My Neighbor Built it, but Will They Come?

Dale Earnhardt spent years pushing dirt around his back 40. He wanted to build a race track. Never got it done, he was happy just moving his dirt. His son Dale Jr. did build a 1/10 mile dirt oval track for racing go-karts. If the track got too dusty, he would water it with his sponsors product, Budweiser. They would bring him as much as he wanted.

Does it show on Google maps yet? You can add tags to objects on Google and that might bring people.

It would be contained to his land. We’ve wondered if there has been an issue with rain or melting snow regarding his basement. Who knows?

I’m sure there are creatures living in his giant pile of brush, roots, branches, etc. I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything more than usual. We’ve always had raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, skunks, porcupines, bears, and deer around but so far there hasn’t been an influx of anything. We rarely get temps of 100. Our summers are very humid, so I don’t worry too much about a wild fire. But it is possible. I hope he has a good insurance policy.

That would be kind of fun to do. Let everyone know that there’s a new baseball field in the area. “Bring your bat and ball!” I wonder what he’d do if a bunch of people showed up to play?

To a large extent, maybe. But he’s undoubtedly reduced the absorbtive ability of the lot; while the overall impact of this on area floods and droughts may be minor, such things are cumulative; all those bits of nonpermeable surface add up.

I wouldn’t be too worried about the brush pile, though. That’s probably just replacing a bit of needed habitat.


I’d think a level surface covered with soft dirt and grass is rather permeable.

If he did it properly he built gravel drainage channels to carry water away or help it get absorbed within the ground. Or he could have had it just run off in a safe direction. Or he could have created a giant pile of mud. All good outcomes depending on how you feel about mud.

Possibly not after equipment’s been driven repeatedly over and over it, compacting the soil.

Problem is, having lots of people have the water carried “away” turns out to create two sets of problems: one being that wherever “away” is becomes more liable to flooding, the other being that the reservoir of water held in general, which helps minimize the impact of drought, is lessened.

Again, one person doing this on a few acres in a large area isn’t going to cause a problem. However, there are a whole lot of us, and all of those driveways/roofs/compacted parking areas/etc./etc. add up. I don’t know the overall situation in that area.

If he did it really properly, whatever drainage he provided feeds into a catch pond on his own property.

I see no catch pond. Now that’s something he should have done and created a hockey/skating rink. This is hockey country, no doubt they would come for that. I’d have my grandkids there all the time.

A catch pond or a route to an existing drainage path would prevent a lot of potential problems. Around here it’s rarely very far to a waterway but not everyone is lucky enough to have a path through their property that doesn’t intersect their house. Public Works has a lot of portable pumps and they need them whenever it rains heavily following new construction. We have a number of catch ponds set up in the area so the waterways and drainage pipes don’t get backed up.

One of the problems good catch ponds can prevent is the problem posed by people adding too much water to existing drainage paths. Again, one property in a large area doing this is unlikely to cause a problem unless they’re adding a really large amount of water; but there tend to be lots of people doing it, and all of that water adds up and, in wet weather, can overload the existing drainage paths.

That reads to me as if existing drainage paths are already fully loaded, and maybe already overloaded, in your area.

Turns out that “there’s no such place as ‘away’”.

We have ‘away’ here, it’s the ocean, not all that far away. But you are correct, those drainage paths down to the Blackstone river that will carry all that water a few miles down to the sea are overloaded. Add to that natural springs and unpredictable ground water paths from higher elevations that are also heading toward the same drainage paths. I’m lucky to have enough property to have a swale that carries run off from the hill behind my house down to the street where it flows into a nearby stream. There are a lot of hay bale check dams on unoccupied land to create catch ponds or divert water toward drainage. We’re so close to ‘away’, yet so far as well.

That’s not “away” either.

Well yes, the ocean is a big catch pond. The rain water was going to end up there anyway, what we did to the land is the problem. It would be the same problem if we took the contaminants out in barges and dumped them directly into the ocean. I doubt anyone around here will be interested in storing up pollutants in local catch ponds to save the ocean. You could end up starting a war between the Land Trust and the Bay Commission over limited resources*.

.* ‘limited resources’ is a political term of art meaning tax dollars.

The speed with which it winds up there affects upland situations. If that water’s properly absorbed into the soil where it falls, it releases slowly during dry periods and keeps all sorts of things alive.

Depending on the pollutant, a slow release into soil may be something the soil can deal with. Many things which are pollutants in some situations are nutrients in others.

If the pollutant isn’t of that type, then by far the best solution is to produce lots less of it; such as by not driving bulldozers around and around unnecessarily. But if people are going to produce unnecessary pollutants, why should they be allowed or even encouraged to dump them on others under the delusion that they can just send them “away”?

And it doesn’t need to be a tax dollars issue, except perhaps for enforcement. The people producing the problem can be made responsible for minimizing the damage.

(If your local land trust is saying ‘just dump it in the ocean’, they’re behaving differently than any land trust I know of.)

No, Ray Liotta.