On the Verge
People who love places like Kas on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, whether we come from afar or were born locally love it for its own particular nature.
The unaware note a lack of trees, where as the very fact that the indigenous natives have grown in the wild despite the rocky terrain, the hot dry summers and the gusting winds makes them more worthy than some of the most luscious forests and tallest cultivated trees. In the cities and suburbs people pay incredible sums to have natural or even fake rocks installed in their landscaped gardens. Municipalities turn fiberglass interpretations of natural rock into central display waterfalls. Yet here in Kas we have rocks upon rocks upon rocks. This very repetition, the massive, resilient and powerful nature of these rocks upon which such tenacious trees have grown and civilizations have built their towns over the centuries, this is the very essence of the power and beauty of this place. For a wild olive to grow here it takes hundreds of years. They, along with the wild oaks are natures gifts. At their roots and after the autumn rain a new spring emerges sending forth crocus and sea squill. Spurge shrubs act dead throughout the summer, dormant and robust until they burst forth vibrant green and yellow, telling us all to wake up and witness the seasons change. Together these form the maquis, an exquisite, essential and priceless part of our ecosystem.
Until recent years the Kas peninsula had been a refuge, a secret and wondrous place that only the bee keepers and goat herds might visit.
Boars Bugs. Mostly lost to our encroachment upon their territory. We made the boars refugees when the remainder of them swam to the mainland leaving their beloved habitat for ever to the invaders; the hotel and villa owners of the peninsular. I am one of those, the intrepid first generation settlers. Moving in when there was no water, hardly a road and certainly no street lights. Now I see the price we pay with the stars at night lost to us because of the light pollution. Do we really need to illuminate every step of our way? Our cars have lights, we can carry torches! But I'm not here to fight that battle today, I hope those pointless lights will fade when we can no longer justify the expense of illuminating this road. In the meantime I wonder if us humans will recognize our need (and that of the ecosystem) to live the night fully in natural darkness. When you have walked or swam in the light of the moon, seen your own moon shadow and been amazed by the multitude of stars you too will have been blessed.
Asides from the street lights the council decided that it was a good idea to plant oleander and bougainvillea along the road side. Initially the first part along the new marina road was planted. Help from the primary school kids was enlisted, my now 20 year old son was one of them, his bougainvillea is probably about 3 meters wide and 6 meters tall now. Since then the planting continues and now covers most of the peninsular road side and in my opinion it looks terrible. I utterly resent the way the natural fauna and rocks have been blotted out by this great wall of obliteration! These rocks and maquis are the identity and glory of this place. Oleander can grow anywhere and bougainvillea is not even native of this continent. Yes I grow it in my garden and I too adore all of those bougainvillea clad balconies that have become synonymous with the Mediterranean, but upon the road side they are an unsightly weed that throttles the native plants. Drastic and regular pruning will never keep these resilient, invasive plants under control. They will strangle the indigenous and take over. The oleander is less aggressive but needs water; such a water supply that is piped from afar over the Taurus Mountains and funded by the municipality causing a needless expense and usage in what is a severely water deficit area. And if all this isn't reason enough to take axes and picks and dig up those needlessly planted, grotesquely out of place oleander and bougainvillea, they are also encroaching upon the road! As they are planted in a very narrow strip along the verge and despite the attempts to keep the bushes trimmed their natural growth spread means that they limit the road area. The bougainvillea leans out over the road blocking visibility and causing traffic to have to shift to the middle which causes a very real threat upon what are already dangerous roads.
I could further argue that the possibility of a bike lane is obliterated by the encroaching bushes, I could state that if money is to be spent on this road then a barrier should be erected along some of the most perilous of the bends and the build site debris cleared up. I could argue that the vivid pink of those flowers which is a delight when located elsewhere is an insult and an assault to my eyes. They scream out their imposition upon the beautiful subtle colours of the silvery green olive trees, the mottled bark of the palamut oak, the varying seasons reflected in the tones of the maquis. The rock, in places hardened grey from the centuries of weather, creamy white where it has been blasted or chipped away and the burnt sienna, iron laden soil that is such a potent reminder of the richness of this native land.
If you too see what I see than you will agree that this human intervention has been an imposition and a mistake.
I propose an immediate removal of the latest planted oleander (must be hundreds) and a relocation of them before their roots spread. They can be given to any municipality that would benefit and I'm sure there are places within the Antalya region that are presently undergoing landscaping.
Second I propose that all the oleander and bougainvillea along the road side that have established root systems be cut to approximately 50 cm high and then their maximum height be maintained at 1 meter. Though in honesty and sadly I prefer that they be completely dug up. (Note: tree pruning and cutting must be done when the bird nesting season is over)
The result will be this:
1. Money saved on watering and maintenance
2. Risk of accident through road encroachment will be reduced.
3. Returning the landscape to a natural and indigenous place
4. A more intelligent and evolved approach of municipality made landscaping which will gain respect even on international levels (with the right media coverage)
The intentions behind this ill conceived planting were of the best, as are those behind many mistakes (and making mistakes is a part of life), however it's really important to learn from them and make necessary changes.
I hope this plea will not fall on deaf ears for the sake of my beloved, native terrain but for all the indigenous plants and places that are under threat from human kind.