Thank you very much!
* The Dino Trail* is a unique and educational attraction, showcasing over 130 prehistoric track impressions, representing more types of dinosaurs, localities, and ages, than any other park or museum display in the world.
* The tracks were not sculpted, but made from molds of real dinsoaur tracks.
* The tracks are arranged from oldest to youngest, so that vistiors are essentially "walking through time" as they progress up the walkway.
* Despite being as yet not well marked or publicized, the Trail has already been enjoyed by countless visitors of all ages. It thus has tremendous intangible value, as well as major economic value, as many who come to see the tracks often spend money at surrounding shops and restaurants.
* The Trail took months of planning and work by many individuals and several organizations to bring about (including local school children, who painted the bench tiles), with approval by the City of Brunswick - all at no cost to the city.
* Objections by a few concerning maintenance neglect, or trip hazards are not well founded. The tracks require virtually no maintenance, and most are relatively shallow and easy to navigate. Any remaining trip concerns can be readily resolved by any number of low cost, low tech solutions.
* Suggestions that they are inconsistent with "naturalization" seem even less well founded. The tracks are at least as natural as many other things in and around the park (dam, stores, hotel, condos, roads, etc), especially most of the new things planned for the park by MCPD, including new restrooms, boat launches, fishing dock, and new playground "climbing strutures".
* Even the "tall grass" prairie proposed for some of the east side of the park is not entirely "natural" since the area was not originally a grassland or prairie, but a woodland. Nor would the tall grass field be maintenance or hazard free. At best it will reduce the safely usable space in the park, while becoming a likely haven for snakes, rodents, deer ticks, and liter, besides posing a brush fire risk.
* Attempting to move the Dino Trail to another location would entail a lot of unnecessary cost and labor, plus serious risk of breakage.
In conclusion, the Dino Trail is a unique, educational, fun, and valuable asset to the park. Its overall benefits far outweigh any possible downsides. Rather than removing or moving it, the best plan would be to better mark and publicize it better, so that even more residents and visitors will get to enjoy and appreciate it. The longer summary that follows provides more details about the history of the Dino Trail and further support for each of the above points.
Another key feature is that the tracks are arranged from oldest to youngest, so that visitors are essentially "walking through time" as they proceed up the walkway. It starts with some of the oldest (and clearest) tracks from the Triassic Period tracks (over 200 million years old), featuring two parallel trails (a rare case of two dinosaurs walking side by side), and claw marks of a crocodile-like phytosaur. Continuing along the trackway, the various sizes and types of Jurassic section include those of two baby (hatchling) dinosaurs, and rare prints of squatting dinosaur. The Cretaceous sections include the world's best large theropod (bipedal meat-eating dino) tracks, and giant sauropod (brontosaur) tracks, a rare running track, and unusually elongate (heel-impressed) prints evidently made by a crouching (foraging?) ornithomimid ("Ostrich mimic") dinosaur. The last two sections feature a trail of wide, blunt-clawed Hadrosaur (duckbill dinosaur) tracks followed by a trail of Moa (giant flightless bird) tracks from New Zealand. The latter help illustrate that birds are now considered by paleontologists to not only be descendents of dinosaurs, but an actual branch of feathered dinosaurs.
The few other outdoor dinosaur track exhibits used either all-sculpted tracks (which look less than natural), or pre-made individual track casts merged into concrete, which is extremely time and labor intensive and leaves seams that tend to open and crack with time. So, my plan was to press track molds directly into damp concrete as it was setting - a method often used for cosmetic surface-texturing, but apparently had never before tried with dinosaur tracks. To confirm it would work, the contractor (Mr. Seeley) and I did a test pour in his workshop using a large track mold, which turned out very well. Next Matt's crew and I installed the upper end of the Dino Trail (hadrosaur and moa trackways), which also came out very well. However, I knew it would still be a challenge to press in scores more molds for the remaining 80 ft of walkway, if we did it all in one additional pour, which the contractor insisted on doing (since he was not making money as it was). To see photographs taken during and shortly after the Dino Trail installation, click here: http://paleo.cc/brunswick/Brunswick-tracks.htm
After a day of site prep (digging, framing, laying gravel, rebar gridding, etc), the installation date turned out to be hot and sunny, causing the poured concrete to set faster than usual. However, with the molds laid out near their intended positions, and with the help of two fossil club friends (Carl Fetchko and Beth Krumhansl) armed with the Trail diagrams, we were able to successfully press in all the molds, with the last ones pushed in with some difficulty, in just the nick of time. Adding to the challenge, during all this the crew had to apply powdered release agents to the concrete surface, and impress in large texturing mats, to make the surface look more natural. Afterward they also tinted each section to help delineate each geologic period, and to simulate the colors of the original track beds. The contractor also returned days later to apply a concrete sealer, which has helped the Trail remain in excellent condition for over six years of harsh northern Ohio weather.
