Monday, October 29, 2012

Pre-Hurricane Sandy

It's all over the news here - it's unavoidable and fascinating.  Hurricane Sandy.  We are in awe and sometimes fear of the unknown, and that is what nature is, unknown.  While nature certainly deserves respect, it also at times commands it.  I'm looking forward to what we can learn from this event and hoping to document what I can from our corner of the world.

Our Park is located on the fringe of where Sandy is predicted to touch.  What has been interesting to me this weekend is watching various events, sporting and otherwise, across the U.S. that are not affected at all by this weather pattern.  In your own bubble, it's easy to forget other things are happening in the world around you that might not be even close to what you are experiencing.  I usually check out Chicago's weather to see what's coming in the next 24 hours.  For now, that won't work!  However, here is more background on our Park and how this hurricane may affect us. 

Our name, Headwaters Park, comes from the fact that we are at the headwaters, or beginning, of Mill Creek.  This creek, approximately 20 miles long, travels and winds through the city of Erie and surrounding suburbs before it ends at Presque Isle Bay.  Almost 100 years ago, on this very site, the Flood of 1915 occured, tragically taking 36 lives and devastating the city.

Aftermath of 1915 Flood - courtesy of Erie County Historical Society

During a 3-hour period in early August, 1915, between 7 and 9 inches of rain fell from constant pounding bands of rain and storms.  At the headwaters, which was farmland at the time, the rain had no where to go but downstream, carrying with it much of what was in its path.  As the water built up, its strength grew.  Finally, the water and debris found an obstacle - the 26th street bridge.  After many attempts, using dynamite and other means to clear the path, the dam broke under sheer pressure.  Reportedly, a wall of water 200 feet wide and 30/40 feet tall rushed through the city, causing intense damage and numerous deaths.

Devastation from the 1915 Flood - Courtesy of Erie County Historical Society
Dam break at 26th street - Courtesy of Erie County Historical Society
Various preventions methods have been implemented since that event, including the Drift Catcher, the Millcreek Tube, and other Best Management Practices along the Creek.  So...

What might happen in the next few days here at Headwaters Park?  I will try to document the progression and post it here.  At this point, we have had 3 days of steady rain.  It is soggy outside, the water is up a little and running quickly, but we are yet awaiting affects of the storm.  These photos are actually taken with a night shot program, as it is quite dark outside, even in mid-morning.

Rock weir with elevated water levels

This is our concrete ford, used for accessing the park with our all-terrain maintenance vehicle.  The purpose is to permit water to pass unobstructed along its natural path, yet allow access across the stream while decreasing sedimentation and erosion.  Water is up here also, as I can usually walk across without getting my feet wet.
The levels in our vernal ponds are up, also.  However, the contrast with the colorful fallen leaves and the dark, soft hemlocks is stunning!
Check back in the next few days to view updates to the park and find out the effects of Hurricane Sandy on Headwaters Park!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Walk

After a few weeks of programs, hikes, and events, I hope to have the blog back on track; thank you to those that have been asking "What's going on?  Where are the updates?"  Thankfully, we are just that busy!

 Although I have many items I want to focus on, today's the day that the Pumpkin Walk will be showcased.  What an exciting event we hosted!  Planned to the tiniest detail and well-run by the Erie County Master Gardeners, the First Annual Pumpkin Walk was held on Saturday, October 6th from 5pm - 9pm.  The goal was pure fun - a 1/2 mile walk through our trails, lined with over 500 carved jack O'lanterns.  Setup the week prior was a intricately designed schedule of pumpkin drop-offs, pick-ups, and groupings.
Thankfully, the weather was cooperative for the preparation!
However, to keep all participants and volunteers on their toes, Saturday dawned cold and cloudy.  By cold I mean the low 40's.  Farenheit.  And windy.  The volunteers were not deterred (perhaps the temperature kept them moving at a quick clip?) and their enthusiasm did not wane.  As the trails came together and the carved faces were placed just-so, everyone could see their hard work come to fruition.  By 5pm, the trails were ready, Jack (and Jill) O' lanterns were grinning and lit, tables were decorated and ready in the pavilion, and even the Fire Department was in attendance for safety and to educate the public about Fire Prevention (October is Fire Prevention Month).

All carvers, from the youngest Kindergartener to the Art Club at Edinboro University, had a great time preparing their carvings for the event.  These displays were creativity and imagination at their best.
I mean, how fun is this?  So many ideas for carving our own pumpkins at home!
The leaves are quite green in this photo, belying the actual colors that are rainbow-ing our area at this time.  The weather that evening turned out to be spectacular, cool and dry, perfect for a hike and family fun.
Many may wonder "What do you DO with over 500 pumpkins when you don't need them any longer?"  To begin with, the pumpkins came from many locations.  Some were cultivated and donated by the Master Gardeners.  A majority were purchased from local farmers in an effort to support our friends and neighbors.  This collaborative effort produced a fantastic event that was attended by over 1,600 people!  All funds collected benefited the educational outreach efforts of the Master Gardeners.  But, what happened to the pumpkins?

Wonderfully, all of these gourds were relocated the next morning to a deer farm in New York, just over the state line from Headwaters Park.  We did compost a few on site for demonstration, but the rest made a great number of deer quite happy.  So, no landfill for these goulish gourds!  We had a spectacular time coordinating this event and hope to see everyone in 2013!