Fending

Freelance journalist Alison Dyer wants you to help defend the fen.

Small wild spaces in the city are rare. For that alone, they should be heralded, celebrated, defended. Some are so beautiful, one can’t imagine anything ever happening to them.
   
There’s a wetland, a fen, on Signal Hill, of significant size that lies in a valley between the Johnson Geo Centre and Signal Hill National Park. Few who have walked or driven up Signal Hill could fail to be moved upon seeing the fall flash of colours, or notice the sweet mélange of bird song drift up from this valley. It is, miraculously, a place as yet untouched by Tim Horton coffee cups, or rocks marked ‘Dave loves Deb.’
   
Now, backhoes, stakes, and metre-plus deep crushed rock and gravel are scarring this urban wildspace. Undoubtedly, these other emblems of ‘civilization’ will soon follow.

The sad thing is, this is being done in the name of conserving and enjoying our natural environment. It is being done by a group that has done so much for the City of St. John’s: The Johnson Family Foundation and the Grand Concourse Authority. They have brought us about 100km of urban trails, a system that is heavily used and appreciated by residents and visitors.
   
But there are and should be places that simply do not require, nor should be developed for, a trail system. This extraordinary wetland is one of them. It is a habitat that should never be opened up. Nor is there any need for it. Both the beautiful valley, and its inhabitants, including a variety of water fowl, can be viewed from both Signal Hill Road and the old Burma Road.
   
This wetland road-grade ‘trail’ is but one faulty part of a scheme called the Johnson Geo Park that includes miles of wide gravel ‘trails,’ signage, stoneworks, building facades, lighting, contoured meadows, manmade ponds and water fountains.
   
I believe that the intent of this Park is for the public good, but I suggest that the advice provided to the JFF is quite poor. Take a piece of urban wilderness, with its outcrops and dense shrubbery, a warren-like age-old maze of tiny paths worn by curious children and others over time and turn it into a hard-surfaced, lit, man-made park. One is left questioning the thought-processes of the architect.
   
Our own City council and staff might have picked up on the problems – only they no longer have an environmental advisory committee – that’s been defunct for the past three or more years.
   
You know, I love the trails around our City but, well, too much of a good thing, like too much medicine, can be a poison. I think we’ve found the dosage.

For more on this, and to read a transcript of Mayor Andy Wells’ comments on the subject, visit  www.thesquidink.blogspot.com