Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Green Lake, Seattle

Before arriving in Seattle for the summer, I already knew I wanted to visit Green Lake.  I'd read lots of great things about the park, including the fact that it had an off-leash area, while doing my housing search on Craigslist.  While I ended up living by magnificent Magnuson Park, I still harbored dreams of visiting Green Lake and jumping off the high dive.  My online research pointed out that Green Lake has lots of attractions including: the zoo, a paved 2.8 mile trail around the lake, boat/board rentals, swimming areas, a children's theater, assorted ball fields, and unpaved trails through a scenic wooded area.  The park has a few concession stands and there are lots of restaurants and cafes to choose from within a block or two of the park if you get hungry.

I finally made the journey with my friends on what ended up being a cool and windy summer day.  We parked near a swimming area, but were a little intimidated by the wind, so we decided to walk around the lake.  After awhile we came to second swim area and, not knowing when I'd be back, I decided I had to experience swimming in the lake and leaping off the high dive.  This ended up being a little scarier than I'd hoped, but I blame the wind for my nerves and few second hesitation at the end of the handrail.

After I swam, we continued our walk around the lake.  We saw a great blue heron, lots of ducks, a handful of turtles sunning on a log, and some Canada Geese.  We also witnessed for the first time the art/sport of freestyle frisbee.  After politely inquiring "what IS that?", we were treated to an explanation and free tutelage by none other than 2012 World Mixed Pairs Champion Mike Galloupe.

Following the freestyle frisbee fun, we finished walking the loop and stopped at Zeke's Pizza for some big slices and local beers.  

Living the Dream (Photo by Dr. Su 2013)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lake Fayetteville News - Summer 2013

*Updates at Bottom

In the spring of 2013, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks released a master plan showing the elimination of a section of the dirt trail through the property they lease from the city.  As part of the plan to expand the gardens, they hope to build a fence around the property and make amendments to their lease permitting the closure/rerouting of the trail.  There was a meeting in April to take public comment on the plans. I didn't attend (or know about it), but would love to hear any information people have on the outcomes of that meeting.

As should be obvious looking at my blog and books, I love trails.  I love the dirt trail around the lake.  I also am a big fan of botanical gardens and would love to see the tiny BGO improved and expanded.  I don't see a reason that these two attractions can't work together.  In fact, I'd think there would be some synergy between the two with the trail bringing more people into the gardens than would otherwise come and with visitors to the gardens being able to take longer walks into more natural/native ecosystem settings.

In my opinion, the best solution is to make the Botanical Gardens free, thus eliminating the need for most fencing.  Many cities have free botanical gardens whose trails can be openly accessed.  Other cities have hybrid designs where parts of the gardens are free, but certain areas cost money to visit.  I realize the current structure and non-profit ownership may be different from gardens in other cities, however maybe it is time to change that or have the city and university fund the gardens in exchange for making it free to the public.  BGO could still raise money through weddings, other events, donations, courses, and plant sales; even without charging admission.  Lots of volunteer hours and money, both historically and recently, have been put into building and maintaining the trail around the lake.  Large amounts of public funding helped create BGO and the public should be allowed free access to the gardens and the existing trails.

Examples of great, free, Botanical Gardens:
1. Compton Gardens right up the road in Bentonville. They are funded through donations and private events.

2.  The Botanic Gardens in Seattle are free and open to the public.  They are operated by the University of Washington.  Trails through the park are used for a variety of purposes, including commuting.

3.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens is also free and is "the most visited free attraction in Alabama". It is run through a partnership between a non-profit and the city and they raise money through events and donations.

4.  Regional Parks Botanical Garden in Berkeley is on regional park land and run by a volunteer-based non-profit.  Admission is free and trails through the garden connect to other trails in the area..  They raise money through events, classes, plant sales, and donations.

Please leave a comment if I've gotten something wrong here or if you have something to add.  What are your favorite Botanical Gardens?  How do they handle public access?
If you live in Central Arkansas, see my proposal for a botanical garden in Midtown.

Update 7/19/14  -  BGO released their updated master plan.  I haven't seen it but it apparently leaves all but 70 feet of the trail intact.

There appears to be an issue with that last 70' of trail which the BGO would like to move closer to the lake and further into a wetland area.  Ozark Off Road Cyclists (OORC), the organization that constructed this trail and others around town using volunteer labor, says that they would not have the funds or ability to construct that section properly.  As far as I know, neither the city or BGO has offered to pay for a boardwalk.  Any input from BGO or OORC on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Here is a map showing plans as they stand now.  OORC has proposed moving the nature trail inland away from the wetland area.  If implemented, this would impact BGO's fencing/fee plans.