After the Dino Trail was installed, I began work on an interpretive panel to help visitors understand what it was, and which creatures made which impressions. I spent several days precisely mapping each track and marking on the Trail to constrict a scale diagram of the entire walkway, which I used as the central figure in the panel, adding drawings and descriptions of the dinosaurs and other creatures associated with each track type. This work-up was submitted to Glenn Somodi of EYEMG for final the graphics layout, and production of the 3 x 5 ft finished panel, which was mounted in a sturdy wooden frame at the start of the trail.
Unfortunately, many Brunswick residents do not yet even know about the Dino Trail, since there is no sign about it on Rt 303 or the access road, nor any mention of it on the park web site. As far as I know, there was also no ribbon-cutting ceremony, newspaper article, or TV coverage announcing or explaining the Dino Trail, as the Art League and I anticipated would be done. We also assumed that at least a small parking area would be added to that part of the park, and a picnic table or two, to make it much easier for visitors (especially teachers with classes) to access and enjoy the area, and have a place to write, eat lunch, etc. If even some of these things were done, the trail could well become one of the most popular dinosaur-theme exhibits in the county if not the state. I am not sure why none were done. Cost can't be the whole explanation, since how much would it cost to mention the Dino Trail on the park or city web sites? I myself became very busy with many other things, and regret not having followed up with the ArtWorks and city officials. I also intended (and still do) to create a teacher's guide with more information about the tracks and aspects not covered on the sign, including some exercises for students (such as measuring tracks and using a formula to estimate dinosaur speeds). Ironically, I took heart in the thought that sooner or later these would all get done, since after all, the tracks would always be there. Never did I dream that after all the planning and work involved in bringing the Dino Trail about, anyone would propose taking them out.
I was surprised to see this comment in the Post article, since the Trail requires very little maintenance, other than (if desired) occasionally sweeping off any bird droppings or minor debris. Even those tend to be naturally washed off with each heavy rain. In short, the trail is virtually maintenance free, and certainly requires less maintenance thanm any other things in the park, as well as most of the additions proposed in the "Master Plan." Moreover, if someone felt the tracks were not being cleaned often enough, or needed some other minor maintenance, the simple solution would be to remedy that, rather than remove the tracks. After all, no one is proposing that garbage cans be removed because they occasionally overflow.
That said, every few years the tracks should probably be evaluated for possible re-sealing needs, or any developing cracks, which would be fairly easy and inexpensive to fix. However, since their installation the tracks have held up very well, and show very little signs of cracking or deterioration. That's not surprising, since they were made of high strength concrete, and a high quality sealant was applied afterward. Superficial sediment does tend to accumulate in the bottoms of the tracks, as it would in nature, and thus give them a darker tint, but this just highlight the track shapes, and thus may be considered more of a positive than negative. Finally, if MCPD did not want to do the occasional minor maintenance on the Trail, I'd be glad to do it myself, or recruit some volunteers to do so. I suspect it would not be hard to find some willing students, especially if given some class or extra credit.
"Not consistent with 'naturalization'"
This objection seems strained at best, since the Dino Trail is no more "unnatural," and arguably more natural (as part of "natural history") than many other things in and around the park. Much of the park is surrounded by stores, restaurants, roads, and a steel and concrete dam (which created the artificial lake). Likewise, most of the new things proposed for the park seem anything but "natural," including new rest rooms, canoe and kayak ramps, a fishing platform, "fountain," more picnic tables, and new playground "climbing structures." These are all fine with me, but how are they any more natural than the Dino Trail?
Even the proposed tall grass field, apparently at least partly proposed to reduce the amount of grass to mow, strikes me as less than "natural" or maintenance free, and would probably create a number new hazards. First, the area never was a native prairie, but a woodland. Second, whereas a tall grass field might be sustained in a large state or county park, in a relatively small park like Brunswick Lake, letting grass grow unfettered over even part of the east side would at best significantly reduce the useable area of the park, while becoming a likely haven for snakes, rodents, and deer ticks (which carry Lyme disease), as well as a potential fire hazard and area for litter and debris to collect. Third, to the extent some of these things could be mitigated, how would it not involve even more maintenance than the Dino Trail?
Almost all city parks have attractions often including artistic or historic attractions and monuments, which are widely enjoyed and valued as assets by visitors, not detriments. Indeed, dinosaur related attractions are usually among the most popular, especially with kids, many of whom love anything "dinosaur". I was recently at the Miller Reserve of the Loran Metro parks (to help with a "Dinosaur Discoveries" program). The park grounds include several permanent, prehistoric-theme displays, including a "plesiosaur" (sea-monster-like creature) mounted in a pond next to the nature center and patio. No one argues that any of these should be removed because they aren't entirely "natural," or occasionally need a little maintenance, or because someone might occasionally stumble on or around them, which brings up the next issue.
