Give Us Back the Spiral!

A park visitor wrote this message in magic market on top of a sign hanging on the fence blocking access to the Open Circle viewpoint (“spiral”)

The message was clear: “F**k you, Woodsie!  Give us back the spiral. Thank you.”  A park visitor wrote it in magic marker on the top margin of an informational sign about “Visiting Owls.”  The cause:  The Parks Department, on instructions from the Audubon Society, had fenced off the entrance to the Open Circle viewpoint (“the spiral”) and locked out the public.  The northern access paths were also fenced off the same day. This was done on August 14.

There are three things wrong with this lockout.

One, it’s premature by several weeks.  No Burrowing Owl has been spotted in the park in recent history earlier than the beginning of October, and most sightings occurred in November and December.  There is no preservationist purpose being served by locking out the public in August.  This unwarranted lockout generates public resentment against the Audubon Society.

Secondly, the Open Circle viewpoint — the spiral — should be kept open year round.  No owls have taken up a position there for at least five years.  The viewpoint is a great asset to the public.  People of all ages sit there and enjoy the view. The spiral is also the prime bird viewing spot in the entire park.  Moreover, it is the only point from which you can see the rocks on the east side of the owl preserve, where owls are known to hang out when they are present.  With the viewpoint closed, there might be a dozen owls in the rocky slope and nobody would ever know.  Keeping the spiral open during owl season is a simple matter of running a short temporary fence just north of the seating area  It could be done in an hour and cost practically nothing.

Third, while the existing fence may keep people out of the Burrowing Owl preserve, it doesn’t make the area safe for the birds.  The fence is artistic and decorative.  It is not a barrier to dogs.  Even when it is in good repair, which it currently is not, a dog of any size can easily get under it, through it, or over it. It does no good to mow the area and chop down everything that grows there if the area is not also made secure.  In the winter of 2016, a dog killed and carried off a Burrowing Owl.  No owls took up residence in the area this past winter.

I am a member of the Audubon Society and was trained as a Burrowing Owl docent in 2017.  I am appalled by the way the Borrowing Owl area is being mishandled.  Surely the Society and Parks management can do better.

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