As a restoration volunteer at Nob Hill Nature Park, I would like to communicate my outrage at the placement of the City of St. Helen’s Halloweentown event within the park. It is especially distressing that city representatives did not consult the initiators of the park, Caroline Skinner and Howard Blumenthal, well in advance for feedback.
As you may know, Nob Hill is an Oregon oak woodland restoration project. Oregon oak and its associated native plants are increasingly endangered in urban areas due to conflict with encroaching development and other human activity. Oregon oak occurs only in the Pacific Northwest, and it is the highest quality wildlife tree we have. There are specific butterflies, insects and mammals dependent on native oak for survival. Further, it is difficult to find a more specialized environment than Nob Hill, a classic volcanic basalt formation that supports spectacularly diverse and delicate native plants.
As a fellow urban oak restoration volunteer, I can assure you, the recovery of such magnificent native plants and their associated wildlife is rare and unusual in an urban setting. There is a treasure in the midst of St. Helens and its importance even goes beyond the city. Yet the thoughtless locating of this city-sponsored event makes it unclear whether leaders appreciate the treasure that Nob Hill Nature Park is. In short, a nature park is there for humans to enjoy nature, rather than harm it.
I called Shanna Duggan the new St. Helens Parks and Recreation manager for more information. She said the Halloweentown event is going to proceed this year, but they may rethink it next year. She said wooden masks have already been screwed into the trees. The open times for the event will be 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. so that will likely run into sundown / dusk which is prime time for wildlife activity.
Unfortunately, screwing items to the oak trees is harmful. The noise and human activity involved in the park at night is harmful and stressful for wildlife.
In future years, city leaders should consult with Nob Hill’s dedicated volunteers prior to event planning. Otherwise, I would suggest volunteers organize public actions to end the thoughtless and inappropriate locating of such an event within the Nob Hill Nature Park.
Barbara Quinn is the Board Chair of Friends of Baltimore Woods in Portland.