Building Two Types of Community

Over the course of today we got to experience what building a community is truly like, through the destruction of another. You may have seen in Justin and Kenneth’s blogs that they have already experienced the demolition site. Our main goal today was to help remove a house that, through acquisition, is now located in Big Cypress National Preserve. The house was originally part of a homestead, After being acquired by the preserve, it was transitioned into government housing, and then finally vacated. It has been sitting empty ever since.

We are removing the site to be restored back to natural grade so that natural water flow may resume, thereby helping to increase the biodiversity of the region. Demolishing such houses also helps control invasive species (such as Brazilian Pepper Tree) in the area, because, well they thrive on unnaturally elevated plots, they can’t typically live in low, swampy areas. In tearing down the house, an act that one could see as the destruction of a community, I felt that we were rebuilding a community that had been lost due to human interference. Invasive species such as poison ivy and Brazilian pepper tree were just one sign that the ecosystem around the house had been scarred. Making sure to minimize pollutants in the ecosystem is crucial, just like our own communities. Our habit of circling up each morning to discuss the day’s plans and get ready to work. in my opinion, is our way of establishing an inclusive, human community before we go help reestablish a community in nature.

The two communities that I was privileged enough to be involved in today seemed, side-by-side, though very different from each other, a great culmination of my Alternative Spring Break experience. I’ve really enjoyed the challenges of the week so far, and look forward to more comfort-zone challenging experiences in the future. I am very thankful for the opportunity to come together with a large group of like-minded people and learn all about typically unknown area of southwest Florida, to get to camp out under the deep stars, and to meet so many of the great people who have dedicated their lives to preserving public lands as employees of the National Park Service and other local agencies.

My experience today brings to mind a quote from Jack London. In “To the Man on the Trail” he wrote, “An old timer cares for his dogs and then himself.” Each person leaving Big Cypress at the end of the week will take home their own thoughts and experiences, but I think some common threads will emerge: we’ll all be a little bit more mindful of the big picture in environmental protection, we’ll all see that our generation has to be very proactive with protecting the environment through hands on service, environmental education for current and future, and just working to inspire people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors however they can. I hope the first thing you do after you navigate away from this page is find a national, state, or local park, forest, or recreation area in which to embark upon your next adventure.