Most folks are familiar with Dearborn Park’s upper section — the area with the pavilion, basketball court and playground. Most are less familiar with the two lower sections of Dearborn Park — areas that follow Shoal Creek to Oldfield.
This week I walked the lower area with Dave Butler to share with neighbors had done to make this area more accessible. Dave has been involved with our Park for over a decade. He was remembering early visionaries for the Park including Jeremy Rhett and Sarah Michelson who blazed some of the early trails and pushed for expansion into these lower sections.
However, he said we have a natural disaster on our hands. Hundreds of trees in the lower section of the park are covered with ivy. These are mature trees 40+ years old, some more than 100 years old. English Ivy will eventually kill these trees and leave this area with scrub trees, if any.
Young tree growth is also inhibited by the thick privet – an invasive species which dominates the undergrowth limiting native species from growing.
Dekalb County has 100 parks in its system. Dearborn Park is THE WORST in terms of invasive species status. If you stay on the couple of trails cleared out in the last few years, you won’t realize the pending disaster.
Make your way down to the end of the Decatur Trail where it joins up with Chevelle. Instead of walking up to Chevelle turn East towards the creek and you’ll find a newly blazed trail.
The trail meanders through dense privet and reveals a deposit of three large boulders far from the stream. You’ll arrive at the stream and see a path to scurry down the steep embankment and up the other side. To the North of this crossing is where we hope to add a bridge so the trail can be safely enjoyed by more people.
Privet remains thick until you climb out then the ivy dominates the undergrowth. Almost nothing new is able to grow in this area. The ivy dominates. Most alarming is the extent to which the ivy has covered the trees.
Another result of the thick privet is poor visibility which causes safety concerns. When I’ve asked people how they use the park, they stay in the open areas. The more rustic trails are too unsafe. Inadvertently, the neglect of the park has made it less of a resource for the community and for some it’s a liability in its current state.
Is Dearborn too big for the community to maintain? Do we deserve to add more park and garner more park resources without full support to care for what we have? I think we can do a lot more.
2015 needs to be the year that we aggressively clear the privet and ivy. The good news is we now have access to this area and can begin to restore it to a more natural state. Concurrently, we need to make it safe for nervous and less steady walkers.
Please visit this new trail and send me your pictures. What are your thoughts on how to recover the area?