Day trip: Wilderness Park, Prattville

By on 17 January, 2017 in Fun, Kate and Stephen, Parks with 0 Comments


You’ve got a few spare hours on an unusually under-committed Saturday. It has been nearly a decade since you last went to Pratville’s bamboo “forest,” otherwise formally known as Wilderness Park. You decide to return.

The dog from 2008 is now deceased. The new dog stays on the leash, due to her excitability and newly-discovered love of the smell of bamboo.

Despite being touted as the first wilderness park inside an American city’s municipal limits, some people tossed their Mountain Dew bottle onto the ground. The park feels managed, but wild. It’s a place out of time, an incongruous spot that filters the light and fills the air with the tickling of rustling bamboo leaves. If two of the towering stalks of bamboo manage to touch each other, they make a hollow clacking sound, unlike any other kinds of trees on Earth. 16128112_10158035304790123_449105026_n

To get to the park, you have to drive past some of the most depressing apartments in Prattville, perhaps in the entire River Region. If you’re low on gas, you might fuel your vehicle nearby and hear two men passionately arguing about what kinds of crickets make the best fishing bait. If you’re a teenager dreaming of one day moving to a huge city, maybe in another country, the bamboo forest might be the most important spot in your life for reflection and unsupervised scheming.

There are essentially two looping paths, and calling them “trails” might be stretching it a bit. They are so short that they are actually closer to the meditative labyrinth paths once used by monks. There’s a tiny pond, stagnant but at least free of bugs in January. There’s a tiny stream. There are a few benches, perfect for thinking about what’s coming next in your life, maybe a bit about where you’ve been.

If your loops leave you seeking additional adventure, your (leashed) dog may enjoy a stroll along Prattville’s downtown Creekwalk. There’s a comic book store there on the square, and a birdhouse shaped like a cathedral somewhere along the way. Dour Daniel Pratt’s gin mill, saw mill and grist mill were once here, long before the bamboo, but long after the creek itself, of course, and the Autauga (Tawasa) members of the Alibamu.

We don’t talk enough about the civic clubs like the Spinners Club, which purchased the bamboo forest, before selling it to the City of Prattville in 1980. We don’t often enough celebrate the victories of preservation of land, saved from development partially just because a guy named Floyd Smith decided to mail order some bamboo seeds from China back in 1940.

It’s worth a drive. Midtown Montgomery is the best place to live, but a day trip to Wilderness Park in Prattville will make you desperately wish that we had something this cool in our city. Anybody want to clear out 20 downtown acres, plant some bamboo, and let nature do the rest?

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