21 October 2009

Chain-saw Vandal Destroys Numerous Trees at Omaha's Hummel Park

During a hike to survey bird diversity at Hummel Park on 19 October, it became readily apparent upon reaching the ridge just south of Ponca Creek, that dozens of trees had been very recently cut-down by someone wielding a chainsaw that was obviously working perfectly.

Destruction was first noted upon reaching the uplands to the northeast of the day camp area at the northern section of the park. There were some stumps here and there and elsewhere, which were the remnants of what had been live trees.

The extent of what had been sawn down increased upon walking eastward along the ridge-top hiking trail. Continuing along, there were trees cutoff to one extent or another along the entire path to the eastern edge of the park at North River Road, including some at the northern entrance to the park. Additional trees were destroyed among the woods at a couple of places.

The tree removal was obvious, but while hiking along, the reason for it having occurred was not apparent.

City officials were contacted later in the day, and asked about what had occurred at the park.

Officials were aware of the situation, which was vandalism.

A report has been filed with the Omaha Police Department, according to Steve Scarpello, administrator of the department.

Officials are expected to continue attempts to determine the person(s) responsible for destroying the trees in the forest of the park.

Hummel Park has ongoing problems with vandalism.

This year Parks' officials placed barriers on the two routes to access the hilltop picnic and shelter area at the north portion of the park. Improvements are being made to the structures, and vehicular access was limited by gates across the roads, though access by hiking is still possible.

Access to the northwest corner of the park has been recently closed by placing concrete barriers to prevent vehicular travel. One site along this former street had been regularly used as a dumping site for a variety of trash.

The former roadway now provides a fine path for hikers.

Additional efforts are being made to stop vandalism at the park and to suitably improve the place for visitors.

Plans include changes to increase the presence of people at the park, to help thwart illegal activities.

Hummel Park is currently taken care of by a caretaker at N.P. Dodge Park, a position which is currently vacant, but with someone expected to be onsite early in November.

In 2011, according to management staff of Parks Recreation and Public Property, the three buildings which currently comprise the Hummel Park Day Camp will be removed, and a single new structure will be built and will provide accommodations for a resident caretaker.

Frisbee Golf Course Nixed

A frisbee golf course will not be installed in the northern woods of Hummel Park.

City officials said that the volunteer effort to create this recreational feature will not continue. There had been three holes created in the upland area of the north picnic grounds.

Factors influencing this decision included the insufficient extent of efforts by volunteers which offered to create the course, and a realization that the summer conditions along Ponca Creek are not conducive this sort of outdoor recreation.

During the summer, the woods along the creek are hot and humid, with pesky bugs prominent. Vegetative growth also was inhibitory.

Portions of the course had been expected to be placed along the designated nature trail along Ponca creek.

There are now no plans for any recreational developments along the trail. It will continue to be managed as a natural area, which is conducive to passive pursuits such as watching birds.

This section of the park and its habitats are known to have been a place to observe Cerulean Warblers - a species of concern - during the summer season, and Winter Wrens from late autumn to early spring. A plethora of other species are known to occur, based on reports posted on the NEBirds online forum.

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