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THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Cut Decatur some slack on Point Mallard work

Some of the walkers, joggers and bikers who consider Point Mallard Park's riverside trail one of the city's finest amenities were upset earlier this year to discover the Parks and Recreation Department had been cutting trees along the path. But they need to give the city some latitude in maintaining the park.

After the City Council combined Point Mallard under the parks department, workers began needed maintenance.

They cut several dozen trees. Some were on the riverbank. Some were dead or dying. Much of the work also included clearing out the vines, privet and other undergrowth along the trail.

Besides creating the scenic vistas to attract more golfing revenue, parks officials said it created more breeze benefitting both the golfers and the hybrid turf. It eliminates blind curves in the trail and hiding places for unfriendly wildlife and attackers. It also gives healthy trees room to grow.

Golfers generally liked the changes. Many trail users didn't. They preferred the privacy, the shade, the windbreak, the wildlife habitat and the unspoiled environment. Members of the Point Mallard facilities board didn't like the city bypassing their advisory role.

In fact, the trail retains much of its untouched character. Plenty of trees, shade, underbrush and wildlife habitat remain. There will be more shade once the remaining trees have spread their canopies. Privet is not a native species. In other parks, environmental groups organize groups to dig out this invasive species that chokes out delicate native plants.

The Parks and Recreation Department should have discussed its plans with its advisory board. The trail trimming has the potential to do all the things city officials claim if they complete the job they started. Parks officials recently asked state foresters to help them. The right management plan could improve the trail's scenic beauty and broaden the diversity of flora and fauna at Point Mallard.

The city has to maintain the park for several recreational uses, which is a balancing act. It deserves time to develop a plan.

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