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Nature Revisited: You can go home again

May 15, 2015

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Back on February 9 in a Crow’s Nest blog entry I mentioned in passing that there was a park I visited as a small child where my friend and I were allowed to play in the woods and stream while his dad sat nearby with a newspaper and gave us the gift of supervised but unstructured play time in the woods. I couldn’t remember the name of the park and wasn’t exactly sure where it was. I was almost certain it was in Lower Merion Township, not far from where I grew up, but was not in my hometown itself.

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Yesterday I was called to advise a volunteer group, Friends of Wynnewood Valley Park, on goals, objectives and strategies for managing invasive plants in a wooded section of a neighborhood park. I thought this might be the park, or perhaps if I had time I might drive around looking for other parks that might be it. I was delighted to see that this is the park, and that it is thriving and beautiful!

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Most childhood places you revisit as an adult look much smaller than memory. Perhaps because the trees are so much taller now this park looks every bit as large and magical as I remember it.

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Lower Merion Parks has an active volunteer group that is helping with weeding, mulching, and planting in this park.

I identify my time at this park as a major influence for why I chose a career in conservation. I also grew up across from a schoolyard, but that was mainly playing fields, little more than turf grass. (One time a nearby tree fell over, and until it was cleaned up it was our rocket ship and fortress. We also jumped off the bleachers with garbage-bag parachutes. We also played in an abandoned house and overgrown yard in our neighborhood, but my mom reads this blog so I’d better stop there. The point is, it doesn’t take a pristine natural area for a child’s imagination to work.)

In contrast Wynnewood Valley Park offered us a clean stream to build little dams in, a “mountain” to climb to reach the gazebo, all under the watchful eye of a parent (his other eye was reading the paper, remember. That’s important, he didn’t tell us what to do, or for that matter, what not to do). I am grateful for that time and space in my childhood and so glad that the park is still there and under such good stewardship.

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