "golf" or I'd have been completely confused. We found such a course at a Tyler State Park in Pennsylvania, which had been recommended to me (as a place to find birds) by a friend. Here, too, we were walking along and suddenly a Frisbee went sailing by us. But the Greystone course had no signs warning us of a course (except a small sign with an arrow to the first tee, as shown above). The guy throwing the Frisbee turned out to be one of the people readying the course. Up the hill we found the map of the course. 

The first announcement of this course came this morning from my town's local alert:

A new recreation activity has been added to the Central Park of Morris County for those of all ages to enjoy.   Beginning Sunday, August 10th, Disc Golf (or frisbee golf) comes to Central Park!   Come out for a fun-filled day beginning with an opening ceremony at 9am followed by a round of disc golf starting at 10am.  There will be awards for various divisions (Pro, Amateur, Recreation, and Ladies).   The event is $15 per player and comes with a custom Opening Day stamped disc.   No pre-registration required, please come out and support the newest addition to Central Park!  Also, for those interested in course news or are looking to become part of the local club please see the course Facebook page.
If you go to the Facebook page you find a list of things that have to be done before the course is officially open:
Hole 2 Weed whack right side beyond log
Hole 3 Needs logs moved from in front of gap 

Hole 7 trimming on left in chute off the tee
Hole 9 Trimming on landing zone.
13and 14 gravel and stone dust for tees.--Russ
Hole 16 Stairs needed up to basket. - future project?
Hole 17 Needs the most work! long tee needs clearing and the green needs more brush removal and whacking.
MH reminds me that if you want to have a park nowadays, you have to bring in some sort of facility to draw people and make it "worth it." So you have the sorry situation where New Jersey Audubon's Scherman Hoffman sanctuary and the Griggstown Grasslands protected area allow "geocaching," the high-tech treasure hunt played with your cellphone. There is a geo-caching association. There is also a Frisbee golf association. There is a professional league.
Greystone used to be a state mental hospital. When the hospital was closed down and moved to be re-opened as a smaller, more modern facility, the bulk of the land became a county park. The old stone wards were pulled down. A dog park went in at one area. Ball fields and a rink were put up elsewhere. Woods were mowed down to become a huge complex of soccer fields.  
Greystone soccer field in progress. (Margo D. Beller)
A cross-country running course was put in. Until a smaller trail was put into a corner of the property, this was the only place where someone like me could go hiking aside from the main Central Ave., the road that runs from my town to the front steps of the old administration building, Kirkbride (currently the focus of a preservation battle).
Had this not been put in, the land would likely have become a housing development, to the detriment to the surrounding communities.
Is this the only choice we have now for open land, a housing development or ballfields and Frisbee golf?
No. There are areas near me where there is no geocaching or disk golf or ballfields. They are called wildlife management areas and wildlife natural areas. WMAs allow hunting, WNAs do not. But the woods are left alone.
Elsewhere, the woods are routinely mowed down for shopping centers and housing. The local governments that depend on these for property taxes (because they can't justify anymore taxes on New Jerseyians, with the highest taxes in America) call this "development." I call it appalling.
Leave the woods the hell alone. 
Greystone hiking trail, BEFORE the disk golf course was put in. (Margo D. Beller)

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