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Urban Refuge program great for Springfield

Date: 9/21/2015

I’m sure it may be a tad silly to some people to hear that Springfield has been named an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership city.

After all, what kind of connection would the fourth largest city in New England, a city of about 153,000 people, have with wildlife and the outdoors?

That is the point.

I truly do believe that if more people were able to experience some element of the natural world on the regular basis issues such as climate change, pollution and the disappearance of species would have deeper and greater meaning for people.

We need to feel as if we are indeed part the ecological machine that is Earth. Frankly I think we lose part of our humanity when we don’t have that connection.

Springfield is lucky. It has a wonderful park system. Chicopee has a state park, as does Agawam. Holyoke has the Mount Tom State Reservation.

There are places nearby where people can go to leave the confines of the city and modern life.

A couple of years ago I was covering an announcement of the proposed rail trail that would extend from Chicopee center to the Uniroyal site. The rails and ties had been taken up, leaving a wide path along the Chicopee River. Almost on cue, a bald eagle flew overhead.  It was magnificent.

The sighting was also a reminder of how far we have come in conservation and how these efforts have brought people closer to nature. We have much more to do.

I would love to see an educational component added to the curriculum of our city schools – perhaps they already have it – that would discuss the wildlife that share the city streets with us. My backyard has been graced by visits by raccoon, opossum, squirrels, rabbits, skunks and hawks – not bad for a house a mile away from City Hall.

Add Forest Park into the mix and there are deer, coyotes and a wide variety of birds.

Nature can be all around us. We just have to keep our eyes open.

Words, words, words

The other day I was speaking to my wife and I used a new phrase that I’m seeing more and more in press releases: “Place making.” She asked for a definition.

Well, as far as I can tell, it’s an event designed to serve as a catalyst for economic development in a specific area. The recent Chicopee Block Party, for instance, was funded through a $7,500 place-making grant from the Commonwealth.

The purpose of the daylong party was to bring people to downtown Chicopee, hopefully to spur later economic activity.

I’m always fascinated when word or phrases go from slang or jargon to being considered a legitimate part of the language. According to the Merriam-Webster folks “catfish,” a person who sets up a false social networking identity, is now an accepted word.

Here are some others that now carry the distinction of being more than a colloquialism: crowdfunding, big data, fracking, pho, Yooper and steampunk.

Turducken is a real word according to the language experts, not something simply tossed about at Thanksgiving on the Food Channel.

I’m not sure if place making will make it or not in the future. I will admit I think it’s sort of silly. Not as silly as turducken though.