Early in the morning, St. Paul's Como Lake belongs to the wildlife. As the day burns on, the lake becomes all about the people.
Early in the morning, Como Lake belongs to the wildlife. Great blue herons and gleaming white egrets glide in from their rookeries and settle in the reeds; muskrats cut through the water to their dens along the muddy shore; red-winged blackbirds swoop overhead and trill and trill and trill. In the spring, snapping turtles lumber up the bank and dig holes for their eggs. In early autumn, right around Labor Day, hatchlings emerge and scamper back to the water, hoping, in their young turtle way, that they will not end up sliding down an elegant heron throat.
As the day burns on, the lake becomes all about the people. Joggers and dog walkers; noontime moms with strollers; couples pedaling like mad on rented paddleboats; neighborhood dads with canoes. Kids fish for sunnies from the wooden pier, and Lycra-clad cyclists bend their heads and pump their sinewy legs as they go round and round the asphalt path.
Como is a smallish lake, a mile and a half around, shallow at shore but 15 feet deep in the middle. It's just one lovely part of a 384-acre regional park, and easy to overlook with all the other things to do -- soccer fields and ballfields that become skating rinks in winter; picnic grounds with fire pits; Como Town amusement park, with rides and mini-doughnuts; Cafesjian's Carousel (speaking of going round and round); a golf course, which turns into a cross-country ski track with the first snow; the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, open every day, even Christmas Day, perhaps even Doomsday.
A big aquatics center is under construction (to open next summer), and a pavilion hosts weddings, concerts and the occasional play.
The little lake, rimmed by native grasses and wildflowers, set on the very edge of the park, is modest by comparison. But it is here that you will spot warblers during the spring migration, goldfinches and Baltimore orioles flashing their bright colors in summer and bald eagles floating on billows of air on blustery afternoons.
At night, the busyness fades. The bikers and paddleboat riders go home. The lights blink on along the deserted path. The lake belongs, again, to the animals: great horned owls. Raccoons, which pillage the garbage cans. And every now and then, a fox.