Guest post by Rick Mashburn.
The warblers are here. If anybody needs me, I’ll be on Bethabara Greenway.
Most folks go to Reynolda for their warblers. But if you don’t do hills or mulched walkways or paths through woods and fields, then Bethabara is the place to be. It’s flat and paved, and the Magnolia Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos are just as gorgeous as they are up at RJR’s house.
I have found so much bird joy along Monarcas Creek that for years I was willing to make the hair-raising crossing of Old Town Drive from the gravel parking lot to the entrance to the flat, paved stretch of Bethabara Greenway. Not only are there two blind curves, but the rough shoulder required me to roll my wheelchair along the road for a few hundred feet. Every time I made that treacherous passage I wondered which birds were worth risking my life for.
One day Ron Morris called. He said he was writing a newspaper column about the thrills of birding on the greenways. I told him about the thrill of crossing Old Town Drive. Soon after, a woman I mistook for someone else stopped me at the farmer’s market and said, “I read about how dangerous it is for you to get on the Bethabara Greenway. We’ve got to do something about this. It’s just not right.” She was Susan Jones, then president of Forsyth Audubon (FA). I told her I wasn’t much for raising a stink. She pointed out that the crossing was dangerous for everybody, not just me. She said she would help raise the stink if I wanted. I don’t really know why, but I took her up on the offer.
For three years Susan and I talked with the City of Winston-Salem about a sidewalk and a proper pedestrian crossing. Our initial encounters were encouraging, but over time we moved through impatience to frustration, then cynicism. (One of us lost his or her temper at a certain point, but I refuse to say who.) We told ourselves that we had one thing going for us: tenacity. We were not going to give up, not ever. Then we were told we’d made it onto the list of approved sidewalk projects, but that the list was two-hundred projects long.
Earlier, Phil Dickinson had also been concerned and had lobbied the City for safer access when he was FA President. He and Ron Morris (by then FA president himself) had another idea. Why not shift to the other end of the flat, paved segment, where Indiana Avenue dead ends and there was only a short stretch of rough but cleared land to the greenway? What a good idea that was. Carol Gearhart, FA member and veteran of civic bureaucracy, joined the team. We went back to the City with Plan B.
And poof! A beautiful new flat, paved and safe entrance to the greenway appeared.
Well, not exactly poof, but close enough.
And did I say beautiful? Scratch that altogether. The site was hideous. Raw, bare land and two very ugly metal barricades. Bethabara Moravian Church, just next door, had generously offered their parking lot to anyone using the new entrance. They have a beautiful, well-kept landscape, and we’d created a blight on the neighborhood. Something had to be done.
FA member and landscape architect Bill Davis drew up a simple, elegant plan using native plants. The FA Board generously agreed to cover the cost of the plants and to carry out the installation. Shelley Rutkin oversaw the project with the expert assistance of Susan Andrews and Kim Brand. The City delivered a load of mulch. A big crew of FA members, neighbors and friends showed up one Saturday in October to put trees and shrubs in the ground. Shelley and Susan diligently watered through a very dry fall.
Everything is thriving today.
What we created is not just pretty. It’s a birdfood farm: the Serviceberry trees, Inkberry Hollies and Spicebush will all provide sustenance for Bethabara’s resident birds and migrants. The spot has already become a model for how we can all incorporate an attractive bird-friendly landscape into our own yards.
As may be obvious by now, this is a big long thank-you note to the members and leadership of Forsyth Audubon, including current president Jeremy Reiskind. There are many others to thank as well. From the City of Winston-Salem: Matthew Burczyk, Myra Stafford, Tim Grant, Alan Hine, Mike Koivisto, Mickey Boone, Troy Galloway and Keith Finch. From Historic Bethabara Park, director Ellen Kutcher. From Bethabara Moravian Church, former pastor Rev. Trip May and church member Phillip Sapp. Landscaper Andy Lawson. And, on planting day, the hearty neighbors of Old Town Road.
What I have been talking about here is just a little path from a street to another path, but for me it represents so much that is good and caring about the community in which we live. Come check it out. Bring your binoculars. I’ll see you there.