Hang in there, little buddy. The neighbourhood has got your back.
This well fed anole lives at Willowbrook Reach, a neighbourhood wildlife habitat along a section of the Upper Boggy Creek in Austin.
As recently as 1997, the creek banks were covered in turf grass and mowed on a regular basis. I found this dreary before picture at the Friends and Lovers of Willowbrook Reach
The original red swing was installed thanks to The Red Swing Project. It has become an important landmark and meeting spot. A small thing but it draws people into the green space and helps build connections.
A random view of the creek bank hints at the transformation of the area. We now have a full leaf canopy over the water. Understory trees, shrubs and vines take up the middle ground. A variety of forbs grow at the soil level. The flood event this spring meant we lost a lot of the variety that started to take hold but I am hoping it also means we got a new silt deposit. That would be good news for the health of everything that survived.
The usual gang hangs out in the green areas: more insects than I can name, all kinds of lizards, jays, grackles, squirrels. We also get random visitors like the odd coyote. The neighbourhood cat owners tend to freak out when that happens but I think it is a really good sign. It suggests some kind of green corridor still exists right through the middle of urban Austin.
The Lady Bird Wildflower Center recently sponsored a wildflower walk through the area. One of the audience members asked: “What was our vision? Which ecosystem were we trying to replicate here?” I don’t know if he knew that was kind of a loaded question.
I seriously doubt anyone had that kind of goal in mind when the project began. It was more intuitive or real than that — a spontaneous understanding that turf grass was inadequate and kind of soul sucking. And sure, mistakes were made. Lessons learned. Experts gathered along the way. But the results show the original impulse was sound. Lee Clippard, our guide for that walk, answered that he supposed Willowbrook Reach was turning into a riparian woodland but that it was kind of an evolving thing and really up for discussion by the neighbourhood.
I bit my tongue. People don’t have to be experts to know what is right or good for the land. Just look at the terrible results at the expensive and professionally managed Mueller Greenway just down the road. The two restoration projects are worlds apart in philosophy and results. Willowbrook Reach has no funding. Is pretty much run by volunteer labour. But it is loved and I believe the results speak for themselves. When decisions are based on a land ethic — an understanding that — “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community” even amateurs can’t really err. Everything will just naturally fall into its proper place.