On our DC walkabout on Friday we ended at this Island park. The parking lot had a few cars parked; God knows how long they’d been there. This is the perfect place to play the “alternative universe” game—what really happens here? Does everyone come back? People walking by the entrance but not going in gave us looks like you see in the movies before a group of teenagers enters the haunted house. I certainly understand that Teddy was the champion of the National Park system and I certainly understand the desire to keep this place wild, but…well, really. The place is just plain spooky. There is this huge statue of Teddy in the middle of the island surrounded by a granite yard of ponds, fountains, benches, whimsical bridges, etc. But there is no water in the ponds, no flows from the fountains, no people on the benches, no people on the walks, except us. We crossed one of the bridges and followed a tree lined path. The path literally dead ended in a sunken hollow filled with mud and lily pads. With no way around the hollow. Why was there a path? Maybe this place is good for joggers, walkers, mystery writers (Balducci started one of his books here), but no one comes. I guess because the beaten path doesn’t even come close to this place.
Bridge to the Island
The first thing you notice is that the curved bridge drops off into a landing place you can’t see. Of course the day we went was stormy and not so inviting. A sign is next to this bridge says, “No Anything, except pets!” Well not exactly that but there are no bikes allowed, which I like. Walking in a Virginia park can be a dangerous proposition when mountain bike riders believe they own the path and recklessly speed towards any kind of pedestrian, children as well as seniors (stopping the rant). The loneliness of this bridge sets the stage for what’s to come.
Center of The Island
In the middle of the island is the Memorial Plaza. In the National Park Service link, they have a picture of the plaza from what must have been many years ago. Landscaped with bubbling plazas, trimmed trees, a very majestic setting. Now…well now it’s like another scene from “Planet of the Apes.” We saw two other people while we were on the island. Maybe one day I will walk around the entire island. Diane and I walked the northern half when we were there several months ago. We never did find the “boardwalk” that is supposed to be on the swampy eastern side. Maybe next time.
The excellent bones of the plaza are still there: untrimmed boxwoods, overgrown trees, debris filled moat-like ponds, concrete benches and bridges. And the huge fountains…with no water. Someone’s vision sitting dormant, like it was waiting for someone to care. I admit that being there is peaceful and quiet, but this place doesn’t seem peaceful to me, there’s just something eerie about the place. I’m pretty sure that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn would have quickly moved on.