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Hagan: Westminster should leave Wakefield Valley alone as a reclaimed nature park | COMMENTARY

“The quicker we humans learn that saving open space and wildlife is critical to our welfare and quality of life, maybe we’ll start thinking of doing something about it.”

Jim Fowler, professional zoologist

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Looking at photos I took on a walk at the former Wakefield Valley Golf Course, now a place reclaimed by nature. What I saw was open space. This wild acreage sits between developments that you can see as you walk, yet they seem distant enough when you lose yourself in nature. Wild grasses and shrubs replaced the once manicured greens. The ponds are beacons for herons to come and fish and other wildlife to get a much needed water source. When I was leaving I saw a hawk fly down into a tuft of wild grass and flew off with a mouse or mole for his breakfast. I’m sure many hawks and owls scour the grounds for moles. There was evidence of surface mole tunnels everywhere along my path.

I came across a small dugout den under a tree’s roots. I wondered what lived there? Probably a red fox. She may raise her young there. She, too, will be able to find plenty of mice and moles to feed her young as they play in the open areas around the trees. In one open field behind a development, along a line of pine trees, was deer scat in great numbers. They browse on the tree limbs and on the grasses. Where will they browse if the open space is taken? More than likely on the homeowners’ prized shrubs or hostas as they do in urban areas where they have lost open space. I heard the songs of birds sitting in the trees as I passed by. Soon the cattail pond will be alive with a chorus of frogs. In several places I could hear the sound of a near by brook and watched as it tumbled over the rocks through the field. Sometime I will just follow it and enjoy it’s calming sound and watch the bluebirds I saw flitting among the shrubs. I saw people pushing strollers, walking their dogs or like me just taking a walk and enjoying nature.

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Now take this all away. Let’s replace it with ball diamonds or other recreational areas. Let’s divide it into sections. Let’s take away the reason people have sought this place out.

Why? Why can’t we leave it as open space? Why can’t we leave it as a place for people to walk and enjoy peace from their hectic lives? Why can’t we let people walk their dogs, their children and share nature with them? I see no reason why the city of Westminster would want to do anything that could destroy what has become a natural park. There are sports fields and sports complexes all over Carroll County. How many nature parks? Hashawha Environmental Center, Bear Branch, Piney Run and Charlotte’s Quest. Though I’m very thankful for these parks, I don’t feel we have enough nature parks, open space parks.

We don’t need more recreational parks. Recreational parks are just that, a place for recreational activity like sports. Nature parks are open space and natural environment parks. Open, natural areas are becoming rare in Carroll County unless it’s agriculture land. We need places for people to just get out and walk, observe nature, look for birds, watch wildlife and teach our children about our natural world. Why take what has become a natural park and spend money changing it into something else that will need a lot of maintenance?

Those in downtown Westminster now can take a close ride over to this park to walk. It’s convenient. There is already parking, there are already walking trails and there is already a lot of nature to see. The only thing I would enjoy seeing done would be to remove invasive plants and replace with native plants. Adding more native trees along the walkways to give those walking more shade from the hot sun during the summer months. Add benches by the ponds, under a tree, and in areas along the paths for us older folks who may need to sit and rest a bit, or want to sit and enjoy the song birds. You could ask people to donate park benches in name of family members. The historic house which is on the property is a great place to hold meetings for nature enthusiasts such as bird clubs. It’s a place to hold educational classes about nature.

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There is so much more this area can offer being left as it is. I hope many others see what I see and let their representatives in Westminster know. What we need is more places to observe nature, more open space, a place to clear our minds and take our kids for a walk. Leave Wakefield Valley Golf Course what it has become, a reclaimed natural park.

Linda Hagan writes from Westminster.

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