The Dairy Barn Entrance to the Ridges Nature Walk.
From Brush, Vines and Litter to Minipark for Weddings.
For almost fifteen years, the Ridges Cemeteries Committee and NAMI have worked to beautify and demystify the old mental hospital cemeteries. One aspect of this project has been to build a Nature Walk connecting all three cemeteries. In this project, the Committee has received generous support from a number of entities, foundations and volunteers.
The Committee and NAMI are particularly proud of the minipark at the entrance to the Nature Walk directly across the lane from the Dairy Barn. Originally, the area on the other side of the creek was brush, vines, saplings and litter. But when the Jim Bernosky’s Civilian Conservation Corps team – then cleaning the little wooded area and removing a dilapidated shack behind the newest cemetery – noticed that, from there, it should be possible to descend to the area across from the Dairy Barn, they built a treated-lumber stairway for that purpose. That done, the Committee and patient volunteers from ABH worked to clear the area of all but a few small trees – mainly small black walnuts which would soon grow into lacy beauties. Railings were added to the old concrete farm bridge crossing the creek, a big stone bench was placed beside the base of the stairway and, recently, wild persimmons were planted just behind it.
But Cemeteries Committee wasn’t through. The entrance to the walk is through a big gate just off Dairy Lane. That gate was part of a dilapidated early twentieth century Arts and Crafts Elephant-Leg-and-Pipe fence. NAMI paid to have parts of the fence righted and missing posts replaced – using posts from a similar but largely-destroyed fence on the other side of the lane. It’s not perfect, but it looks much better.
Before long, however, a troubling problem arose. Spreading roots of the rapidly growing walnut on the far side of the creek caused the creek to meander over twenty feet into its east bank. Worse, the meander begin to undermine the east buttress of the bridge itself.
Responding to this challenge, NAMI hired J. C. Trivett Excavating to build an Inca-like wall of huge stones in order to return the creek to its former bed. Jim Trivett is a track-hoe artist. Aside from being utilitarian, the wall is truly beautiful. As a finishing touch, four native redbud trees have been placed near the edge of the wall on top of the area where the stream had once meandered.
We are proud to say that the Dairy Lane Minipark is so lovely that, since 2008, it has been used as a fair weather site for weddings and receptions arranged by the Dairy Barn. Very symbolically couples pass from single to married life by walking across the bridge and under the portable lattice archway which the Dairy Barn places for such occasions over the east end of the bridge.
But it is not just we humans who enjoy our minipark. Songbirds and rodents abound in the brush and vine habitat on both sides. And, in winter after a snowstorm, one is almost certain to find bobcat tracks – golf ball sized prints, one precisely in front of the other, in a fairly straight line – in that area. Though these cats are very timid, they must hunt year round and they simply can’t hide their tracks.