NATURE TRAIL UPDATE
By Richie Schoemaker MD, project chairman
Posted Tuesday, May 14th 2013
Looking back from where we are now, I can’t believe we only got started 2 weeks ago. Now we are ready to start building (come help us on 5/15 and beyond). The massive transport job led by foreman Andy Clarke is just about done. The 38 “second floor” racks are now waiting on the island (as yet unnamed; how about “Broken Back Island”?) near their final resting place in the final stretch of impenetrable swamp. Granted it took two sessions of 90 minutes each to load the 150 pound racks in groups of 10 onto Andy’s long trailer, transport them from the City Public Works lot to the building site, slide each rack down the hill and through the woods, over the bridges and into place. It took four people to load each rack; two to unload and move to the forest and four to haul into the swamp staging area.
|Prothonotary Warbler - Male|
We had some familiar faces sweating with the loads: Larry Fykes, Rob Clarke (right in there full bore!), Andy Clarke, Michael Redden and a newbie, Josh Weichman. Our first truck load took 58 minutes and the second 39 minutes. The next session was Andy, Larry, Rob, Scott Tatterson, some physician part time, and from the cadet corps came Kalie and Luke Speta. With all that crew, Larry suggested that they move some planks that we need to use as joists as well. And so they did.
Meanwhile, the Town Public Works crew has moved the hundreds of 4 foot treads that Chris Miles cut (for free, thanks Chris!) for us. Only 600 more to go (well, maybe a few more). We are ready for the machine-like assembly line in the swamps! But, one small item remains. What path does the Trail actually follow to get to its final end point? Into the swamp go Andy and Larry, with music from African Queen and Heart of Darkness quietly playing in the stream of consciousness. They make it back alive. Larry’s hip waders didn’t drag him down into the suction of the organic floor of the wooded wetlands (don’t laugh, that happens).
So now we are so close to finishing. Larry wants to jump start our deep water sections, the most difficult, which as one might expect are the first. Yet, our plan is still to push the work over Memorial Day weekend, beginning on Saturday at 9 AM. Volunteers will assemble at the Greenway parking area for the Trail entrance by the golf course and walk around Stevenson’s Pond to the work site adjacent to the northbound Route 13 Bridge. You will see and hear us. Bring your own tick repellent spray, water and work gloves. We will work for 3 good hours and see what we have.
|Great Crested Flycatcher|
Donations:We are so thankful for the support we have received so far. Many people have called asking about how to contribute. Checks are welcome, payable to CRBAI or the Pocomoke Nature Trail; mail them to Nature Trail, 500 Market St Suite 103, Pocomoke, Md 21851.
T-shirts are going out (as soon as they are done!) to Anne Hughes, Al Correia, Debbie Waidner, CD Hall and Nancy Newsome for their donations for a Foot of the Trail. Major donors are Dr. Tom and Dorothea Harblin and Dr. Scott McMahon who will each sponsor an observation station. Our biggest booster to date is Circuit Court Judge Richard Bloxom who is a Silver Sponsor and supporter of an observation station.
Why volunteer to do this much work?As I stood as quietly as I could last week on the island, I could hear the pileated woodpeckers and summer tanagers calling. Prothonotary warblers were all around. See them and hear them. There was a black and white warbler close to the trunk of the sycamore tree. The great crested flycatchers (AKA weep-weep birds) were definitely annoyed that I was in their space. I heard a new bird call, one almost like a warbler’s phrasing, but no, this was a vireo. We have lots of vireos in our swamps, but this one…
My hearing is getting bad, so I can’t rely on the sound any more. There it is, I can see it just overhead. It was a solitary vireo (and was by itself too), one that I personally have never seen around here. Where is naturalist John Dennis when I need him?
I saw a blue-lined skink and found scat of a fox newly deposited on the top of the new bridge abutment. The lizard and fox couldn’t resist checking out our new trail. Neither can I. As the evening started to arrive with fading light, softening of the wind in the cypress and a few buzz, buzzing bugs around my ears, I could see schools of surface feeders breaking the calm of the slack waters between the tides. Solace, indeed.
And yet, what was that? Not a log; that was a head! An otter! Oh my, I haven’t seen otters here for twenty years! I waited, hoping if I held my breath that it would come my way but it swam to shore out of sight up by the magnificent cypress that will be our final destination of this loop.
Otters, birds, fish, and quiet magnificence of our Trail: all this wonder leads to some important questions. What really matters when people are slaughtered in Mother’s Day parade and stories of unspeakable horror fills our newspaper? Are we really better off to seal away human populations from use of our wooded wetlands as a place for solace, learning and recreation? Or are we better off teaching our visitors what splendor we have by letting them see it from our protected boardwalks and observation platforms. I have consistently voted to open access of our forests and swamps to school kids and visitors understanding that a few visitors will attack our signs and some others will toss cans and paper onto the forest floor. Not all people are good hearted.
For every knucklehead who trashes a part of our Trail, there are hundreds and hundreds of others who will value seeing an otter slide or an osprey soar or a calico bass ripple a still surface. Will seeing an elusive vireo (after first identifying its call) impact an eighth grader’s view of nature and the world? Will that attention to detail be the springboard for a new answer to approaching the complex problems of a global world? Can we just try?
|Blue Lined Skink|
I am not suggesting that studying lizard habitat or understanding where mammals hide under the snows in southern places like Pocomoke will help save the world, but as long as we have youngsters like Hunter Tatterson, Kalie and Luke Speta, and Josh Weichman who are willing to give back to a community like Pocomoke, almost before they are old enough to have taken from the community, then I am optimistic that all the efforts of old guys like Don and Jim and me, like Jack Spurling years ago, are based on an idea that won’t die as we will. We have a duty to teach, to share and to provide for those who will follow and improve upon our attempts to make this a better place to live, to work and to raise the next generation. We can’t ask our schools to take on extra burdens when we can combine our love of nature and our willingness to do the hard work to share with others in hopes that our survivors will see what we see now.
So, you can understand why I feel that building the last loop of the Trail means a lot symbolically. Please give generously of your time and what donations you can to help us make the Pocomoke Nature Trail better.
And don’t forget to pick up a couple of the famous Birds of the Pocomoke River t-shirts! And the bumper stickers too. Call us at 410-957-1550 or at the Chamber of Commerce at 410-957-1919.
Years ago (1980), Mayor Dawson Clarke told me that once I had some Pocomoke River mud under my toenails that I would stick around. The world has changed since then but the same river mud that helped shape my career to focus on environmental health issues might just be important for some one else.
Please help our Trail committee make that opportunity grow.
Download the Pocomoke City Nature Trail Donation Form
Ritch Shoemaker MD
Trail Committee, Chairman