Well after three final crew member visits to the doctor for poison oak we are finally done with Markley Cove and back to Smittle Creek Trail. It has been a busy nonstop four weeks filled with training and new projects. Over the past month we have maintained 3,425 feet of trail, relocated one 12 foot bridge (with new footings), removed seven old steps, added thirteen new steps, added three new drainage structures, dismantled one bridge, assembled one burly twenty foot bridge from scratch, moved 5,460 lbs of concrete down to the bridge project site by hand, moved 900 lbs of concrete back up the hill from the bridge project site, created three rigging highlines, mapped several trails using GIS, gained six new Leave No Trace Master Educators, five S212 approved B sawyers, dug two very big holes and had one Easter egg hunt. I think it would be safe to say we have accomplished a lot in the last month and we were ready for a break. So naturally when Ryan mentioned that we get would our first real days off in a couple months and that he had rented a boat for us to go waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding we were a bit excited. When Wednesday finally arrived we drove over to Markley hopped onto the boat and headed out for some fun. After going only a few hundred yards from the boat slip we to found ourselves making a quick u-turn to admire the stairs we built on pullout thirteen and fourteen before we made a quick sprint across Lake Berryessa. Once across the lake Chris was the first one to break out the water skis and jumped into the chilly water. He easily made it up on his first try. After a few runs Chris called it quits and jumped back into the boat to warm up and it was Andy’s turn to try and wakeboard. It took him only a few tries to get the hang of it and considering he had never been on a wakeboard before it was pretty impressive. As it began to warm up, Ben and I jumped on the tube and tried to hang on as we were slung around the turns. We weren’t successful. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and alternating between skiing and tubing. Both Ben and Megan found that waterskiing was much harder than Ryan and Chris made it look but both successfully managed to stand up even if it was only a moment. After Chris and Ryan took their last turn waterskiing we headed back to the marina. Not long after we arrived at the marina a life flight helicopter landed only a few hundred yards away. If it had not been there for a real emergency it would have been a really awesome way to end the day. That being said it was a great day and a lot of fun.
The spring survey season has been great. The Waco team has had the pleasure and opportunity to work with some amazing organizations that share in SCA’s passion and vision for conservation. A few of them made lasting impressions during the season; here are two that stood out. Jay, a Habitat for humanity staff member. He loved talking about how he got involved with working for Waco Habitat for Humanity; we enjoyed his sense of humor and the different stuff he had to talk about. Later on the team visited the Waco lakes Wetlands, where we met the one and only Nora Schell. She knows a lot about the Waco Lake wetlands plus, she is an experience Park Ranger. Nora was a great person to work with for conservation projects. If you happen to be in Texas this summer you should definitely check out the Waco lake wetlands and volunteer at Habitat for Humanity.
04/29-05/01 Teaching Annie to Swim
This week the team enjoyed a few days off. Stacy and Josh taught Annie how to swim. She learned proper swimming and breathing techniques for swimming on top of the water and she learned how to back stroke and tread water. This activity was super fun for the entire team, plus Annie turned out to be a good swimmer.
05/02-05/03 Conservation Day
Today the team took a trip to Austin, Texas to complete Stacy’s last conservation project. The members participated in an all-day kayak training course with Kim Sorensen, Guide and Field Educator of The Expedition School. The trip was just what the doctor ordered for our hard working team. We learned to kayak up and down the San Marcos River! Kayaking was a first for some of the team members, so we started with a few training lessons before getting into the water. We received an introductory paddle lesson. The paddling techniques were really cool and could even save your life, if performed correctly during a bad situation. During our stay in Austin, we also visited the Texas State History Museum. The museum was full of cool displays and facts about the different people who, helped to shape the state of Texas for us today. After the team explored the museum we headed to San Antonio, were we did some site seeing on the River Walk and took pictures of the Alamo. Austin and San Antonio are great places to plan for conservation projects and the team enjoyed touring the city.
This week Annie and Stacy took the lead on writing weekly hitch reports, ERPs and JHAs for conservation projects. As the end of the week got closer Stacy took time out for WFR training while Josh and Annie spent a couple more days completed surveys. Annie spent her last surveying week at Belton and still-house Hollow Lake, while Josh interviewed visitors at Waco and Belton Lake for the last time.
05/10 conservation Day
The last conservation day of the spring season was spent learning about food conservation. Annie taught a lesson on food conservation and its importance to SCA. The members learned about preparing food and food hygiene. They received handouts and worksheets to help along with the lesson. After explaining and discussing the lesson on food conservation each member participated in a cooking activity, they made sweet potato pies using a family recipe that Annie provided. The pies were really tasty and the team did a great job.
