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Unfortunately, we can't post the pictures. Honestly, we really hope the area will look different by the time season begins, anyway. As we all know, BGW's landscapers are exceptional.
Not to sound to much like a pessimist but without knowing why the trees had to be cleared it's hard to say what BGW's landscaping people can do. They can work miracles for sure but what restrictions are they working with from the pipeline people?
Nicole said:
Regardless of what was allowed on the right-of-way previously, the pictures we saw showed extensive clear-cutting , creating wide site lines that were not there previously.

The question I am asking is why is the clearing so much more noticeable and dramatic now.  Something must have changed.

They are probably removing trees that have encroached into the easement over the years. This is commonly called "volunteer growth", as it is not planned plantings, but mother nature at work. We see this quite often in power line easements. The vegetation starts working in from the sides and narrows the easement. Ultimately the easement must be cleared back to its original width. I would imagine that the easement has not been cleared in over a decade, if not longer. That is a long time for vegetation growth to establish itself. The clearing and removal then appears much more dramatic because it hasn't been for such a long time. BG should be able to easily mitigate the effects with shrubs, evergreens and temporary displays.
The sundial on the edge of San Marco doesn't scream "Nothing to see here.", but that's what it essentially is there for. The park has probably been using these landscaping strategies for years without us knowing it.

Very few people look at that sundial and think "I wonder if anything else is back there." It's just a graceful object along the pathway. It looks pretty, but keeps people moving without even noticing the pipeline or the markers.
Hmmm.... alternatives.

The least creative and most time-intensive method would be to transplant shrubs into the clearing area. Many softwood shrubs, which are allowed to grow atop the pipeline, can grow rather large. However, to hope for the shrubs to grow to a size worthy of outright replacing the size of the now-removed trees is fantasy. For them to reach an even moderate height would take several years, and the clearing would look grossly empty while slowly waiting for the shrubs to fill in. Admittedly, this is the most likely option- but it might not be ideal.

Here are some rather crazy ideas that the park could do. They won't happen, but they are some creative options to "make lemonade out of lemons."

What about using thematic structures to obstruct the view? For instance, in San Marco, a building could be erected right in front of the area where the clearing meets the pathway. It wouldn't even have to be a functional or permanent building- it could simply be built of the same temporary materials that make up buildings like the Food & Wine Festival booths or prop buildings during Howl-O-Scream. The building could simply be decorated to look like any other building in San Marco, while really just being an elaborate prop. If placed directly in front of the head-on view of the clearing, it could obstruct views of the now-vacant land behind it, while fitting the area thematically. This may sound like a silly idea, but if this faux building was realistically crafted to look like San Marco's other buildings, it could blend harmoniously with the surrounding hamlet while not costing much more than a simple Howl-O-Scream prop.

Likewise, an option for the Wild Reserve is to set up a temporary animal display that is exactly the width of the pipeline clearing. Preferably, it would be an enclosure with height to it (like the rotating display near the cabanas) to effectively obstruct views beyond the enclosure. Some shrubs planted directly behind the enclosure, or even a simple ivy trellis, could prevent eyes from wandering beyond the animal exhibit.

Or, they could try to make the clearing look intentional. Since shrubs can still be planted above the pipeline, creating lush gardens on top of the clearing would make the space look deliberately used. In San Marco, for instance, they could design a garden that extends dozens of yards back into the depths of the clearing and has the same design as Da Vinci's Garden of Inventions. With similarly geometric designs, some statues, and maybe even a water feature, this "extension" of Da Vinci's garden would make the clearing look like a useful way of continuing the village's theme.

Similarly, on the Wild Reserve side of the park, colorful flower beds and small water features would draw attention to the clearing and make it look purposeful, rather than trying to hide it.

Another option? Pave over the clearing with aggregate. Take advantage of that now-cleared space. Expand the pathways onto the clearing. Sure, it would create a dead-end, but the new pathways could serve as space for useful items like games or food carts (and Food & Wine booths). Or even more simply: shaded seating areas. People are always looking for shady places to sit and relax, and a grove of tables and chairs surrounded on all sides by trees would be perfect. Plus, during special events like Howl-O-Scream or Christmas Town, extra path space is invaluable.

Again, these aren't what the park is going to do, or even what they should do. But damned if they aren't fun options to ponder.
Those are some great ideas, Joe.

I still wouldn't shy away from the idea that simply landscaping the area could work as well. Ideally, BGW would want to improve line of sight issues while at the same time, drawing as little attention to the cleared area as possible. Some things, although they could fix the line of sight issues or improve crowd control, wouldn't exactly be ideal in distracting guests from the cleared area. Maybe it's because I'm always thinking in plant terms, but I believe landscaping would accomplish both of these things in an ideal way.

However, there is the doubt of the amount of time that would take to happen. Simply, if the park has a strategic landscape design and transplants more mature shrubs and potentially evergreen trees, it would not take nearly as long as expected. It could easily mitigate the effects this season and potentially eliminate them in the near future. In fact, I compiled a list of what I believe would be the best plants in order to accomplish this:

Leyland Cypress- A tall growing evergreen tree, these make great privacy plants and grow at an almost astounding rate.

Red Cedar- Similar to the Leyland Cypress, red cedars grow very fast and tall, but also make great privacy-hedge plants.

Nelly Stevens Holly- Another great hedge and privacy plant

Red Tip Photinia and/or Japanese Cleyera- A fast growing evergreen plant with large, thick, leathery leaves, these would also make great and tall hedges, or just extremely tall shrubs if left unpruned. The park actually has large hedges of these next to the RPT that they maintain regularly.

Gold Mop Cypress- Yellow leaved evergreen shrub that grows quite fast and tall. These may not be an excellent privacy plant, but could definitely be a companion to the large plants the park may plant. The park already has a great amount of experience with these, and seems to be a favorite of their's.

I think hedge plants would be an excellent option in Da Vinci's Garden of Inventions to continue the aesthetic they already have going. The hedges would just appear as large boxwoods, and could even compliment the existing landscaping in the area. However, the Wild Reserve and Heatherdowns could use more of the natural looking plants like just about any cypress or evergreen tree/shrub.

Now, this all depends on what the park can do to landscape these areas. More restrictions may have been implemented that were not there previously, although I expect they should be able to still plant small clusters of non-invasive shrubs and trees, so all of these plants are plausible for the landscaping "buffer zones."
I like those ideas, Joe, and I am partial to the following combination of them (with a couple of my own additions):

  1. Install walkable paths over the newly cleared pipeline right-of-way, leaving at least 10 feet of width unpaved on either side.
  2. Plant medium-sized, shallow-rooted evergreens on each side of the pathways, set off somewhat from the paved areas by simple garden beds.
  3. Build the suggested (removable) building facades in the noted park locations, so guests can't see into the new pathways during most of the operating season.
  4. Remove the facades for Halloween, to create well marked, higher intensity "scare trails" on which willing guests can be haunted/hunted by scare actors hiding in the trees. Young guests and those who don't want the extra level of fright can avoid these pathways completely.
  5. Decorate the evergreens along these new paths for Christmas, creating multiple strollable "Holiday Lanes" and adding to the beauty of the event.

The newly cleared areas would provide some extra elbow room during those two seasonal events, too.

One possible stumbling block: terrain. The pipeline crosses some steep grades, and the rules for ensuring accessibility and safety are quite different from those of 40 years ago.
I think they could turn this into a feature if they tried. I am no landscape architect, but as I see it they could make this a walking path perhaps with the plants suggested by Joe and Matthew. (I know nothing of things that grow) and make a splendid garden area. Perhaps with some other strategic clearing they could include Gazebos and other garden things. It seems to me that it might even become an alternate pathway between Italy and England. Further I think you could do a cool HOS element there.
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