June 23, 2009

Ode to Mattie Dean Garden.

A Neighbor’s Lament:

Don’t we have better things to do with our bad-economy-pinched US tax dollars than run a gas-guzzling lawnmower over a beautiful, wild, ecologically-diverse park that was willed to be left in its wild state?

I live in downtown Boulder, Colorado. There’s a pocket park behind my house that even most longtime Boulder residents don’t know exists; it’s called Mattie Dean Garden. It was willed to the city by Mattie Dean herself, who once owned most of my block. She asked only that it be left “in its natural state.”

That means it’s basically an unkempt, natural sort of orchard. It’s beautiful—full of tall grass, wildflower, and mushrooms that stand in rows and often each span the width of small pizzas. It’s full of trees that were never planted, but are descended from trees that are native to Colorado—Juniper, etc…I don’t know what all, but probably 10 different kinds of trees.

Everyone in my neighborhood loves it. A deer often sleeps in the chest-high grass, that keeps the moisture in this tough desert climate, that provides shelter for the flowers and mushrooms and dozens of different native plants. Just yesterday I was showing off the strange rows of mushrooms to my co-worker, Lindsey.

Then, today, it was all mowed down while I was away at a benefit for a fallen friend and colleague, and then a party hosted by LOHAS / elephant / Gaiam at Happy Noodle House. Now, as the Spring rains fade into Colorado’s dry summer, there won’t be any tall grasses to keep the moisture in the ground. Now, all the mushrooms and little plants and flowers are gone. Since we don’t water the park—it’s essentially wild space—the many people and dogs that play here will trample the short, nearly and suddenly rootless grass (did you know that roots are generally as long as shoots, which means that when you mow your lawn, the roots immediately die off to the height of the grass above ground?) and turn it into the dusty desert that it was last summer, when it was mowed more often.

Ah, City of Boulder, with all your budget cuts looming, don’t we have better, less polluting things to do with our tax dollars than run a gas guzzling mower over our once-natural, “xeriscaped” park for a few hours? Can we live and let live, leave well enough alone, and let the grasses and deer and mushrooms return?

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