Trip Dates: Sept 10, Sept 17, Sept 24, & Oct 1 – 2015

In the wilds of Maplewood...

In the wilds of Maplewood…

If you are a student of ecology, then you know about the edge effect — the idea that biodiversity is greatest where two habitats meet.  At Green Spiral, we love to explore the edges of all things green in Saint Louis, and during the month of September, we took families off the beaten track in a series of “Urban Wild Adventures” to the edges of parks and playgrounds with nature guide Angela Wildermuth.  You can see Angela, above, in the red Cardinals baseball cap.

Yes touch

Yes touch

At Deer Creek (sometime called Rocket Park), Angela showed families the secret steps that drop down into the creek, where we then hunted for minnows, mussels and river glass.  The kids took off their shoes and waded in the water, while a robin had a little sip at creekside.

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Technically, we’re not allowed to touch the water, due to sewage overflow; but it had not rained in a month, and families knew to wash hands, so we took our calculated risk. It’s a bit of innocent mischief to get into the water, but honestly? We now live in a world where children are not allowed to touch a creek or climb a tree?  Pay your taxes and let’s clean up our creeks for the sake of our kids. Also, find places where kids can climb trees, because if parents don’t do it, nobody else can, for liability reasons.

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We then hiked it up & over the creek to the Webster side of Deer Creek Park while Angela helped us discover a secret spring, secret trails and secret boulders to scramble over; the kids played on the upper playground before running down the sledding hill.  On a hot day, it’s impossible not to notice that the mulch playground was much, much cooler than the fabricated surface at Rocket Park, which was almost too hot to touch. Also — as a note to park and recreation departments — the moms want park & rec departments to know that they’d like to see more weeds, please.

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Bubble, bubble* * *

The next week, at Kellogg Park, Angela showed us where to gather walnuts and pecans, that had fallen from tall trees, and where the owls were nesting in a giant cottonwood. She took us along a secret path that led to a “creek peek” and a secret chair that the creek has washed up.  We crossed over the metro tracks and the kids climbed some trees.

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At Blackburn Park in Webster Groves, we explored sinkholes, climbed down into them, and up again, climbed trees, and picked up “lady cigars” from catalpa trees, before dropping into a large and wild bird sanctuary that was super fun to explore.

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Finally, Angela showed us a persimmon tree in Blackburn Park; the persimmons were perfectly ripe, which was so amazing, especially if you’ve ever tasted a unripe persimmon, that scrunches up your mouth in a most unpleasant way.

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It is the welcome fashion of parks, finally, to design in a more naturalistic way, especially for kids; but we have miles to go in understanding good design. In the end, nature designs best, and we might use her, and kids, as inspiration. Join Green Spiral Tours in exploring our parks and playgrounds, and defending the wild edges along the fences, under bridges, and where the sidewalks ends.  These are the places where children gravitate, and where biodiversity begins.

Nobody does it better

Nobody does it better

Now it’s time for your homework:

♥ Visit a park or playground with some kids to explore the wild edges in search of edibles and wildlife

♥ Look carefully at the street medians for edibles; many municipalities are now planting edibles such as plum trees

♥ Read Rachel Carson’s “The Sense of Wonder” – an essay written in 1956 about sharing the sense of wonder in nature with children.  Rachel Carson is the “Grandmother of the Environmental Movement” and “Sense of Wonder” is the first book that families should pick up on the path to eco-literacy.  Over 50 years later, not a better piece has yet been written.

♥ Use your influence to encourage Park and Recreation Departments to develop edge habitats and practice a policy of native landscaping.

♥ Find a nature guide who understands kids, and follow him or her.  You will get so much more out of the experience, and exponentially more for every nature lover you can add to your adventure party.

♥ Leave comments on the Green Spiral blog so we can scout your tips & lead others to the wild places you recommend in Saint Louis

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