Labor Day Weekend III
Bill Long 9/1/07
Devising a System to Understand Bush Park (Salem, OR)
As I said in the previous essay, there already exists a yellow brochure naming the various tree species in four identified areas of the park. This list is generally helpful, though it suffers from significant limitations, as I indicated. Let's move to an approach that I think would "work" to make this park an educational jewel in Salem.
Though the advice given here about Salem's Bush Pasture Park (about 90 acres) is specific to this park, it is also generally applicable to parks around the country/world which would like to use the assets of their trees/plants/shrubs/flowers as an educational tool for all-comers. My interest in these parks is to appreciate the nature that is within them and to develop systems of self-education so that a person can be as fully informed as possible about every stationary living thing in the park. Here is my method.
I. Deciding on Your Subject Matter
You need to determine if the material you want to develop is to be on the trees or the trees plus shrubs or the trees plus shrubs plus flowers, etc. The more complete a guide the better, of course, but you have to determine what your focus will be. Most places that have guides just have "tree guides," though plant and flower guides can also be quite helpful.
II. Divide and Conquer
You have to determine which part of the park you want to present. If it is a rather small park you can "do the whole thing," but generally in a larger park you have to choose the areas or area of significant growth on which to base your guide. In Bush Park this would be the four or five acres surrounding the Bush House in the NW of the park. Once you have decided on an area, you need to divide the area into smaller chunks. The Bush Park people divided the area into four quadrants, though I think it naturally falls into three areas. Area # 1 would be bounded by High Street on the West, Mission on the South, the walkway up to the house from Mission St. as part of the Eastern border, and then the road on the East (behind the house) completing the Eastern border and, finally, the entry road to the Bush House and Barn on the South as the fourth border. Area # 2 would run from the Eastern border of Area # 1 on the West to the Derby Track and a straight line extending it to the Mission St. Parking lot on the East, with Mission St. as the Northern boundary and a line extending from the Bush Barn parking lot on the South to the Derby track. Then, Area # 3 would be everything South of the entry Road to the Bush Park until the South side of the ravine and as far South as one would want to go. These three areas are the "big areas."
III. Establishing the Sub-Areas
Then, you have to break each of the areas into smaller areas. For example, in my study/walking around on 8/30 I decided that my Area # 1 could most profitably be divided into four "sub-areas." One would be to the West of the curved running path near High Street. I actually paced this off, and there are 15 different trees and 10 shrubs/plants in this sub-area (I stopped at the first utility pole near Mission St.) At present 11 of these trees are already labeled, with most of them being in the Prunus and Malus families (such as Malus 'Hopa'; Malus dasyphylla 'plena'; Malus hupenhensis; Prunus yedoensis x Akebono; Prunus serrulata 'Shirofugen', etc.) There is an unmarked Acer palmatum as well other unlabeled trees.
The second sub-area in Area # 1 (which has the most plants/trees in the park) would run from the running trail on the West, and then run between the two utility poles on Mission Street, along a straight line from the East utility pole to the South to where the rose gardens begin, and then to the West until it meets up with the running trail again. This is a fairly complex area, and I counted 77 plants or trees in this area that were, in general, not in "thickets" or islands of multiple plantings. Two exceptions to this rule are: (1) where there are four or fewer trees/shrubs in an "island," I numbered them, and (2) I numbered each tree, regardless of whether it is in an island or not. This resulted in 35 trees and 42 plants/shrubs. If we included the island plants, in addition, we probably would have another 100 or so plants. Of the 35 trees, only 11 are identified, a much smaller number than in the first sub-area. In fact, though I didn't have time fully to walk through sub-areas three and four of Area # 1, I think the ratio of trees to labeled trees holds about the same: 3 to 1. Area # 2 also has this ratio, I believe. However, Area # 3 has hardly any labeled trees. Therefore, lots of good work to do for an educator like myself!
This second sub-area of Area # 1 is full of wonderful trees, some of the most arresting in Bush Park. For example, there is a Black Elderberry, two Southern Magnolias, a Sapphire Berry, a Toringo Crabaple, a Quince, a Saucer Magnolia, a Witch Hazel, a Mugho Pine, a Douglas Fir, a Port Orford Cedar, etc. Not all of these are labeled.
The third sub-area of Area # 1 would include all the rose gardens and the rest of the area South of sub-areas one and two. The fourth sub-area would include the grassy area East of the line running South from the second utility pole, including the area to the walkway on the East and the trees around the house on the West and South. It is clear once you are on the grounds and looking at things directly.
The other Areas would be likewise divided based on this kind of walk-through.
Once areas are divided, one needs a code to label all stationary living things in the chosen area. We might begin with the trees for sake of ease and develop a map for each sub area where each tree is identified. Then, we could do two things. We could get a web designer who would know how to post a map online, with numbered trees and a guide below, so that each tree can easily be found and identified. The "Trees of Reed College" gives us a good model. This would require about 20 maps probably, and it would take considerable time, but this information could be posted. Then, there could also be pages describing the life cycle or identifying characteristics of the various tree exemplars in the mapped section. This online guide could be photocopied, with copies made available to walkers around the park.
The other possibility is to label all the trees (or shrubs--it depends how far you want to go). But this may be a harder task than the online resource because of disagreement among experts on how best to "label" things in a public park. Free-standing markers are expensive and can easily be vandalized. Affixed labels with staples or screws tend to get ripped out of the tree when it grows. Surely there is a way to mark these things; only I am not sure at this point what the best method is.
This would take quite a bit of work, of course, but the results could be stunning and attractive. People might plan their whole day around the beauty and educational attractiveness of the park. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe only 4 people nationwide are interested in knowing everything about the stationary living things in the park. But if life is the journey, as modern soul-gurus tell us, then the journey of dividing, identifying, labeling, mapping and publishing is a very important one. I, for one, would like to take it.