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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

An urban haven

Today my other half and I discovered a truly amazing place in the center of Toledo--Wildwood Preserve Metropark.  This 500+-acre estate includes woods, meadows, part of the Ottawa River, remnant tallgrass prairie, a formal garden designed by Ellen Shipman, and the 32,000-square-foot house of a 20th-century spark plug magnate. While the noise of busy Central Avenue was generally audible as at least a background hum, and while the park was well-used--on this Labor Day weekend, the parking lots were nearly full, dozens of dogs were being walked, and picnics were happening at just about every table--sometimes it was possible to forget, at least momentarily, that we were in a city of more than 300,000 people. Here is a picture that gives some idea of how tall some of the grasses were.  This clump of big bluestem is much taller than my 5'6".

This monarch butterfly was totally oblivious to our presence, as was the Ottawa River in the following shot.

The Toledo Metropark system has impressed me in the short time I've been even vaguely familiar with it. This Rust Belt city seems to have made a concerted effort to make green space available to all its residents; five large parks are accessible by city bus, and many of the paths are wheelchair-accessible. At Wildwood, the water fountains include ground-level fountains for the dogs that people bring with them. While it is unlikely that much of any of the parks is pristine wilderness, I was heartened by the variety of plant and animal species we noticed in just a few hours at a time far from prime for wildlife-watching. It seems that vibrant urban life can coexist with a fair amount of wild nature.

In case this post seems too sweetness-and-light, let me report that there was a literal snake in the garden. We saw this juvenile beauty pursuing a toad just below an elegant iron gazebo in the formal garden. The toad escaped.