Purpose

 

The purpose of the Nature Guide is to assist visitors to Sky Meadows

State Park with:
 

  • identifying some of the more common plants and animals they                           may encounter during their visit;

  • understanding the life histories of various Sky Meadows plants                          and animals;

  • appreciating the complex "web of life" that has existed (and still                     exists) between the land, plants, animals, and humans that com-                        prise Sky Meadows.

 

While most visitors to the Sky Meadows Park could readily identify a

whitetailed deer or a black bear, most visitors would have difficulty

distinguishing between a black vulture and a turkey vulture, and few

could name but a few of the many wildflowers or grasses that grow in
the Park. Even the most conspicious of Sky Meadows' trees (e.g., tulip

poplars), once easily identified by local farmers and tradesmen, are now

foreign to most visitors, while some of Sky Meadows' birds (e.g., blue-

bird) that once gave pleasure to so many, are now rapidly diminishing in

numbers. The "alienation from nature" that characterized the American

culture of the twentieth century, shows no signs of abating in the twenty-

first century. Many visitors to Sky Meadows Park are familiar with the

plight of the blue whale or mountain gorilla, but have little or no know-

ledge of the plants and animals that comprise their state parks, or even

their backyards.
 

If identifying Sky Meadows' plants and animals is difficult for most visit-

ors, the natural life histories of these same plants and animals is virtually

unknown to all except the occassional professional scientist or master

naturalist. Such questions as - What is the physical differences between

butterflies and moths? Why aren't there American chestnut trees currently

growing in Sky Meadows Park? or Why is crownbeard such a conspicious

wildflower throughout much of the Park? - are not readily answerable for

most Park visitors. And without this knowledge, the complex and extreme-

ly important "web of life" relationships that exist among the land and all

living creatures in Sky Meadows Park can not be understood and, more

importantly, protected for future generations.
 

For nearly three hundred years, humans have dramatically altered the land-

scape of western Virginia, Facquir County, and the land that now comprises

Sky Meadows State Park. Whether harvesting trees for lumber or clearing

the forests for agriculture and grazing, humans have continually modified

the natural environment of the Sky Meadows region, often with little know-

ledge or consideration for the impact their modifications had on local plants

and animals. Clearing the hardwood forests for grazing, for example, has

provided opportunities for many invansive plant species to establish a strong

presence throughout most of the park.
 

Even now, with the Sky Meadows region protected as a state park, and with immensively expanded and improved scientific knowledge and understand-

ing pertaining to the interrelationships of the environment and living organ-

isms, there is no guarantee that Sky Meadows Park can be adequately pro-

tected from future adverse human influences. Visitors to the Park need to be

aware of what influence, whether positive or negative, they might have on

the Park, and what they need to know and do to protect the unique natural

heritage of Sky Meadows.

 

 

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