Monday, October 19, 2015

Urban Planning and Emergent Order

"Dogs only allowed on paved trails" 
Last week (October 15th) I took the terriers for a walk around Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul, MN.  The park had been touted to me for years, mostly by joggers, but I'd never taken the time to head out there.  The park could benefit from a nice bar and grill with a dog friendly patio, but I digress.

I parked at the head of a spur trail that while it shows up on Google Maps, does not appear to be an official part of the park.  It is well used by cyclists and walkers.  Where there is a chance for the novice to be confused about the best way forward, someone used surveyors tape to mark the way.

Emergent order: what's not to love?

About a mile in, crows tipped me off that there was something to be seen on the other side of some bushes and what did I find but:

Now this park is surrounded by urban neighborhoods.  The site of a gut pile blew my mind.  It would take more than arrogance to poach in such an area but it would be hard to imagine how the combination of technical competence and absence of judgement could reside in the same cranium.

If I hadn't seen the gut pile

I walked on, first imagining how such a thing would be done and then profiling the type of person who would do such a thing.  Two miles down the trail, I realized that I had a dog trained to track wounded game right beside me and all the equipment three miles back in the car.  I didn't know where she might take me but all of the suddenly I was curious to see if she would trail the drag scent away from the gut pile.

With the planned walk well abandoned and half-way back to the gut pile, I saw a sign I had been out of my line of sight when I passed through the first time.

Then I felt like an idiot: Occam's Razor and all that.

Special Permit hunting relies on pre-selected, pre-qualified hunters to remove deer from urban areas.  Volunteers, they work to promote a positive view of hunting to their neighbors and serve urban parks by keeping the deer population at a sustainable level.

The spur trail I walked and the special permit hunt both demonstrate how public and populace work best when they work together.

I would guess that spur trail is primarily used by urban cyclist for recreation and for their regular commute.  If you live in that east side neighborhood, that spur leads to a paved path that is a pretty straight off street bike path into Downtown St. Paul.

A city can build trails, but those trails will be most effective if they look at the transportation patterns people are already utilizing.  I frequently think to myself as I walk along the Mississippi river in Minneapolis and St. Paul, "There is no way a city planner would want a public trail on this steep bank.  I bet they realized that they could not keep people out so they best put up a railing, no matter how inadequate, and post some rules."

Deer hunters willing to undergo the additional certification to hunt in an urban park, counter-act the unintended consequences of substantive urban parks: the over population of prey species.

In the first case, the city succeeds by imitating what people are already doing.  In the second case, private citizens are tasked with cleaning up the unintended consequences of public policy because even the best public policies will have unintended consequences.

One thing surprised me though, you'd think the park authorities would have asked the special permit hunters to remove their gut piles.

Now if we could just provide for an urban raccoon hunt.

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