Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Universal Language of Soccer...

My colorful U12 team includes: 2 Somali-Bantus, 1 Thai, 7 Bosnians and 5 home-grown Utica boys. Oh yeh, I was born in Japan (the Japanese are said to be the earliest players of soccer know as "Kemari" in Japan)

I coach youth soccer in Utica, and I can also be found playing pick up soccer with "the boys" at Proctor or at the field on Middle Settlement Rd., when I can find the time and the energy.

Whether I am coaching or playing, whether the players are homegrown Americans or recent refugees from Bosnia, Somalia, Thailand or Burma, there is one thing in common we all have; a pure love and joy for the sport of football-soccer. Ask any of these players about the outcome of recent World Cup matches, and they'll know not only the score, but most details of the game as well. This love of sport transcends our language barriers as I will often be approached at Proctor Park by Burmese boys who want to share a soccer field with them, or have Somali-Bantu boys wanting to "spar" with me and my soccer ball. They will play until there is no one left to play with, and only go home when there is no more light on the field.

When my teams practice they want to practice and scrimmage with our teams and when we have games they often come to watch. As a soccer purist, it is a delight for me to see the amount of activity there is on any given night at Proctor and South Parks in Utica. Refugee families are often out on weekends or evenings with their players, sharing in their favorite past-time. They enjoy the comraderie, the fun, and the beauty of being outdoors in the park on a beautiful summer day or evening.

You don't have to understand or love soccer to appreciate all that soccer does to help bridge people from all over the world and especially here in Utica. Some lovely summer evening head down to Proctor Park and catch a game under the lights, look around and listen, and experience soccer like millions of people around the world do every day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is Rt 840 Destroying A Sensitive Wildlife Area?

The heavy usage by hundreds of residents daily, is a testament to the success of the DOT's Rt 840's recreational trail system. It affords the opportunity for many who normally would not have the opportunity, to get close to nature and all if affords.

It is not unusual to have families of geese or ducks resting in the grass with joggers or walkers passing closely by. Turtles often cross the walkways as they leave the marshes to find nesting sites, and deer often can be seen at waters edge at dawn or dusk.

Unfortutely, the irony is that many of these same animals that seek tranquility and safety, soon meet their demise as they cross or fly-over Rt 840. The 840 roadway was built right next to a section of treeless and exposed trails, and is only a 100 feet or so, from the edges of the marshes where you can often see ducks and geese swimming or resting in the grassy areas next to the road. These same animals find that the tranquility and peace they seek in this formerly secluded marsh, are threatened in much the same way the animals that once occupied the marshes between Sangertown and Commercial Drive were. Although the DEC tried to maintain duck nesting sites and to encourage certain species of wildlife at Sangertown, most have moved on or were hit by cars, as they tried to fly in to the marsh areas. And the same thing happens every week along 840. Next to the marsh area, hundreds of small birds, ducks, geese, turtles, fox, woodchucks and occassionally deer are run over as they attempt to cross or fly over to enter or leave the marsh area.

It leaves many to wonder why the DEC and it's planners would open up and expose a wildlife area like this, and put thousands of animals at risk without making some provision for this. Perhaps the best solution now might be to build a wall like the one that they put up in NY Mills to help discourage the wildlife from entering or leaving from the roadway area of Rt 840. Also, an added benefit would be that it would help buffer recreational users of the trail from annoying road noise and distraction.

This is especially important with new construction (New Hartford school bus depot, hotel, office bldgs) being proposed on both sides of 840. Wildlife should not be "squeezed" into ever narrowing areas of green areas set aside for them. Especially in a period when the area is not growing, but is diminishing in size. And we certainly cannot afford to subsidize careless and poorly planned suburban sprawl that is destroying not only pristine wildlife areas, but the character of the community. Just like at Sangertown Square, we will soon see fewer and fewer creatures along the 840 corridor, only more cars, paved lots, and resultant noise and pollution. Things which will only diminish the quality of life that we love here in the Mohawk Valley.