Notes from the Island
August 1999


The big news this month has been the security problems we have had resulting from teenagers coming over to the Island from the rope swing area along the towpath. Paddles and inner tubes have been stolen and we have had one canoe theft and one attempted canoe theft. The stolen canoe was recovered after it was abandoned at the rope swing area. A special mention in the dispatches to Susan Benson, who, during a party she held on the Island a few days later observed a strange teenager taking a canoe out and reported it to the Caretaker, who then confronted the youth while the canoe was being carried down to the river. The police were called for the second time in a week. His story was that while hanging out at the rope swing near the towpath he saw a canoe and asked where it came from and was told he could "get one from the Island" where there was a "rec center." He claimed that many groups from all the schools used the rope swing, that the "word was out," and certainly it seems that way, as there is a constant stream of youths on the towpath all day long, and at least three nights a week the rope swing area is a party site until well after midnight.

One result of the theft of inner tubes is that Swimming supervisor Ann Kip purchased five new ones, and John Krasny contributed three new "noodles." Near the swimming float are buoys attached by Peter Jones to mark a barely submerged tree trunk.

I was fortunate to encounter in the parking lot a trapper from Adcock Trapping Service, the same folks that removed the beaver from the tidal basin earlier this year. He suggested that our mysterious animal sightings were of a river otter and not a nutria. He knows otters are in the river but seldom seen, while nutria are no closer than the Eastern shore. Peter Jones recalls that early in his tour of duty he and Holly found a largish, beaver sized animal dead along the river and even took a photo to satisfy himself it was an otter. Later that same day, seeing surveyors on the towpath, I went across to chat and learned that the large sewer pipe that runs along the side of the canal is going to be replaced. The work has already started in Georgetown and will progress all the way up the canal, past the Island. They could not say when the work would get this far or if the canal was being drained and torn up to get at the pipe.

Despite the drought, color is returning to the Island as many of the late summer perennials are coming in to bloom. We are coming into a "yellow" season dominated by the meadow sunflowers and others. Walnuts and hickory nuts are starting to fall. The Paw Paw trees that cover much of the up river end of the Island had so many flowers and so much promise in the Spring, but there is not a fruit to be found anywhere, except, if one looks closely, on the very large tree one can look down at from the top of the stairs on the iron bridge. Those of you that do not venture onto the up-Island paths should give it a try. The paths extend all the way to the tip of the Island, through Butterfly Lane and past where several stands of cardinal flowers are blooming. The established perennials must have root systems to the water table because along the paths they tower over normal sized folks. Butterflies are everywhere and a soft, sweet scent lays over the tip of the Island.

-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker