Cascading Waters can be found at 135 Olean Street on the eastern edge of Worcester's northwest parklands, the Cascades. The Cascades are 350 acres of park and conservation lands along the borders of Worcester, Paxton, and Holden, Massachusetts. Home to countless species of plants and animals, the Cascades are open to passive recreation year-round.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


Ever get so caught off guard you have no clue how to respond?

So this afternoon I look down the access road from the Lodge and see a white sedan.
Cool! It is dreary and raining on and off and there are users out there!

Then I see the owner,
lumbering up from the trail by the brook,
with a significantly big stone on his shoulder,
clearly heavy based on his frame,
which he loads into his trunk.

What the...?

So I mosey down the access road slowly sort of gathering my thoughts, trying to figure out the situation, deciding how to respond.

I mean, like, what if the dude had a moment of deep personal epiphany and it involved this rock? Or what if he is about to become an internationally known sculptor and this rock has moved him so deeply to his artistic core as to open up a new vision on the world for us all? I don't know, what if his great great grandmother lived here and the family is trying to reunite a dying elderly member with a place of their past before they leave this plain... (I really think odd things like this.)

So I am predisposed to be a bit restrained.

Then he heads back into the brook for another one... Ok, um, maybe not.

So after asking twice if I can help, and introducing myself, he volunteers that these are for an aquarium. (First thought: My Lord! an aquarium the size of a house?! (I mean these are seriously BIG rocks, and I have worked with aquariums since I was a wee tyke.))

So then begins the conundrum,
How to address this to him as inappropriate behavior?

My first thought is the old saw: "Leave only footprints, Take only pictures."
But there is a whole host of other thoughts and ideas tangled up in that statement that getting to what amounts to a philosophical bumper sticker of a conclusion of personal behavior seems daunting.

My second thought involved the direct impact to the environment. You have a host of possibilities: erosion, macro invertebrate habitat disruption; stream course alteration; and a whole host of unknown "butterfly effect" ideas that make one pause and worry or pray before taking action. But again this is a host of ideas boiled down into a conclusion after deciding that the environment and its constituent portions have values that impact my personal choices of action.

Then I go into deep philosophical territory as a third foray. Cumulative impacts of human action repeated over and over, and especially on a small urban piece of property set apart as a reserve, conserved for future generations. Notions of "passive" and "active" recreation whirl in my head. Explanations of the core difference between the two, with "active" being an extraction from the property leaving it less than it was for others who come after, and "passive" attempting to be more neutral in its impact over time. And then I realize MAYBE I get two sentences with the dude, tops.

So, now, out of time, and not interested in offering a lecture or a philosophical treatise, I settle for over simplified "rules."
There are "rules."

I am sorry, but this land was invested in by the public and as a result there are rules. Folks aren't supposed to take things away from the site but leave them in place. Perhaps you might find a place not subject to these sorts of rules? I am very sorry.

He left with only his first rock.
I left deeply dissatisfied with my final answer.
And now I turn it over and over in my head seeking a more elegant and effective approach.

So far my best thoughts involve asking him questions, questions that might lead him to consider a more philosophical contemplation of him, his world, his place and role in it, and our responsibilities resulting from that. Alas, if only Socrates had done land management...

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