UPDATE 8/7/2013 - I requested information 8 days ago from a city official and from the botanical garden.  I recently got a reply from the city indicating that after the public meeting mentioned above, BGO went back to the drawing board with their proposed master plan and lease changes.  They are expected to release a revised master plan this fall.  If you care about the trails around Lake Fayetteville or would like to see a botanical garden more like the ones I've listed above, now is your chance to let your voice be heard. You can contact BGO here.

UPDATE 8/12/2013 - You can see a response from BGO below in the comments and an update on their website.  I also heard from them via twitter that revised plans will be released in the fall.
Regarding the comment below, I think anyone who viewed the master plan would question the assertion that "There is no recommendation, nor has there ever been, that any of the Lake Fayetteville trails go away". The plan I saw showed no dirt trail inside the new fence and showed a proposed new dirt trail outside it. We may be playing with words a bit here, but to me (and probably to the people who got upset by the plans) that appears to be a recommendation to eliminate the existing trail and reroute it around the proposed expanded gardens to a less desirable location. The plan also showed that the new dirt trail would no longer be continuous and would put extra traffic on the paved trail right at the entrance to the gardens. Not shown on the master plan, is the Plan B discussed at: which sounds much better.  How that would work with the proposed fencing and fee area is not yet clear.

I worked at a non-profit for four years and dealt with variation in funding sources, but am interested in your opinions about the first part of the comment below. At this point, my opinions/recommendations have not changed. Free admission is in the public interest and would maximize visitation. With more people visiting and learning about the gardens, gift shop sales, demand for paid events, and donations would likely increase.  Successful examples of this model exist and a few are discussed above.

My other posts on Lake Fayetteville.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Union Bay Loop - Seattle

The Union Bay Natural Area is part of the UW Botanic Gardens.  The flat and well-maintained crushed gravel trail is about a mile long depending on where you start.  There are many short dirt spurs off of the main trail that lead to interesting ponds and wetlands.  The trail offers great views of the bay and the city, while the looming stadium nearby provides a unique contrast to the feeling of being surrounded by nature.  A section of the trail forms part of a popular bike shortcut for people commuting from the northeast to UW campus.

When I visited I saw lots of waterfowl and shorebirds.  The highlight was getting a close view of a Great Blue Heron, as these are typically spooked from a greater distance along the Buffalo River, where I usually encounter them.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area

North Cascades National Park has an interesting layout, in that the main road through the park, Hwy. 20, is buffered by land designated National Recreation Area, while national park designated lands form the bread of the Ross Lake NRA sandwich.  This design allows for more uses in the most trafficked parts of the park.  On a recent visit I took advantage of these laxer regulations by bringing my dog along for a hike; something that is largely prohibited in most national parks.

This was my first time to the park, so I stopped at the visitor center, which is technically in the NRA.  I was tired of driving and Buddy was tired of riding, so we decided to do the multiple trails that connect the visitor center to the town of Newhalem.  These trails are well-labeled on the maps at the center, but they are not well-signed along the actual trails, so be prepared for some backtracking or extra wandering around if you aren't familiar with them.

Our hike started at the visitor center and went downhill to the River Loop Trail.  After visiting the river, we backtracked and took the To Know A Tree Trail to the Linking Trail to the Trail of the Cedars loop.  After exploring Newhalem, we walked back taking parts of the various trails we'd missed on the way out for a total hike length of about 5 miles.  The only major elevation change was the stretch between the visitor center and the River Loop Trail.  This could be completely avoided for an easy hike by starting at Newhalem or in the campsites and avoiding the visitor center spur.

The scenery here reminded my quite a bit of the rainforest in Olympic, with tall sword and bracken ferns under moss coated alders and evergreens.  I am positive I missed some incredible scenery just another 15 minutes up the road, but I plan on returning soon to try some hikes deeper in the park around Ross Lake and Lake Chelan.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ode To Magnuson Park

I know I've been doing a lot of posts about non-Arkansas trails lately.  Given that:
1.  I'm in Seattle for the next two months
2.  I know most of the people who read this regularly
3.  I don't make any money off this site (so far; feel free to send $1,000 checks anytime)
4.  I use this site largely to practice writing and for motivation to explore new places and get exercise,
I will just write about all the awesome places I'm exploring in Washington for the summer.  If you don't like it, visit some of the older pieces on here, click one of the categories at the top, or leave an angry comment (but at least try to be funny).

Ok, here goes, Seattle is an amazing city to live in during its short summer.  They have great parks and trails in addition to the great food, breweries, dog-friendly restaurants, and the views of MULTIPLE incredible mountain ranges including the Cascades and Olympics.  On clear days, Mt. Rainier is stunning no matter how many times you've seen it.