Walking through Bird Haven, Daniel Deck lamented the state of a site he thinks should be one of the city's bright spots.

The bird sanctuary and arboretum was established by famed ornithologist and former Olney resident Robert Ridgway after he purchased 18 acres in 1906. Deck used to volunteer to maintain the roughly 2-acre area south of East Fork Lake that remains of the area near Miller's Grove, but he said he had a falling out with the city about seven years ago when it placed a picnic table near Ridgway's grave, which he thought was inappropriate.

Pointing to the site now, with plant growth nearly overtaking the granite boulder marking Ridgway's grave, Deck said, "It should not be that way."

He noticed the state of the area about a month ago when he went fishing with a friend at East Fork Lake and looked around.

"It just made me completely sick," he said. "I tried to make it look like a landmark around here."

The paths are not being maintained, he said, and there is overgrowth along the path that leads back to an area where Ridgway's cottage used to be and where his wife and son's grave markers are. He said he divined where the graves were by using copper wire.

Though other groups have done work in the area, he said the last time the city did any real maintenance at Bird Haven was during the bicentennial in 1976.

"The excuse was, there's so much vandalism back here they can't control it," he said.

Now, there is overgrowth so that some may not know there are areas to be accessed on the two-acre site.

"I don't know why Olney don't take more pride in Bird Haven," he said.

Deck feels there has been a history of disrespect for the site, noting that from 1933 to 1970 it was a much larger area, most of which is now taken up by East Fork Lake.

As stated in the Olney/Richland County Sesquicentennial book, "Ironically, it was April 11, 1970, the first official Earth Day, when the bulldozers pulled into Bird Haven to begin construction of the lake."

City Councilman Brad Brown, whom Deck contacted with his concerns, said he has been out to look at the site and more needs to be done.

"It needs some better maintenance," he said.

Brown said there have been vandalism problems there but added, "We should do a better job."

City Manager Larry Taylor said the city is planning to trim the area around Ridgway's grave marker and also remove a gazebo near the entrance that is in bad shape. He said there are no immediate plans to replace it, however.

Deck said the gazebo was built in 1976 and is a replica of the one that was at Ridgway's home, know as Larchmound.

Taylor said he did not think the city had done much work at Bird Haven recently.

He said it is a bird sanctuary and conservatory, so there is a question of how much work should be done, "Because it's supposed to be a nature area."

When it comes to spots such as the gazebo and the graveside, he said, "We do have an obligation to maintain it."

Manpower and finances also play a role.

"We maintain a lot of park and recreation areas and three cemeteries," he said. "It seems the size of the areas we're responsible for is expanding."