“Wissahickon” a treasure

I received Metropolitan Paradise: The Struggle for Nature in the City, Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley 1620-2020 (St. Joseph’s University Press) as a Christmas present from a dear friend and park aficionado Dr. Thomas A. Fitzpatrick. What a treasure it is.

I am still reading (and re-reading) the first of this four-volume set, looking over maps and illustrations that are museum quality. As I enjoyed the set, I also thought about how I could help get the word out about it. I have been telling everyone I meet about it, but then I received my copy of this week’s Local and was thrilled to see the front page article and interview with historian David Contosta, who co-authored the work with landscape architect Carol Franklin.

I would like to thank you for bringing the series to the attention of your readers. I would further like to publicly thank Franklin and Contosta for working for 12 years on this project. It is truly a gift to the community and beyond. Thanks to the Friends of the Wissahickon for planting the seed for this series many years ago

Finally, thanks to St. Joseph’s University Press for the visionary professionals there who masterfully laid out the images and text. It is truly a piece of art.

I highly recommend this series as I for one, have enjoyed turning off of the tube and computer and spending several relaxing evenings in front of a burning fire with it. I urge anyone reading this to give yourself a gift of spending time and gaining insight at this treasure we have in our backyards. It is truly and inspiration – The Wissahickon and the books!

Barbara Sherf
Flourtown

Deer are not destructive

“D” words like “destructive,” “devastation” and “disaster” have been used to incite others to rail against deer and maintain a stranglehold over them. And now, we have a “C” word, “catastrophic,” used in an interview with David Contosta about a new book on the Wissahickon Valley (Local, January 6).

A number of years ago, landscape architect Carol Franklin, who collaborated with Contosta for this book, exclaimed in a public forum at the Andorra Library that there were 600 deer per acre in the Wissahickon. A collective gasp was palpable. She should have known better. I regret not confronting her at the time. And so, the persistent, inflammatory and vitriolic rhetoric does its dirty work.

Contosta pointed to a lack of predators in the park as contributing to the deer “problem.” Just as the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) uses the lack of predators to justify its mass wild horse roundup and removal policy, the pro-kill camp uses the absence of predators in the park to justify its lethal practice against deer. Wildlife scientist Allen T. Rutberg, Ph.D has stated, “Current evidence indicates that deer usually are not controlled by natural predators.” Another, Wayne Evans, Ph.D has said, “Both predators and hunting are unnecessary adjuncts to deer population control.”

I fully expect the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to return soon to resume their unfinished business in the park. This branch of the federal government exterminated over 4.1 million animals in 2009. According to Wild Earth Guardians, this agency has managed to avoid public scrutiny of its spending. It’s your money.

At the very heart of this matter is the fact that innocent deer have been criminalized and condemned to death. It’s absolutely outrageous.

Bridget Irons
Chestut Hill

Not optimistic

We are two weeks into it and still want to know if anything will be new or happy. Our editor is deciding between the optimism of McLaughlin or the pessimism of Buchanan, both of whom only speak to be paid. I do appreciate the economic and social benefits of “optimism,” but I find little to be optimistic about. [ See “Saving up optimism for 2011,” page 4 in last week’s issue.]

I believe a new restaurant will replace ¡Cuba! A Thai restaurant will replace a Middle Eastern. That doesn’t need a crystal ball or a retail recruiter; it only needs storeowners willing to make deals. Other than those restaurant trades, I believe Chestnut Hill will look very much as it does today, its vacancies still vacant, while the retail recruiter will find gainful employment elsewhere.

I believe U.S. soldiers and foreign civilians will continue to die as I see little prospect for peace. A large number of deer, both in Fairmount Park and the Commonwealth will also be dead. I also believe there will continue to be more letters to the Local about dead deer than dead humans.

Storefront vacancies can be solved by their owners, but they won’t. The president can bring home our troops in 2011, but he won’t. True, I have no equally easy solution for the deer. I apologize for mixing the inconsequential with the consequential, but the question is the same. Do we have the will to confront those who are responsible?

I believe we don’t, and things will not change until we do. My wishes are for less protesting of dead deer and more protesting of dead U.S soldiers, but it’s unlikely we can even agree on that. My only optimism is that everyone I care about will be here a year from now and that we won’t have given up on the possibility of a better future.

Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill