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Your Burning Park Questions…Answered!

It seems like there’s always something going on in Overton Park.  Right now we have construction at Rainbow Lake Playground, some lovely blooms beginning to show at the formal gardens, and tons of activity at Overton Bark.  But what about some of the other things you might have noticed?  You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Privet debris1. What are all the leafy branches piled on the sides of the Old Forest trails?
That’s non-native, invasive Chinese privet, which we’ve been working to remove for the last two years.  Privet is a big problem locally; it was brought to the U.S. as a landscape plant in the 1930s and 40s (the name “privet” signifies its popular use as a privacy hedge for yards), and it spread to natural areas.  Because it grows largely unchecked, it outcompetes many native plants and closes off the understory in places like the Old Forest, which has negative implications for the entire ecosystem.

Last year our crews at Echo Systems Ltd. (you’ll recognize their red shirts) cut and removed 1,500 cubic yards of privet from the Old Forest.  Some specimens had been growing for decades and reached 30 feet tall and 12 – 18 inches in diameter!  This year, they’ve removed 500 cubic yards so far, with more on the way.  They’ll keep working through the end of this month, when the native plants in the forest will begin to leaf out and make privet hard to recognize.  Winter is the perfect time to remove it, because very few other plants are green this time of year.

Water fountain2. Is that a new water fountain on the limestone trail?
Yes!  An aging water fountain has been replaced along the limestone trail adjacent to the golf course.  The new frost-proof fountain will operate year-round and includes a dog water fountain at the base.

The funds for this fountain were donated in memory of Sam Crain, who passed away this weekend.  He loved to run the trails in Overton Park, and his presence will be deeply missed.  This new fountain is a gift from Sam’s friends and family to the many runners, walkers, dog-lovers, bird watchers and everyone else who loves the Old Forest trails.

East Parkway Playground3. What are the wooden posts that have been installed along the trail at East Parkway Playground?
These are the basis for a StoryWalk, which places the pages of a book along a trail so that kids can read a story as they walk.  It’s a perfect combination of reading and physical activity.  This StoryWalk is being spearheaded by a local Eagle Scout, in partnership with Friends of the Library.  The book “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox will be placed on the posts later this spring, adding another attraction to the East Parkway Playground.

We’ll also be installing a Little Free Library at the playground, which Books from Birth will keep stocked with children’s titles.  Combine that with the new restrooms being installed and the bike plaza going in later this year, and 2013 is going to be a big year for the East Parkway side of the park.

Log Bench4. Who makes the log benches at Overton Bark?
Wes Hopper, a local arborist who operates Urban Forestry, carves these benches out of fallen trees, including some at Overton Park.   He donated the two benches that were installed last week outside the dog park.  We’re planning on making this natural seating part of Rainbow Lake Playground as well.  They’re available for sponsorship for a $400 donation, which includes a recognition plaque as part of the bench.

Have you noticed something in the park that made you curious?  Let us know and we’ll try to answer for you!