Date: 1/5/18 1:27 pm
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Among 43 Canada Geese yesterday there was a mallard-sized Cackling Goose, only species that might qualify as a “rare bird.” Of course, in the middle of winter they aren’t that unusual in a Canada flock like the one in the Corps of Engineers Lost Bridge South Park on Beaver Lake.

My winter birding follows a routine. Pull into the park, check the deep cove on the east, then the big open water looking southeast, then another cove on the west. Yesterday the east cover yielded Common Goldeneye (4), Ring-necked Duck (2), and Mallard (12), plus a Common Loon. While sitting there with spotting scope clamped on the window, a male Pileated Woodpecker flew low over my car and perched on an old cedar and commenced excavating – cedar chips flying – like I wasn’t there.

The only bird in big water was a single Ring-billed Gull. East cove added Hooded Merganser (2).

Elsewhere in the park: Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, a Hermit Thrush, and a “squealer” – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. All from inside my car. It was in the teens outside.

Beaver Lake was formed in mid-1960s by damming old White River, burying family cemeteries and good bottomland farms at center of pioneer-era communities. As mitigation, the Corps built high-quality public recreation areas. High-quality: paved roads, camp grounds, bathrooms, walking trails, boat launches, and picnic areas. First class recreation for ordinary citizens. All with a fine view of Beaver Lake.

The America that favored recreational facilities was the America of a War on Poverty whose purpose was opportunity. Every county had an Equal Opportunity Agency with multiple of services aimed a needs of low income folks. It was America of a Voting Rights Act to ensure every qualified American had a chance to participate. And just so we don’t forget, in 1965, it was America of Medicare, providing health insurance for every American 65 and older.

Where or where is that America? For some years now, we have drifted a different way. Despite the fact that the population of northwest Arkansas has vastly expanded, many recreational facilities built around Beaver in the 1960s have been scaled back or closed because of Congressional budget cuts. It’s happened all over Arkansas and all over the country.

Really? The world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation can’t afford parks for ordinary citizens?

The parks that remain, like Lost Bridge South, are fine places. And aren’t we exceedingly fortunate to have them?

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