Even Pocket-Sized Open Space Can Change a Life (or 5)

Even Pocket-Sized Open Space Can Change a Life (or 5)

By Tracy Visher, Monday, May 16, 2016 at 10:30 AM

At the back of my neighborhood is an area that is comprised largely of Bailey Creek drainage. Technically a flood zone, though it has been so many years since we have seen measurable water in it, it seems hard to imagine now. Maybe this year though!

The area I access is 10-15 acres of creek-bed and surrounding upland sagebrush and bitterbrush habitat. It contains meandering well-worn paths amongst the shrubs and occasional weeds (I was hysterical to see the invasive tall white top/perennial pepperweed weed there last spring and had to stop and dig on the spot, yes I’m obsessed!)

This tiny plot is home to coyotes, rabbits, ground squirrels, the occasional band of wild Mustangs (such a treat to see) and numerous bird species. We also see many of our neighbors out on walks regularly.

This is also the daily recreation area for our 3 dogs Bonnie, Murphy and puppy Finn. We have brought all of our pups here for 20 years. Every morning before work (if not too muddy), my husband religiously walks them the 1/2 mile over to their playground. Here, they are able to run like the wind, chase and play, sniff and bark and be their true doggie selves on the mile long loop. When we have to leave them in the back yard during the day while we are at work, this activity cuts down on the number of boredom driven chewing and digging incidents they are likely to bless us with during our absence. Our 6 month old puppy seems to currently get a second wind at about 8 p.m., so we are now often taking a second trip to the open space after dinner, so he can run off some steam and hopefully sleep longer at night.

Speaking of muddy days here, while not ideal for romping dogs, it has proved magical for our two 10 and 7 yr. old grandsons. We have always thought it’s important to take the boys camping and hiking to develop a bond and appreciation for the outdoors. They love the freedom and their creativity soars when they are outside. It is hard for today’s children to find that between security worries and packed schedules.

The boys spent the weekend recently and we took them to our little open space slice of heaven to ride their bikes. It had rained the day before but the soil is sandy there so the paths weren’t too bad. As we walked along, I spotted the boys ahead, circumventing several large remaining puddles. Their Mom refers to me as their “Crazy Grandma” for good reason. I called out to the boys and told them to stop riding around the puddles and try riding THROUGH them. At first, they were sort of horrified at the idea that they and their bikes could get that dirty. I convinced them that between the hose, a shower and the washing machine, order could be restored. They went for it! I don’t know who had more fun them, or my husband and me watching them. They got more and more daring, whooping and yelling as they splashed through the puddles. I sent their Mom and Dad a video and she said she got teary watching “their little faces having so much fun”!

So, as you can see, this little parcel of a few acres has a daily impact on the members of my family and many others, wildlife families included. It is private property, but the owners are tolerant of all of the neighborhood traffic. We get a knot in our stomachs every few years when we see the “for sale” sign go up on the fence. Our saving grace is that it is a flood plain, so we hope the thought of exorbitant flood insurance continues to dissuade buyers for years to come!