Appreciating Bidwell Park

How to make sure our great-grandchildren enjoy it as much as we do

The author is retired from teaching biology at Chico State University, where he was an expert on vernal pools.

Bidwell Park supports landscapes containing native vegetation and wildlife in the foothills as well as a creek-side strip extending into Chico. Up-stream natural areas, including Upper Park and Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, keep Big Chico Creek clean.

Upper Park provides spectacular scenery that connects visitors with land-forming activities. Foothill slopes contain strips of vegetation controlled by soils derived from violent volcanic eruptions. A short walk takes you to the edge of a spectacular inner canyon, cut by Big Chico Creek into Lovejoy basalt.

Lower Park brings nature into the city.

Humans are part of the park. Friends, family groups and school classes share the park with cyclists and horseback riders. Often, only a few individuals are enjoying the park; other times, it is full of organized crowds of runners, walkers or swimmers. Most users respect the park, keeping it clean, avoiding glass in the stream and not riding on wet trails. Some enjoy the park so much that they volunteer to remove alien vegetation and support Park Watch.

Users lose park enjoyment by bringing city activities into the park. Ear buds and intense conversations mask bird and creek sounds. We are lucky to have this natural park providing daily enjoyment. Track seasonal changes of tree leaves and bird songs when visiting the park.

Ask children their impressions of the park. A child’s sphere of awareness is immediate, and children see things adults overlook. Encourage children to hold sticks, compare different kinds of leaves and pick rocks out of the stream. As children grow, they enjoy different parts of the park.

Park strangers become friends when comparing nature observations. Hikes sponsored by Altacal Audubon Society, California Native Plant Society and Sierra Club increase park enjoyment. Programs at Chico Creek Nature Center will delight and educate your children.

The Nature Center has a building with a large window encouraging you to visit their natural-history exhibits and displaying the park when you are inside. Books about such topics as park nature, amphibians and reptiles, and birds, expand your appreciation of the park. You can learn more by reading the website produced by Friends of Bidwell Park.

Take care of the park, and the same oak groves that shaded grizzly bears watching John Bidwell will support wildlife enjoyed by your great-grandchildren.