August 31, 2013 in Washington Voices

Walk in park always holds a little magic

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Riverfront Park is an enchanting place with its mystical fountain, high tower and wooden bridges reminiscent of fairy tales, and happily ever after and, whoa! Watch out for those Canada goose droppings.

Each spring I wait for clear skies and warm days to begin my lunchtime trek through this enchanted park. Every year there’s something new that captures my imagination.

My route begins at the Riverfront Rotary Fountain where swarms of kids enjoy the cool water. The trail takes me past the Red Wagon, behind the INB Performing Arts Center, meanders around Gonzaga and the Red Lion hotel then back into the park, past the Clocktower and the Looff Carrousel as I make my way back to work. It’s a 2-mile walk that takes 45 minutes but the wonders I see and experience are etched in my memory.

This year, the enchanted park hosted the Walk of the Goslings in a grassy area near Gonzaga’s Jundt Art Museum. Four adult Canada geese and their gaggle, sporting fluffy yellow down and youngster feathers, grazed in the grass. The adults kept a wary eye on the passers-by and the goslings kept a watchful eye on their parents. Too far from the flock and they’d scamper to catch up, chirping frantically.

Riverfront Park is also home to some large, loud and abrasive geese. Geese are monogamous and over the years I’ve observed one pair – one snowy white with blue eyes, and its mate, gray and white with an orange beak. They preen and sun on the steps behind the INB, fluff their feathers, rub their heads, then dip into the river, wings partially extended splashing water everywhere. But for me, this summer’s highlight was seeing their gosling. Small and vulnerable, the gosling grew bigger and bolder over the ensuing weeks, its grayish down replaced by handsome feathers.

The mallards had an adorable set of ducklings that swam in a straight line behind mom, struggling to catch up, quacking if they got too far behind.

A young crow caught my attention one afternoon. The parents’ squawk was loud and frequent, insisting I peer into the tree they were circling where I spotted their fledgling, bouncing from branch to branch, getting up the nerve to take flight.

I’ve watched these birds over the years, marveled at the new additions, and find that I’m becoming protective of them, intervening when a rambunctious child takes chase, growing concerned at the loaves of bread being tossed at them. They’ve become like family, so I read up on the feathered inhabitants of Riverfront Park.

Bread is, indeed, bad. Bits of fruit, chopped vegetables and grains are better but these Aves are omnivores, feeding on insects, grubs, small fish, plankton and plants. They can and do survive on their own quite well. In fact wildlife, whether urban or forest, is better left alone particularly where food is concerned. They don’t need our handouts, but in the enchanted park, they’ve come to expect it.

Last week as I headed out, there was a slight yet very recognizable difference in the air – fall is nearing. I thought about all I had observed this summer in the enchanted park with its mystical fountain and wooden bridges above the surging river. I took my time, watched intently and listened closely to the movement of people and wildlife. It will be interesting to observe how autumn’s crisp days will change the park’s landscape and residents.

When I finally emerged from the shade of the trees into the sun, I followed the path past the Clocktower where a young girl, no more than 7 with hair of golden waves, stood beneath the massive structure. She stared up at the tower’s red roof. Something was definitely clicking through her young mind. At last, and with great finesse, she yelled, “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!”

Just another fairy tale afternoon in the enchanted Riverfront Park.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Sandi30@comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists/.

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