By the bypass, a beaver evolution

| 23 Jun 2016 | 03:01

Visitors to Sugar Loaf, NY for the last three years have likely noticed that between the bypass and behind the hamlet of Sugar Loaf had grown an unnamed body of water. It started after Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 hit the region. A drainage culvert was choked with debris and some beavers moved in and took advantage of the situation and dammed and maintained the blockage till quite recently. More than 10 acres of wetlands became submerged and a few of the low lying buildings on the edges had some water in them. It became a quiet, serene water feature.

In 2013, I wrote, here in Dirt, about kayaking in this new primordial “soup” of trees, slime, algae, and debris. This spring that all changed. The water was mostly gone. At first, I thought it was just the dry winter. But no. After a few years of discussions among locals, “a friend of a friend” trapped and relocated the eight beavers – so the story goes. Soon after, the waters started moving again through that culvert and once-drowned lands began reappearing. The results are dramatic and worth visiting. The colors, the smells, the emerging plants, the haunting sculptural debris of trees and car parts could be a short movie or a Landscape Art Experience.

The day I was there, at the Scott’s Meadow access, I got muddy soakers up to my ankles, then fell through debris up to my hip and… saw a swan. It was the perfect old trifecta story of Predatory Man, Fierce Nature and Unexpected Beauty. The story goes deeper into real estate and politics than this column can handle. It’s certainly not an ecological disaster. But it is a graphic, provocative prod to start a discussion about the entitlements and rights of owning land and dominating and relocating nature. I was awed by the white swan crisscrossing what’s left of the water.

Go visit. It’s a place in radical change. Daniel Mack