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Neighborhood Nutria

It’s not often that my very own Seattle neighborhood of Madison Park is featured on the home page of the NYT. This is one of those moments, as attested to by the screenshot above.

Well, maybe you don’t see Madison Park. But you see the video titled, “Hi! I’m a Nutria.” That’s the one. (I can’t embed the video. Click here to watch it.) It’s by Drew Christie, whose website I’ve just visited, thereby learning:

I am an animator and an illustrator who lives and works in Seattle, Washington. I create stories through hand-made images. My work has been featured on The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Drawn, Cartoon Brew, Boooooooom! and Juxtapoz among other sites. I make short films, music videos, commercials, cartoons, books, zines and relief prints.

The video stars a nutria who lives down by Lake Washington’s Madison Park Beach. That’s our beach! The beach house is the meeting site for the Madison Park Community Council, over which Gail presides (and where I celebrated a major birthday a decade ago). I lived just north of the beach during my first 5 1/2 years in Seattle.

But the nutria isn’t there to tell you about my life in Madison Park. He has other issues on his mind, like why he’s considered an interloper. How many generations must his kind live here before they get to qualify as native?

Which oddly enough was one theme of a dinner conversation we had last night with other members of the Madison Park Community Council, one of whom decried the loss during his childhood of the orange groves in his native Claremont, California. I couldn’t refrain from asking just how long he thought those groves were around. They’re no more native to southern California than nutria are to the northwest, and probably haven’t been around much longer.

Here’s a partial answer, from the site of the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside:

In 1873, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forever changed the history of Southern California when it sent two small navel orange trees to Riverside resident Eliza Tibbets. Those trees, growing in near perfect soil and weather conditions, produced an especially sweet and flavorful fruit. Word of this far superior orange quickly spread, and a great agricultural industry was born. An effort to promote citrus ranching in the state brought would-be citrus ranch barons flocking to California. The second “gold rush” was on.

This sounds like an interesting park. Here’s more:

This park preserves some of the rapidly vanishing cultural landscape of the citrus industry and to tell the story of this industry’s role in the history and development of California. The park recaptures the time when “Citrus was King” in California, recognizing the importance of the citrus industry in southern California.

In the early 1900s, an effort to promote citrus ranching in the state brought hundreds of would-be citrus barons to California for the “second Gold Rush.” The lush groves of oranges, lemons and grapefruit gave California another legacy – its lingering image as the Golden State – the land of sunshine and opportunity.

The design of the park is reminiscent of a 1900s city park, complete with an activity center, interpretive structure, amphitheater, picnic area, and demonstration groves. The land contained within the park still continues to produce high-quality fruits.

And check out the photo below.

But I’ve strayed. First listen to the nutria and learn what he’s doing in our neighborhood.

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Categories: Animals, Environment, History, Video
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