Saturday, June 18, 2011

16 miles...and some thoughts on the Urban Stream Research Facility

Jim and I were able to ride today. We did a measly 16 miles, bringing the season total up to 54. Pretty weak.

Our planned route got disrupted twice due to construction closing down paths or making detours that put the path along busy roads. I'm really hoping this is just temporary, as there has already been some shifting of the paths going towards Batavia that now put them along streets as opposed to fields or wooded areas.

About 12-18 months ago, there was some construction started at Blackwell Forest Preserve, and they tore up a section of path and woods to make space for an 'Urban Stream Research Center' (USCR). I was a little irritated that the existing and - apparently unused - parking area was not made the site of construction for this center. Instead they tore up an actual wooded area area to make room for it.

Well, it looks like the building is up. It's a modest sized building, but what I didn't like was the extensive cobblestone driving lanes they have around the facility including a circle drive in front of it with what looks like an intended decorative center and a little retention pond/lake off to the side. Hmmmm. Is all this really necessary, especially considering that there still remains an unused parking lot right there?  I guess I just saw an awful lot of encroachment into the quality of the trails on this trip, and that makes me uneasy about whether responsible decisions are being made about the parks in DuPage County.

The purpose of the USCR - according to the environmental assessment prepared by NOAA - is to "propagate freshwater mussel species to augment the population densities and increase the diversity of native freshwater mussel species and non-game fish species; evaluate the success and impacts of ongoing stream and habitat restoration and remediation in the DuPage River watershed area; improve the success of urban aquatic habitat restoration and enhancement; and provide educational opportunities for the public, conservation groups, and research institutions thereby benefiting fresh water mussel species, other wildlife, habitat areas, and public communities along the West Branch of the DuPage River." Bold is mine.

I'm not seeing how a facility whose construction needlessly reduces the natural environment for showy drives and decorative landscaping is abiding by the 'minimum impact' philosophy that should be central to any project whose alleged aim is to further the environment and/or conduct serious scientific work.  I mean, wouldn't the disruption to the area taint any research they conduct? (Or maybe they're all about the critters in the water and screw the stuff that lives on land?).  I'm not ready to elevate this to a 'mini-rant' entry, write a letter, or call someone to complain because I really know very little about the facility. I downloaded the above referenced NOAA assessment to see what that has to say.

From the little I do know - and from what I have seen - I'm not impressed.

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