28 November 2010

Midtown Parkland Gets Little Respect in Omaha

Some particular items regarding parkland in midtown Omaha, are recent indications of how some people have little respect for these public green spaces and places for wild birds.

Tree Trimming

During a bicycle passage, when it was approaching 11 a.m. on the Friday morning of November 19, a city of Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property crew was trimming trees along the north Happy Hollow portion of the recreational trail. The removed woody material was being chipped and loaded into a truck, as they moved southward from near Underwood Avenue.

An obvious concern for a cyclists along the route was whether the wood chip debris upon the paved trail would be removed? So, going backwards a bit to where the city men were congregating, this was the request. The men indicated it would get done later.

During the discussion, it became apparent that tree pieces cut by the crew were being pushed onto the bank of Happy Hollow Creek, and being left there.

In asking about them, one guy said the logs would be left where they were. The pieces were too big for the chipper, Also heard was a comment that it was normal to leave them at the place where cut.

"What does it matter anyway?," was one comment from the city of Omaha worker.

In an attempt to get them to remove the logs, an explanation was given that the pieces would get into the creek during periods of high water flows, then float down the creek and block the culvert. Also, any pieces of wood along the trail would likely get thrown into the creek by miscreants. Also, the same agency for which they worked, was working on a plan to deal with the situation along this creek, and would be paying to eventually clear debris from the channel.

Tree limb blockage in Happy Hollow Creek, on the east side of Memorial Park.

It did not seem that paying someone else to remove debris - associated with the cost of the pending project - should not occur because of city workers that disposed material along the creek and its bank.

The comments did not really matter. A bits of ways northward, a couple of large pieces were noted and thrown along the side of the trail. After leaving and going a bit further north and looking back, it was obvious that a city worker picked up these two particular pieces.

On Saturday morning, the four log portions remained, and there were two seemingly familiar pieces of wood in the creekbed.

It certainly did not take long for my prediction to happen.

Things languished until Monday, when the city of Omaha crew returned to continue their task, and were once again met along the trail. They could not be missed as their trucks were on the trail and mostly blocking the way for any walker or cyclist. The driver side door of one pickup was open and basically blocking the way. A short ways onward, two city worker men were gathered about one pickup, one talking to the other which was reading the newspaper while sitting on the front seat of his pickup.

A harangue followed, based upon two opposing views. Either the cut wood should be removed, or not. It was a worthless discussion, because the crew were not going to deal with the unwanted pieces.

To further address the situation, an Omaha Parks Department maintenance supervisor was called. The reply: "He would take care of it." Additional comments were made to administrative staff at the office of the city agency in the Omaha/Douglas Civic Center.

In order to suitably document things, during an early afternoon foray, pictures were taken of the pieces of wood, while enroute to a destination further along the way.

The city crew was still along Happy Hollow Creek, at its southern end, on the east side of Memorial Park.

During a short stop to determine the current situation, the obvious point: they had apparently heard of my communications, and were told not to speak to me. There were words spoken, but...

The situation by this time seemed a bit ludicrous. It took too much talking, just to deal with six pieces of errant wood.

By mid-afternoon, the four logs along the bank of the creek were gone. The two pieces in the creek channel remained, and are still there. They will soon join the wood jam further to the south, near where the channel and culvert are blocked near Dodge Street.

Blowing Leaves Away

A couple of days later during the normal bicycle passage, on Wednesday morning or the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, a yard company worker was using one of those abominable blowers to move a bunch of leaves from the yard of a residence on the east side of Happy Hollow Boulevard westward to public property.

The leaves were being forced down the slope of the residence at 309 North Happy Hollow Boulevard, across the sidewalk and curb-side, onto and across Happy Hollow Boulevard when there was a break in the traffic, over the recreational trail, and eventually into the woods.

Pile of leaves across from residence where they originated.

When asked about why they doing this, the worker said it saves the home owner money, the city doesn't clean up the leaves in the woods anyway, the trail would be cleaner once he was finished, and then to sum it up, expressed that it would "save everyone money."

"I get your point," he said, and upon my leaving, it was only to go up to the corner of the block, and, while watching from a distance, he continued to blow the leaves across the boulevard.

It was a blatant case of unneeded littering ... disposing of something unwanted onto property owned by someone else. In this instance, the City of Omaha.

The actions were reported to a city of Omaha office - code enforcement sine no other option was apparent - which including a specific notation of the license for the truck he was driving, since there was no indication of a company name on the vehicle.

A follow-up to this report was requested.

A call was also placed to the Mayor's Hotline, and the immediate reply was - even after expressing an opinion that the mayor should be interested in parks lands - that a call should be placed to the non-emergency line of the Omaha police.

"The mayor is not a part of this discussion," the woman responder said.

To the contrary - in my opinion - the city is responsible for maintenance of its property, and to indicate that the mayor is not involved in this issue, seemed to be a flip response.

A call was also made to the director's office of the Parks and Recreation Office, about 3:30 in the afternoon, and the only answer was to "leave a message."

It was apparently an early holiday downtown for some people.

Blowing leaves into the edge of the woods in a symptom of how some people have no respect for the wood lands of the midcity park.

Bringing an end to this latest illegal activity is no different from previous efforts, which have included getting a Happy Hollow Boulevard resident to quit trimming trees without permission, stopping the illegal dumping of lawn clippings and the unauthorized planting of flowers on public property.

When the meditation garden was established this month just south of the end of Happy Hollow Creek, the proponent worked with the city, got the local community involved, and made sure that the new place in Memorial Park was properly established.

Signs are Trash

Sometime during midday - also on Wednesday, November 24 - an advocacy group went along the Happy Hollow Trail and pushed some signs into place, thinking it would be a good site to troll for participants in their pending event.

Three signs were noticed between Underwood Avenue and the entrance to Elmwood Park, and each one was removed and thrown into the trash by 3 p.m.

Placing private signs on public property is a form of littering.

The point of contention is that people put up signs at places they deem suitable, yet they do not return to remove them, even once the event day is long past.

Errant Dogs

Memorial Park continues to have errant dogs running freely about, and not on a leash. A city ordinance requires that all dogs be on a leash, but an abhorrent few just don't care. There is almost always a "loose" dog in the park on any day when it is nice to get out and about, and especially in the morning hours.

On one recent walk through Memorial, a woman with two big dogs, including a German Shepherd with attitude, which had already - months earlier - nipped at my knee, was blithely going along. Neither mutt was on a leash, though to be specific they were on the football field of Brownell-Talbot School. Her and her dangerous dogs were at the south end of the football field, with my point of perspective at least 100 yards away, by the north end. She obviously noticed me coming along, as both dogs were put onto a leash, and they all literally ran away and disappeared into Memorial Park.

The Humane Society in Omaha, which is responsible for enforcement of dog leash and "poop pick-up regulations" in the city and its parks, continues to be ineffective in making sure that dogs in the park are on a leash. A dog not on a leash can be seen nearly every day on the grounds of Elmwood and Memorial Parks.

Many people do things right, but there are a number which ignore the city ordinance, and which cause problems in the park environs.

Thankful for Green Space

To express a Thanksgiving sentiment, the creek-space along Happy Hollow Boulevard should be appreciated and citizens should be thankful they have this green space and natural resource.

There certainly are many people whom do enjoy the setting, but there are always a few miscreant few who blatantly ignore the legal mandates of the city.

A theme common to each of these instances is readily summed up in a few words by the people responsible: "What does it matter, anyway."