Posted tagged ‘Riverside Park retaining wall’

Back to Blogging, Catching Up on Spring

May 31, 2012

In the two months since I last posted at Out Walking the Dog, I’ve spent time in Texas, northern Michigan and eastern Long Island as well as here at home in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights.  I’m back now and ready to blog. Soon I’ll write about what I saw in Dallas,

White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas

Traverse City,

Traverse City, Michigan

and the south fork of Long Island.

Mecox Bay, Long Island, NY

  But first I want to catch up with a look at early spring here on my Morningside Heights home turf, back in early April before the trees leafed out. Riverside Park’s great retaining wall is an object of great beauty in all seasons as well as a terrific place to watch animals, including humans.

Here is the wall in late afternoon on one of the first days of April, when the trees were still mostly bare of leaves.

An Eastern gray squirrel, lit by the sun, ventures near the entrance to the raccoon den.  The raccoons, which keep the animal equivalent of jazzman hours, probably won’t be stirring for another hour or two.

At the top of the wall, against a tangle of soon-to-leaf branches, another squirrel discusses life with a young woman.

A man gazes out across the Hudson,

while a young mother and her baby enjoy the daffodils below.

A robin with his breast afire forages at the bottom of the wall.

And high above, the moon glides through the still blue sky.

Riverside Park Spring Walk: Raccoons, Retaining Walls and the USDA

March 25, 2010

USDA truck holds answers to many questions.

Find out why yesterday’s sighting of a USDA truck is cause for rejoicing.

But first, strange markings appeared last week on the retaining wall and nearby path.

Target close-up

What does it mean?

With my wildlife-obsessed outlook, I speculate that the circled numbers and targets have something to do with the raccoon vaccination program. But what? Do the markings indicate that trapping and vaccinating has begun in Riverside Park? Do they show where raccoons are likely to be found?

The park is cool, bright and windy.

Here and there the pervasive brown of winter yields to color.

Storm-created ponds remain.

Hay bales enisled in spring pond

Sparrows huddle in forsythia bushes, puffed up like little balloons against the wind.

Magnolia buds prepare to pop.

Suddenly, up ahead on a pathway, we see … a USDA truck.

Be still, my heart.

You have to understand. USDA is handling the Trap-Vaccinate-Release program for the city. If anyone can answer my many questions, USDA can. Earth-shattering questions, like: How is the program going? Any estimates on the Central Park raccoon population? How long will it take to know if the program is succeeding? Any new theories on why the disease took such vehement hold this year?

Esau and I run after the truck. But it gets away.

Saddened, we trudge toward home. Then, half a mile north, it suddenly reappears. We run. We wave our arms. The truck stops. The window rolls down. Success! We speak briefly with the driver through the window.

A USDA biologist, he confirms that the Riverside Park phase of the raccoon vaccination program began on Tuesday.  The markings on the wall have nothing to do with the raccoons. He seems to need to get back to work and offers his card for a follow-up conversation.

We sing as we head north, happy to have even a little more information.

At 108th Street, we discover the Man Behind the Marks. 

He’s keeping park-goers safe by surveying the retaining wall for structural weaknesses in hopes of preventing problems, like the collapse of the retaining wall that closed the West Side Highway for three days in 2005. The marks and targets help him line up his equipment for accurate readings. The targets are always there, he says.  He recently freshened up the paint, which is why we suddenly noticed them.

“So how’s it look?” I ask. “The wall.”

“It’s an old wall,” he says. “But it looks pretty good.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Snow-covered retaining wall from just a few weeks ago. Beautiful.


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