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Red Chairs And Blue Herons

View around the meadow across from the store in Fish Camp, photo courtesy Linda Shepler

By Sharon Giacomazzi — 

FISH CAMP — Across from bustling Fish Camp Store is a placid blue pond cradled in an emerald green meadow.

It’s a serene and peaceful sight, especially in comparison to Yosemite travelers zooming along Highway 41. For many years I’ve enjoyed its presence, full to the brim in early season and ice coated in winter. For me, it is a quiet spot in the midst of a human developed/disturbed locale.

So close to the highway and on the very northern edge of the sprawling new complex of Delaware North’s 50 ‘Explorer Cabins,’ I can only hope that this sweet pond and lush grassland remain intact, continuing to provide habitat for many species of life. Besides being pleasant to look at, pond areas harbor great diversity.

Recently, I stopped to check out the tall sugar pine behind the store which has for many years been a favorite nesting site for great blue herons. I looked forward to watching one of the big birds come in for a landing and hearing the squawks of hungry youngsters. I counted six nests but neither saw nor heard activity.

A store employee related that with the presence of bright red guest chairs on the edge of the meadow, the herons left.

Chairs along Big Creek behind the cabin complex, photo courtesy Linda Shepler

The chairs were in direct line of sight from the nests, as well as much too close to the meadow and pond. I noticed already the beginnings of two paths leading to the water. In addition to the potential for meadow degradation, pond disturbance and trash, a nearby food source for the herons was compromised.

I soon learned that some Fish Camp residents were very concerned that “their” beautiful avian tenants had flown the coop.

I decided first of all to talk with the Delaware North person in charge of the Tenaya Lodge complex and the new Explorer Cabin development in the woods.

The meeting on Tuesday, July 23 at Tenaya Lodge with Nia Huerta, Marketing Manager, was profitable. She listened thoughtfully, asked questions and took notes. Furthermore, she was not aware of the placement of red chairs or heron departure. I also suggested that signage be placed informing guests to not enter the meadow, as well as a rustic fence of sorts. She was intrigued by the idea of creating seating benches from cut pine trees.

Tenaya Lodge’s new Explorer Cabins. The company says it’s dedicated to being environmentally responsive. (photo courtesy Tenaya Lodge)

She assured me that the company was “dedicated to being environmentally responsive” and would present concerns and information to her “team” and her boss, General Manager Paul Ratchford. I believed her.

Before leaving, photographer, Linda Shepler and I wandered around the brand new Explorer Cabin site and were stunned by the available amenities and enormous footprint in the forest it occupied. And, I have never seen so many red chairs in my life! They were everywhere, including along the creek. Actually, a few were almost in the creek. The trail itself is much too near the water, but — first things first. The herons need to come home.

And come they did — shortly after the red chairs were moved back from the meadow the next day on Wednesday, July 24.

We are looking forward to fewer red chairs and protection of the meadow and pond.

Sharon Giacomazzi is a freelance writer and author of several hiking books.

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