Mr. Eppink opined in the May 18 Post article that his first impression was that the tracks could be a "trip hazard." Although there are a number of ways of largely eliminating this concern (discussed next), I don't believe the tracks are a significant hazard, especially in comparison to many other things in the park (or most parks for that matter). These include many ruts, holes, tree roots, and rocks in the grass, which are often hard to see, and thus present greater risks for twisted angles and the like than the Dino Trail. I myself once twisted my ankle on a rut in the grass near the Trail, whereas don't know of anyone who has had any injury, let alone a serious one, on the Dino Trail. Other hazards in the park include the often slippery bank or algae covered rocks along it, but one has suggested draining the lake because of them.
The proposed new "climbing structure" in particular seems anything but "natural" or safe. It would probably require more maintenance and supervision than the Dino Trail, and injuries there might well be mre frequent and serious. Likewise for fishing peers, boat docks, etc, where slips falls (especially when wet) could even result in drownings. I'm not objecting to any of these things, just pointing out some apparent inconsistencies---that overall the Dino Trail probably is probably one of the safest and lest maintenance intensive things in the park or planned for it, besides being educational and a natural curiosity, which none of the others are.
Furthermore, unlike many ruts, roots, and other hazards often hard to see in the grass (and even more hidden in a "tall grass" area), all the tracks in the Dino Trail are in plain view and easy to navigate. Most are also quite shallow (less than two inches deep), except for a few in the middle (Cretaceous) section, but even these are not deep as the real tracks from which the molds were made. Indeed, many of the original tracks occur in riverbeds, where many hundreds of real tracks are found, most of which are far deeper than any in the Dino Trail. Moreover, many are often obscured under murky water or mud, and accessible only by scaling down steep embankments, and/or crawling over and around large, sharp rocks, or slogging through long stretches of slippery river floors. Despite all these hazards, which are collectively far more numerous and serious than any on the Dino Trail, every year thousands of park visitors walk all around the tracks, and have done so for decades, without (to my knowledge) any serious injuries.
In short, the Brunswick Dino Trail is not a major safety risk, and is arguably one of the safest things in the park. Nevertheless, allow me to next address a number of ways any perceived hazards could be reduced even further, most of which are low-cost, low-tech solutions.
2 Install a swath of concrete along side the Dino Trail or the section with the deeper tracks, so people did not even need to walk on the tracks themselves. Perhaps the swath could be tinted green, so that a prominent sign could instruct visitors to "WALK ON THE GREEN SECTION and NOT ON THE WALKWAY itself." With a public funding campaign (perhaps GoFundMe page), or appeals to a concrete contractor in exchange for his name being shown on the site, I suspect this could be done at little or no cost to the city or MCPD..
3. Partially fill the bottoms of the deeper tracks to further reduce their depth. I'd be willing to do this at my cost (which would take quite a bit of time to create proper bonds with the filler material, and match colors and textures). However, the shallower the larger tracks are made, the less natural, realistic, and impressive they will appear. But again, in view of all explained above, I question whether they even are significant trip hazards, and believe altering them further will have more downsides than upsides. After all, they are dinosaur tracks, so trying to make them as shallow as possible somewhat defeats the purpose of the display, undermining its dramatic appearance and honest educational value.
4. The middle section with the deepest tracks could be replaced with fewer and shallower tracks. This would still be cheaper than removing the whole trail, and far less expensive and riskier than trying to move it safely. But again, they larger ones need some depth (at least a couple inches), to retain their natural and impressive appearance. If a decision was made to redo this section, I believe it could be done for little or no cost to MCPD or City of Brunswick by using a public funding campaign (perhaps a GoFundMe page). Many people are eager to contribute to educational causes like this.
I believe removing the trail will not only be a loss of a valuable asset to the park, but will involve major cost and effort, and that attempting to move it to another location will be even more expensive, as well as invite major risk of breakage. Moreover, suggestions that parhaps part of the trail would ruin one of it's key features: the progression from oldest to youngest tracks. By the way, if there were any significant downsides to the Trail, which I don't believe there are, wouldn't moving it just move those issues to a different location? In any case, I am very skeptical that the trail could be moved safely.
