In Defense of Winter and Boardwalks

When we first walked into the forest, one of my first thoughts was, “I would like this so much better in the spring.” Something about bare trees and overcast skies typically makes me long for warmth and foliage. I do still think that I might find the forest more beautiful in the spring, when wildflowers are emerging, bright and sprightly, from the ground, and sunlight can dapple through the leaves, and more creatures are scurrying over the forest floor. But as I walked, I was surprised by the extent to which I grew to appreciate the barren beauty. I was particularly struck by the frozen water and the strange fungi—a bizarre show of life—growing on logs. Perhaps I had simply not spent enough time in these environments during winter before, but I do believe that our excursion gave me a greater appreciation of a beauty that I might have otherwise overlooked.

In terms of the boardwalk, I do think that it is unnatural, and that it stifles growth that would have sprung up in its place. However, I believe that it is quite valuable in terms of accessibility, which I think is something we do not think about enough when we think about natural spaces. I also think that it prevents a significant amount of damage that would occur to surrounding vegetation and wildlife. Also, a concern with “natural” trails is that they can widen over time as people use them, spreading chemicals and, over time, killing more vegetation. I believe that the boardwalk is useful because it is not malleable; it is a clear, unyielding trail. Finally, I think that, in terms of graffiti and harm to the trees, people who want to do that will do it with or without the presence of the boardwalk. Even if the boardwalk makes it easier for them to do these things, it also allows people with disabilities to more easily experience nature. I think that this worth the possible downfalls of the design.

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