7 min read

How to Thank Parks

Dangerous Tree Farts // The America the Beautiful initiative // The New River Gorge // Ghost Forest

This week I remembered there were a few articles that I wanted to share but forgot for whatever reason last week. This is a new process! It’s ok though because they are evergreen articles so very much still relevant. Once I get rolling, every article should be super timely and relevant. I know I am probably missing some good pieces as well, so if you have any tips drop me a line at info@bryanformhals.com

Thanks for reading!


How to Thank Parks

Another way to show up for parks is to literally show up: “Seek out more park and recreation events and programming to attend,” she said. “The more attendance that they have at events and the more that they can show that people are using their programs, that gives them leverage to go back to the city government and say, ‘Hey, our programs are being used, we need more funding.’”

Basically, help parks put city money where your mouth is—sipping on something fruity and a little alcoholic, enjoying public life, and feeling relieved while you soak up the sun in your local green space.

In Vice, writer Katie Way offers some great suggestions on how we can thank and support our parks. During the pandemic city parks offered us a respite from quarantines and lockdowns, leading to a greater appreciation for these invaluable public spaces.

As we start to return to a new normal, the question is whether this appreciation will last, and if people will understand that we need to support our parks, not only by continuing to utilize them but by making sure they have adequate funding, staffing and programing.


The America the Beautiful initiative

Access to nature isn’t distributed evenly. People of color and low-income communities generally have been relegated to live in places with fewer green spaces and natural areas. As just one example, 74 percent of nonwhite Americans live in regions with less natural land, such as forests and wetlands, than the state median, compared to 23 percent of white people, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.

Not only do those communities lose out on the many benefits of nature, from clean air to less extreme heat, but they “shoulder a disproportionate share of the costs of nature’s decline,” the authors write. These include the loss of resources for subsistence fishing and hunting, the spread of industrial development, and pollution.

Vox has a good summary of the the Biden administration’s ambitious “30 By 30” conservation plan which aims to “conserve 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by 2030.” The plan is critical in helping slow down climate change and protect biodiversity which is diminishing at alarming rates. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as there will certainly be some contentious issue that arise, specially along land rights as well with issues around hunting and fishing.


Climate Change Forces National Parks to Make Difficult Conservation Choices

Decisions about what to protect are especially imminent for forests, where changes are leading some researchers to wonder if the age of North American woodlands is coming to an end.

In the United States Southwest, for example, research suggests that, in the event of wildfires, up to 30 percent of forestland might never grow back because global warming favors shrubs or grasslands in their ranges. Joshua trees appear likely to lose all of their habitat in their namesake national park by the end of the century.

In what might be the most depressing article of the week, the NYTimes covers how ecologists at the National Park Service are realizing they will need to make some very difficult choices on what parts of the ecosystem they can save, which they will need to let go of due to the impacts of climate change. No doubt we’ll continue to read more of these stories about these awful decisions.


Tree Farts Sound Funny But Are Another Sign of Climate Change Problems Ahead

Just how much these tree farts are contributing to greenhouse gas levels will likely differ across species and regions. And what to do about these greenhouse-gas farting trees is a complicated question. It’s not as simple as chopping them down, Martinez says, because even as they die, they become new ecosystems for other species. She hopes her study is just the start of more research into ghost forests and their tree farts, and that experts start to take these emissions into account as this issue grows. “These ghost forests are not exclusive here in North Carolina,” she says. “It’s happening across the entire southeastern U.S., and we expect to see more of these forested wetlands shifting as the climate changes.

You want to laugh, and you should but the tree farts are a problem I never knew existed. Fast Company takes a look at a new study in ‘Biogeochemistry’ that examines how “trees killed by rising sea levels are also emitting carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.” Trees will clearly be a big part of solving the climate crisis but the changes we’re already experiencing are having a negative impact in so many ways we’re just understanding.


Minnesota's Largest Patch of Old-growth Trees is the Result of a Mapping Error

The loggers' loss — hence the name — is actually nature's gain. The SNA's crowning glory, literally, is nearly 32 acres of designated old-growth red pine and white pine forest, in two stands, partially extending into the Chippewa National Forest proper. (In fact, much of the mismapped area seems to fall within the Chippewa National Forest Unique Biological Area adjacent to the Lost Forty.) Old-growth forests represent less than 2 percent — and designated old-growth forests less than 0.25 percent — of all of Minnesota's forests.

The oldest pine trees in the Lost Forty are between 300 and 400 years old, close to their maximum natural life span, which is up to 500 years. Similar pines in other parts of the National Forest are harvested at between 80 and 150 years for pulp and lumber. As a result, the pines in the Lost Forty are not only higher than most of the surrounding woods but also bigger with a diameter of between 22 and 48 inches (55 to 122 cm). One of the biggest has a circumference of 115 inches (2.9 m).

I love this story from Big Think. It’s got mapping, trees and mystery! And naturally as a Minnesota native, I am not planning a trip to visit.


The New River Gorge in West Virginia is America’s Newest National Park

“There’s been so little thought put into this, it’s just kind of bizarre,” said Gene Kistler, co-owner of the outfitter Water Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

“The national park system of the United States of America is the gold standard in the world of conservation and stewardship,” he said. “I don’t want this to be the place where the brand is diminished.”

Kistler, who started climbing in the New River Gorge in the 1980s, says there aren’t enough campgrounds for the tourists that are coming. Popular rock climbing sites are becoming overcrowded. There aren’t enough trails for hikers and mountain bikers. And there aren’t enough parking spaces at the existing trails. Even now, on busy weekends, parked cars spill out on to the main roads.

The Guardian covers some of the challenges facing American’s newest National Park in West Virginia. Of course, it’s great that National Parks are popular but that popularity can lead to more problems for local communities. Building the appropriate infrastructure and providing adequate levels of staffing are critical. Let’s hope to see an increase in both in the next decade.


Art: Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest

Back in March when I was still in New York I saw all these trees on the ground in Madison Square Park and had no idea why they were there so I was pleased to see this one it finally dropped. I wish I was still there to check it out now that it’s installed.


Further Reading

  • Defending America’s Climate Forest [Earth Justice]
  • London’s catching the ‘parklet’ bug [TimeOut]
  • 18 Trails That Traverse History [Atlas Obscura]
  • Landscaping on an Urban Scale: 12 Linear Park Projects [Arch Daily]

I’m a photographer and digital strategist from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter