On the Isles parkway, yellow signs depict a mother duck with ducklings in tow. The sign is strategically placed on the boulevard of a mansion of wide lawn and perennial flowers where ducks have been known to nest. It is a short walk of twenty five meters from this lawn to the Northern inlet of the lake where I find repose on a weathered bench. Each day, the fledgling bits of yellow down follow their mother across the dangerous street and bicycle path down a steep slope of grass, past trees of urban greenery toward the swampy lake. Neighbors of Isles adore these mallards and court them to adulthood. If they make it.
Formentioned automobiles pose a formidable threat, but in the depths of the lake live the Muskellunge, fifty pound beasts that were stocked ten years ago as a revitalization program on the chain of lakes. These voracious predators stalk the depths and eat almost anything, including ducklings. Little paddling feet above excite the beast and in a swirl of lightning quick underwater reverse raptorial snap, a duckling is gone to prey. The mother mallards flap their wings in frenzy; quacking alarmed shock for the little lost one.
The ducks in Minnesota are also susceptible to the blasts of shot from twelve gauge weapons. Along their migratory journey the ducks must land for rest in bodies of water and the swampy sloughs where camouflage drab hunters wait in the early morning. They put out decoys and use calls to entice the birds. Note: recently the use of spinning decoys (wind propels the wings of the decoy to provide a realistic portrayal of a bird landing in the water) has been limited. Odd that municipal regulators take the time to research "fair" hunting and take additional time to erect signs to warn motorists of the potential harm they might impose of the animals.
The Department of Natural Resources has a straining role in the urban sector. Overpopulation, outside species disrupting the natural order of environmentally protected areas and species, poachers, etc, all impose difficult choices on the officials. Hunting is a means to keep populations down and permits are sold to licensed, law abiding respectful citizens. This premise is generally accepted. Generally because some hunters abuse their rights, but this is a minor variation on the statistics. When we consider the variable of outside species disrupting the environment we remember classic examples of a species completely wiping out the other it was trying to control, becoming a worst pest in the process. Or an accidental species being introduced. The later is the case the Minnesota DNR is facing now. Milfoil, a leafy plant that has invaded lakes across the state, transferred by boat, is fast becoming as treacherous as the Zebra mussel to environmentalists. The Chain of Lakes is attempting to harvest the plant with blue boats that have a churning windmill apparatus that spins in the water and churns up the plant, to be discarded into smelly piles of compost. The other species overwhelming the DNR is the Canadian Goose. The Geese have invaded Isles again. Their green poops litter the walking paths to the disgust of the upper echelon who live around the lake. They chase small children and destroy manicured lawns. In past years of overpopulation, the DNR has implemented a tagging and capture system. The prehistoric looking offspring are captured before they fledge and head south. Then, they are butchered and given to homeless shelters in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving dinner.
Last May, a proposal was introduced to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board of Commissioners. Concerned citizens wanted the Lake to be renovated. In 1889, dredging of the then swamp occurred, changing the demographics of the lake and creating urban green. Mostly peat, the soil has slowly deteriorated over the years and the paths around the lake are sinking, causing months of flooding. My bench is perpetually under a bit of water and this year it chased out a family of rabbits.
I appreciate all the effort. I do.
I agree that renovation needs to be done, but I adore the rustic beauty of the place. I don't want it to become yet another of Minnesota Nice, Michael Graves, hunter green and beige, over budget renovation projects. I'm afraid this will be the exact resut. I go to my bench under that tree and watch the red wing blackbirds click and clack. Grackles and Ravens soar and hop, twisting their curious heads toward me, digging for grubs in the soft soil. When a storm is rumbling, carp breach and look like salmon running upstream, the huge brown bodies splashing shows for the walkers. I like that the grass is unmowable and that goldenrod and odd flowers spring up in the mess of reeds. I sleep under that oak on weathered boards that people think are neglected. I don't neglect, I visit, even in the winter. Whippoorwills send out repetitive calls and I answer.
I wait and watch for ducks. I watch their wakes in the still water and hope a muskie doesn't get them. I watch the curly tails of the green headed bachelor mallards and listen as the wind ripples the still water pushing it over the tops of the milfoil like ribbons.