It is unfortunate that a tiny gem of a place … home to nesting snapping turtles, salamanders, and chorus frogs … that merely seeks to be a quiet retreat for families and others to experience the sights and sounds of nature, is not enough.
Instead a building is planned to be erected on the Oz Natural Area of Waupaca’s east-side, adding more impervious surface, bisecting more habitat, and disturbing the natural beauty of the site, so that we can teach people to care about nature. Something is wrong with this equation.
Twenty-five years ago, we were told by an older conservation colleague that “people don’t care about environmental education, they care about bricks and mortar.”
Perhaps he was right. Maybe most people care more about buildings and Disneyland experiences of nature. Maybe they want gimmicks and kiosks rather than knowing what it is to smell the scent of a marsh or a woodland firsthand.
But then we are reminded of our children and the other children who grew up playing with our children and the joy they got out of catching frogs and discovering Monarch caterpillars, sitting on rocks and climbing fallen logs.
Children do not need buildings to learn about nature. Children need to be in nature. They need to see dancing cranes and know what it is to smell the soil and get their feet wet and see the stars at night. They need to know how wetlands are connected to groundwater to rainwater and to clean lakes and streams, not through diagrams on some display, but through seeing them and being in them.
They need exercise and reminders there is life beyond cell phones, and computers, so that they can live long healthy lives, free from cardio-vascular disease.
Most of all, they need magical places, places of quiet beauty that inspire their imaginations and their hopes and dreams for the future. The Oz Natural Area is magical. Just the way it is.
Please call the Waupaca City Parks and Recreation Department and the mayor of Waupaca and request that a full environmental impact assessment be done before any future development occurs in the natural area. Suggest they re-locate their plans for a new Eco-Park to Swan Park or another City Park that already has a substantial human foot-print.
Help us protect the magic of Oz so that your grandchildren and your great grandchildren grow up knowing what it is to experience the wondrous beauty that abounds in our beloved community.
Never give up.
Kari Esbensen and