Thursday, June 26, 2014

Urban Adventure: Olympia

Urban Adventure: Olympia

If you are willing to get out and wander around a bit you can find the most interesting things. A couple of three times a year I am sent on a business trip to Dupont, Washington for a half a week. While there, I like to stay at the Red Lion in Olympia. It is 20 minutes down the road, but the rooms are nice, the rate is low, and it has a very nice restaurant and lounge. It also sits up on a cliff with a wonderful view of Capitol Lake. Just a nice place. Because of this (and the price, no doubt) it has a constant flow of interesting clientele. There is just about always a sports team (U Dub this time) and a convention of some sort. Last time it was dogs. This time it is evidently paper mache tigers. Oh, and also a goodly supply of Bomb Disposal Experts, or perhaps Bomb Disposal Van Salesmen. Hard to tell from the evidence in the parking lot.

This is in the Lobby. Really. I must ask what it is.

Do you think they only dispose of Royal Bombs?

View Olympia Outing in a larger map

After work today the sun was out and glorious and so I set out on a walk. I thought I would figure out how to get down the cliff behind the hotel to the river/lake below. I figured there must be some sort of dirt walking path down near the water and probably some steps going down. I tried to find my own way by walking down the back of the property, but all I found was a cute little bunny and some signs that said “Danger, Steep Cliff”. 
 So I went inside and asked the nice desk person. She directed me to go out the front, turn right, and then turn right again at the court house. Sure enough, right down the very steep street to the lake. And wow, it turns out that I didn't find a dirt path but the very well maintained lake and park district of the capitol of the state of Washington. It was really nice. Cut Grass. Manicured bushes. Lots of informative fun signs to read. And some not so informative or nice signs: “Lake Closed Until Further Notice”. What is up with that? Is it some dire poison from industrial pollution? Perhaps an endangered bird started nesting here? 

No, it was this:

Wow. An Ecological disaster in the middle of the capitol of a State of the Estados Unidos. I never would have thunk it.  Wow, these little buggers are everywhere!! They have been invasive in Europe since 1860 and are all over the US. Check it out.

The impact of the closing of the lake became even more obvious to me as I circumnavigated the lake on the wonderful jogging and walking interpretive trail. Over on the far side (from my Hotel) was a nice grassy park. People playing soccer. Joggers. Things like that. Over there the park flowed down to the lake where there was a nice set of steps (perhaps 100 yards long, 3 steps down) that clearly led to what had once been a beach and swimming access to the lake. Now there is a chain link fence and then marsh. Wow, imagine shutting down the state swimming hole.... right there in front of a beautiful view of the State Capitol building.


As far as I can tell, this is the famous old Brewery at the end of the Deschutes River. This Bewery was bought by the Olympia Brewery at the end of prohibition. Note that it has the same picture as on the Olympia Beer can!!


I mentioned that it was an interpretive trail. There were a few themes for the signs. In one section it was all about Salmon and restoring their habitat and such. The rest of the loop, the widely spaced signs were about “what to do with Capitol Lake?”. It seems that the lake is not sustainable. It was created by the damming of the Deschutes River (not the Deschutes of brewing fame but...... wait..... it is the Deschutes of brewing fame, just different brewing fame than you are thinking. … Ahhhh .... If you are thinking Mirror Pond. It is the same if you are thinking Olympia.) and Percival Creek. These creeks carry a lot of sediment down to the lake every year and there is no way that sediment can exit the lake. So the lake is filling up. In the not to distant future, if Washington uses the “Status Quo” solution, the lake will become a complete freshwater marsh area. Not a desired effect. It probably will not smell very good. Image the “dead swamp” from the Lord of the Rings. But the swamp would be inhabited by the ghosts of Washington state assemblymen who let that travesty happen. The 2 solutions that the signage proposes are:
  1. Salt Water Estuary (e.g. the historic Natural Solution)
  2. Managed Freshwater Lake (e.g. Dig all of the mud out on an ongoing basis).

Both solutions are presented in an even handed fashion in the many signs. They talk about trade-offs and costs and the change in species and lake use by humans. I have never seen such an interesting and fair education to the public in permanent nice graphic signs. Old Signs, by the way. Perhaps there for 10 years or more. I wonder how the lake committee is doing? On the one hand, I vote for the back to nature clear out the dam and let the water flow solution. I think this would, for instance, kill off the snails and make the area usable again. But usable for what? The nice lake would be gone. If they manage the lake, that would be nice, but it would not get rid of the snail problem, so not swimming or sailing or throwing sticks for your lab. And.... It turns out that either solution would be very expensive because either solution would require dredging and disposing of the “contaminated” soil. Wow. A tough one. I was thinking they should poison the lake and kill the evil snail critters. But that would kill the cute little duckys and such. Drat.

I completed my walk and slugged back up the hill to my hotel, where I had a pint of local organic IPA and a nice Cobb salad. I am hoping I am calorie neutral for the day.

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