First, it would have to be carefully cut into many sections with a large industrial saw with a diamond or carbide blade. At best that would create many cut lines that do not follow the curved expansion seams on the walkway, making it hard to reconstruct the Trail without obvious lines or gaps. This would be especially problematic the first section, which is splayed much wider than the rest of the walkway. Even after being cut into sections, each one would probably weigh over a ton (since the concrete is 5-6 inches thick), and have to be carefully lifted with heavy equipment and loaded onto large trucks. That alone presents significant risk of breakage, even before transport to the new location, where jostling along the way would create more breakage risk, even if each slab were well padded. Of course, at the new location, the ground would have to be dug out and precisely leveled to match the contours of the original location, after which each section would have carefully lowered, maneuvered into place, and mated with special bonding material. This could take days of work, and at best would still leave lots of ugly cut lines, which would tend to separate with time. In short, the benefits of leaving the Trail in place far outweigh any possible downsides, especially when the cost, risks, and other drawbacks of moving them are fully considered.
Mr Eppink has suggeted that perhaps elements of the Trail could be preserved at Brunwsick Lake. However, it was designed to showcase several different periods of geologic time, arraanged from oldest to youngest, so that visitors would be essentially walking through time as they progressed up the walkway. Therefore removing part or most of the Trail would ruin this unique and important aspect.
At the June 10 council meeting during which I and several others (including a former high school science teacher, and a paleontologist) spoke in favor of keeping the Trail at Brunswick Lake (with no one from the community supporting its removal), councilman Nick Hanek noted about 25 people attended the planning meetings, apparently implying that was an impressive number. However, not only is that a tiny number compared to the population figures noted above, but I wonder how many attendees (or the officials) even knew much about trail or its history and many unique attributes. I further wonder whether many those who attended even had an opportunity to comment on the removal proposal, since as Mr. Hanek confided at the June 10 council meeting, it was made "only recently." Nor is it clear what portion of the 25 were in favor of keeping the trail, removing it, moving it, or voiced no opinion. Of those who may have raised concerns about it, who knows if any of them wanted it removed, rather than simply having the concerns addressed (in any number of the ways noted above). I for one never even knew about the planning meetings. In fact, and as far as I know few if any others involved in the original project were contacted either. In short, I feel the planning meeting "conclusions" were hardly a reliable measure of public sentiment about the Trail or the removal plans, and that that a better gauge of what the majority of residents want (especially those familiar with the Trail and its history) should be sought and duly considered before any final decisions are made.
As far as Mr. DeForest's comment about the trail being a possible "slip hazard" goes, while it's true that after a rain one must be careful when walking on any hard surface (including the proposed new boat ramps, fishing peer, and climbing structures), any concerns about slipping on the Dino Trail can be readily be mitigated by some of the same remedies mentioned above to deal any tripping concerns, such as adding a strip of concrete (which could be textured) along side the Trail. Other relatively easy and inexpensive methods would be to periodically dust the Trail with fine grained sand, or when sealer is applied again, mix in a little fine sand or grit with the sealer.
Nate Eppink was quoted in the Gazette article as saying that the City of Brunswick has offered to move the Trail to another park. But as noted above, if there were any significant hazards or downsides to the Trail, wouldn't moving the Trail to another location just transfer the problems there, and at great cost and risk of breakage? Moreover, if the Trail really were more of a nuisance than asset a few are now depicting it, why would the city have approved it in the first place, and allowed many people to spend lot of time, labor, and expense to design and produce it? Since it's still in good shape, if it was considered a significant benefit then, it hardly makes sense now to spend a lot of money and effort to remove or move it.
Speaking of which, the Gazette article indicated that I and others who spoke in the council meeting wanted it kept in "in some capacity", which might be misconstrued to mean we were OK with it being moved. Actually, what we strongly argued for was keeping the Trail in place at the park, for all the reasons noted above. The article ends with two especially troubling comments by Mr. Eppink, the first being that the Trail is "kinda in the vicinity of a restroom that we intend to replace there on the east side of the lake." Putting a restroom where the Trail exists now seems to be the weakest of all supposed reasons to remove the tracks offerred so far, since there are vast spaces all over the east side where a restroom could go. Last, Mr. Eppink remarked that that the Trail is "a short walk to no where." I don't know where he expects the Trail to lead, and what is most important about it is not where it leads, but what's on it. Moreover, where it actually leads to is a shady spot near the lake with two benches, covered in colorful prehistoric-theme ceramic tiles painted by local children. In view of this, I find Mr. Eppink's remark as uncalled for as it is insensitive to the children, as well as the artist and teachers involved in the painting, and all others involved in the design and installation of the Trail.
Thank you very much!
Brunswick City Council, Main phone: 330-558-6845
Brunswick Council President & Parks Committee chairman: Mike Abella:   firstname.lastname@example.org     330-460-6209
Brunswick City Manager: Carl DeForest:   email@example.com     330-558-6826
Brunswick Parks and Recreation Director: John Piepsny: firstname.lastname@example.org     330-273-8000
Brunswick City Council web site (click on "Contact Us" at left for phone#s and email addresses)
All City of Brunswick officials contact info
For more photos of the Dino Trail, including some taken during installation see: http://paleo.cc/brunswick/Brunswick-tracks.htm