Bird Watcher's General Store

Water Park vs. Wood Ducks - 03/28/03


Dear Bird Folks:

I'm very concerned that the new water park planned for Nickerson State Park in Brewster will destroy the park's important wood duck habitat. Why aren't people complaining and can anything be done to stop this?

-Rick, Brewster

Thanks Rick,

Thank you for asking this question. I'm a bit surprised myself that this project hasn't caused more of a public outcry. I guess there are too many other things going on right now. This is what I know. In an effort to generate new revenue, Governor Mitt has proposed a water park in Cape Cod's finest state park. Calling this a fiscal emergency, the Governor was able to circumvent the legislators and astonishingly pushed through this water park without seeking the approval of either state or local governing boards. The Governor must be expecting big crowds as he is adding a new exit off Rt. 6 and will be running shuttle buses from Hyannis to Brewster.

Since this column is about birds, I'll have to bite my tongue, leave politics to someone else and concentrate on your question on Wood Ducks. The new water park is indeed going to displace the Wood Duck habitat. But in fairness, you should know that the design of the water park will, in theory, allow the birds to continue nesting. Though the new setup is bizarre, they claim the ducks will use it. Here's the plan. A massive wave pool will be built in the ducks old nesting area. Each spring the pool will then be enclosed with a huge cover. The cover will be made of artificial plants and grasses that will give the area the look of the duck's former habitat. The idea is to transform the wave pool into temporary wetlands. To hide the two story high water slides, an electronic hologram will be projected onto the slides, fooling the ducks into thinking they are seeing large trees.

Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities like woodpeckers. Since many of the trees will have to be removed for the park, artificial nest boxes will also need to be created. Once again a man made structure will be converted for the ducks. A cover has been designed to fit over the park's outdoor clothing lockers. The cover has a large hole in the center that will offer the birds a nesting cavity. Let's hope the lockers will be cleaned up a bit after the ducks move out and before the people start putting their clothes in them.

Keep in mind that ducks only use this area in the spring and the water park will only be open to people in the summer. So the ducks should be gone before the people show up. However, a similar park in Canada has found that sometimes not all of the baby ducks have flown off by the time the people start arriving. I have seen some rather amusing photos of families swimming in amongst a dozen or so young Wood Ducks. The amusing thing is not the people swimming with the ducks, but what the people are wearing. Because swimsuits often contain detergents that could harm a young duck's feathers, normal suits will not be allowed. The water park will provide guests with a one size fits all organic swim suit. The suit is made of a material that looks and feels much like burlap. Man, for my money there is nothing sexier than a swimsuit made of nice scratchy burlap. Seems like something that was designed in Russia. Fortunately these outfits will only have to be worn until the young ducks move on.

It does appear, Rick, that the Wood Ducks will be well taken care of. As for what other effects the water park will have on the rest Nickerson State Park, I guess we'll have to wait and see. If you want to see this project first hand and meet the Governor, the ground breaking ceremony will be taking place this Tuesday, April 1.

Artwork by Catherine Clark




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