Smokey Bear Land

I grew up at the edge of a wetlands in suburban Rhode Island. This 100 acre wetlands became the playground for neighborhood children released from the prying eyes of parents. In that swamp the opportunities for entertainment were endless. In the summer we would catch frogs and turtles. In the winter we would skate on a pond and roast hot dogs over a fire.

All the kids knew this special place as ‘Smokey Bear Land’. There was no official designation, simply a name passed on by the children. It was a place to watch the wonders of nature unfold. I vividly remember coming across a family of Ruffed Grouse and running home as the mother grouse chased me from her brood. Another time my cousin and I found the dead body of a red fox and over the course of months we returned to watch the carcass decompose so that we could retrieve the bones and skull for a science project at school.

children in woods

In Smokey Bear Land (named for the mascot of the National Forest Service), we immersed ourselves in the cycles of nature. It was our playground and our teacher. In a time before laws protected such sensitive places we watched as homes gradually nibbled at the edges of the wetlands, from 100 acres to 50.

It has been a longtime since I was ten years old. But when I return to my old neighborhood I am glad that 50 acres remain. It is still a place where tadpoles hatch, birds nest and brook trout swim. Families still walk in the woods and are grateful that this wetlands continues to be a refuge, a home for neighbors who fly, swim, slither and walk.

On this Earth Day we know that such special places remain only because citizens like us demand and support legislation and zoning that protects. We know that all of life is interconnected and to be good stewards of our corner of the earth is a gift for the children today and for generations to come.

6 thoughts on “Smokey Bear Land

  1. Marge Hoffman

    The world was a kinder gentler place when you were a boy of ten. Glad you had this kind of opportunity and good memories from it. God has created such a wonderful world and it saddens me that there is so much war, conflict,
    and greed that tears it apart!

  2. In the neighborhood I grew up, Broadview Acres, off Diamond Hill Rd, there was a large swampy are we called Alligator Swamp. We were convinced carniverous beasts lived there just waiting to chomp off a foot if you slipped into the swampy, soupy green water. It was a symbol of courage to wander in there,

    Never occurred to us that the “alligators” wouldn’t survive winter,

  3. So many places that I knew and played in as a young girl are totally obliterated today, but then that seems to be the at the root of so many problems in Southern California. Greed, power and the lure of the ego prevent people from seeing “the bigger picture.” Some destroy, yet thankfully, others protect and appreciate. Here’s hoping for more of the latter!

  4. Cheryl, one of the wonderful things about Oregon as we know, is good land use practices on a state wide basis. Here’s to Governor Tom McCall a Republican in the 1970’s who advocated for stewardship of the earth and responsible land use.

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