24 May 2014

City of Omaha Mismanages Natural Area at Levi Carter Park

Staff of the City of Omaha have once again allowed a simple request to result in further degradation of the Northwest Pond Natural Wildlife Area at Levi Carter Park.

Excessive mowing of the area is the latest occurrence. On a bicycle visit during the morning of May 23rd, most of the area which could be reached with mowing equipment had been cut with intent. Too many places looked like turf grass. For some reason this place got direct and excessive attention, while elsewhere in the park a great number of park maintenance things needed attention. There are many acres which have not been mown and have grass more than 12 inches in length. There are also a dozen or more tires which some perp threw onto the bank of the lake, where water is being pumped continuously into the lake. During my time at the pump station, six of these tires were carried away from the lake so that the they were obvious enough to perhaps result in their removal. Wind-blown branches are strewn about, and the tree guys were removing trees, and whether or not they gave any attention to the possibility of nesting birds is obvious.

According to the park caretaker, the recent storm meant tree removal was actively underway during a brief chat during a Friday morning visit to survey what birds were present. Mr. park-man did not want to engage in any sort of conversation, but said a few words as his truck crept along and along further upon the recreational trail. He knew what had happened elsewhere in the park.

While bicycling about, a bunch of discarded aluminum cans spread hither and yon were picked up to be taken away, during one more bird survey.

The primary situation of concern this day was the Northwest Pond.

It is difficult to deal with the unnecessary mowing and destruction of sapling trees among this bit of green space What happened was obvious, and obvious upon arrival at the south side of the pond.

Despite every effort to conserve the habitat, things have repeatedly gone wrong multiple times due to careless perspectives.

During the first times of my bicycle survey of birds, it later became apparent why the park manager was always trying to move along during what a bit of a chat. It was only later that the reality of the green space destruction was apparent.

A prior email notice from Andy Szatko, an Environmental Inspector with the Public Works Environmental Quality Control Division, indicated that some mowing was required to cut-back brome grass to allow warm-season grasses to thrive. The places primarily seeded with the native species of grass were on the west and south side of the pond. There had been

Obviously there was insufficient communication between the Public Works Department and the Parks Recreation and Public Property.

The latter agency did the mowing, Szatko said.

This occurrence would be less problematic if only grass and other herbaceous vegetation had been impacted. But the mowing also cut down numerous tree saplings. In a couple of places, the wild growth had previously been selectively cleared to allow a primary tree or two to thrive and eventually provide additional woody vegetation. These places are now barren.

Other pertinent points associated with this sordid mistake, include:

1). By mowing the vegetation, any inhibitory plant growth has been removed, so the ground is open for trespass by 4x4 vehicles. The huge tree trunks placed as barriers are now useless since they can be easily bypassed. The problem with illegal 4x4 traffic was one reason signs were placed on the borders of this public property.
2). Trash within the area had not been picked up prior to the mowing, so it was shredded and thrown about, making this condition worse.
3). Birds may have been starting to nest among the vegetation cut to near its roots. There was no nesting survey done prior to the mowing activity. If any nests were destroyed, the City of Omaha violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and should be subject to fines.

Another point of concern, is the lack of attention to detail regarding indicative signs. In particular, the sign at the southeast portion of the area indicating the illegality of 4x4 traffic and indicating the natural wildlife area continues to get skewed. During a visit on May 17, the sign was pushed over and at an approximate 60o angle. It was pushed upward to have a straight alignment, with dirt pushed around the anchor pole to keep it that way. On the 23rd, it was once again tilted. Once again, the pole was anchored with pieces of wood and dirt so it had a straight-up alignment.

Someone has been intentionally shoving the sign around. Levi Carter Park is a place where people throw about trash, discard tires and do other things that degrade the park.

This bit of a natural area continues to get abused for some reason or another. The lack of attention to details is vividly indicated. Previous mismanagement involved the clear-cutting of trees on the west side of the pond, which was done last autumn by a misinformed contractor.

One mistake is just that. But when another destructive mistake occurs, it is symptomatic of a greater problem. If Public Works cannot suitably manage a two-acre area associated with a storm-water retention locale, it is questionably what will occur when so-called "green solutions" are placed in other eastern Omaha parks in association with the CSO! project.

It is not apparent what will be done to make certain that this damaging mistake does not occur again. Based upon known history associated with this locale, any expectation is contrary to the indicated designated use of this abused green space.

There is a some sort of suitable manner to resolve what has happened here, once and again. What that might be is not yet known? If there was an answer, there would be no question!

There needs to be some sort of mitigation for this wanton destruction.

These pictures indicate the extent of destruction caused by the mistaken mowing.