Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ideas for boy scout public service projects in George Bush Park

Scouting challenge: Educate recreational Bush Park visitors about reservoir hazards and how to avoid or mitigate them while enjoying wilderness and wildlife 

A sign at the trailhead of Noble Road Trail in the Barker Reservoir warns of unspecified dangers of wildlife: Beware of harzardous plant and animals. The warning it about as useful as your Mother's erstwhile "be careful" send-offs on your daily walk to the neighborhood elementary school, or a friend's friendly good-bye in the form of an all-purpose recommendation to "take care".

What should we watch out for and take care of when exploring the Bayou and heading into the woods? What is there to be careful of? What are the does and donts? To be sure, you could stay out of the wilderness altogether to avoid any and all risks, known or suspected, but you would miss all of the wonders of the wilderness and its wildlife, the charms of the landscape, whether dominated by lush greens or variations of orange and rust, not to mention a great chance to exercise and do something for your health no matter what time of the year.

Here is where the boyscout projects come in: Identify and explain on posters the known and unknown dangers in the reservoir, and the best way to deal with them. Like how to avoid stepping on snakes and when  and where to expect them on the ground in the first instance. And while we are on the topic of snakes. There is precedent for interpretive posters with pics  already a bit further north: at the equestrian area in Bear Creek Pioneers Park (Addicks Reservoir).

What other perils may be lurking in the suburban wilderness? Anything else that's poisonous if not venomous? What about poisonous plants (poison oak, poison ivy, and so one)? What about wild berries? And how about the feral hogs? Are they to be feared? Do they ever charge humans? Not to mention mosquitos and other insects during the hot and humid months? If you find a dead animal on the ground, with flies buzzing around, should you report it, or let the area vultures do the clean-up work? Is there any risk in approaching for a closer look? What about rabies? Should that be a concern?

And how do you report an emergency, or just useful information about something unusual that may need attention, and report your location? Which takes us to another topic: George Bush Park is so vast, it needs markers and names for better orientation. There are several permanent bodies of water inside the reservoir, for example. None of them has  a name. And the same goes for the many trails, with the exception of Noble Road Trail. Even the North-South paved bike and hike trial has no name posted, notwithstanding the fact that it used to be a regular road connecting two settlements. It should at least be identified as Barker-Clodine Trail.

Boy scout troops have already improved the park with wooden benches along trails and on the shores of the ponds. There is even a wooden panel with a trail map at the West end of Noble Road Trail that was placed there years ago and is now weathered.

There are many projects awaiting volunteers, to benefit the public, or at least that segment of the public that shares the scout's commitment to the outdoors and appreciation of nature, and wants to enjoy it with safety in mind.


Crude area map on wood panel at Western trailhead
of Noble Road Trail in Barker Reservoir 
Bench built by scouts on the Lake North of Noble Road Trail invites quiet contemplation of scenic view
with great white egret across the water
Another trail-side bench built by a scout troop as a community service project

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