Lastly, the trash pickup results are in and we have a winner! Congratulations to Leah of ACE VUS Atlanta! Leah cleaned up 19 pounds of trash and 32 pounds of recycling from her survey sites, winning the cleanup competition. Michael and Clayton of Atlanta also put up impressive numbers, helping Atlanta also take the team competition beating out Nashville and Waco. Thank you to all team members for participating and helping the spring 2013 ACE VUS keep up over 100 pounds of trash out of Army Corps lakes! Way to go Leah, Michael, and Clayton for being the trashiest team around!
The spring season has taught us a lot about leadership.Through the leadership opportunities and conservation projects, we were enabled to develop in our comfort in leading each other. We as individuals hope to learn and grow more as we take on new leadership roles this summer. Stacy will be continuing her season here in Waco, Texas. She will have all new team members to explore Texas with. Josh will be heading back to Tulsa, Oklahoma with his Team of newbies, and Annie will be leading a National Crew in California at Yosemite National Park.
UPDATE: Josh's trash finally got picked up! Josh spent a day picking up some larger items at one of his sites (with the help of one Mr. Alex Olsen), including a couch, a love seat, box springs for a bed, 12 tires, mysteriously empty suitcases, fencing, boat parts, a fertilizer, and bags full of bottles, cans, and other roadside trash. Josh's totals did not count at the time of the initial announcement because the trash, although reported, was too much to remove alone and had not yet been picked up by park staff. Due to not wanting to take away Leah's hard earned title, or leave Josh's hard work unrecognized, these two may need to settle who the trashiest person is once and for all at summer training!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!Speaking as the Project Lead for the Spring ACE VUS Leader Team, the most beneficial part of this program has been watching Eva and Mike turn conservation ideas into reality. Speaking with them individually throughout the season, they repeat the same idea.Conservation service projects have given them the ammunition to spread the word and really immerse themselves in local conservation mevements. I use the word “ammunition” because the build-up of “I can” throughout the season was incredible and gave both members a new-found sense of personal power. Whereas before thier experience here in Nashville, they had ideals but lacked the follow through. In such a culturally rich part of the United States, Nashville has handed the team more opportunities than we have time for in this short season. Discovering the ability to make dig deep into one’s own conservation ethic, researching hands-on opportunities to speak to those ethics and the satisfaction I saw once the conservation service projects began was a highlight for me as a leader. I will whole heartedly encourage members on my summer team to seek out conservation service projects that serve both personal conservation ethics and professional development.Army Corps of Engineers and SCA, thank you! Eva Donnelly: “My success story within SCA has to be the Bird Workshop that myself and Mike teamed up to put on at Shelby Bottoms Park. We had the opportunity to teach two groups of a local homeschool group, Mike taking on the older kids and myself taking on the 4-8 year olds. What impressed me most was how smart each kiddo was, each one being able to identify more birds than I anticipated. We spent half the workshop learning about birds and doing fun little activities, learning how to eat like a bird and so on. We finished off the workshop by making bird feeders so that the kids could hang them in their yards. One little girl, who was around 4, proclaimed that she was going to be a "bird scientist," and then after her mom prompted her corrected herself: "I am going to be... an ornithologist!" I think this is my success because this project took a lot of time and dedication on my part. I wanted to impact the kids in a way that would make them appreciate birds and their local ecological world around them. And so when I began the project I started almost immediately after training ended. It took a while for us to get the ball rolling, but once the day arrived that we were to put on this workshop for the kids, it went really well, much better than I expected! Our partnership with Shelby Bottoms Park was also great, because the project organizer, Denise, was incredibly helpful and went out of her way to get us what we needed. For something that was planned over the span of two months and finally resulted in a fun, educational workshop for kids, I am proud of how it went and am happy to have done it!”Mike Vasquez: “One specific example of growing socially and professionally would be working with the Nashville Food Project. Here I connected with the organization to offer 3 of us to volunteer here. While being there and working with the members of the NFP, we bonded over the nature of our organization and how it relates to theirs. We then went back and offered a total of 6 volunteers one day that helped them accomplish some things they would have otherwise not been able to do. We are now trying to organize some conservation projects for the summer, and they featured us on their organization's blog. I think that the nature of this leadership program forces us into some kind of personal growth. It involves stepping into places that may be uncomfortable but that are necessary to complete competencies for the program. From doing this I have grown professionally and socially because I have had to reach out to members of local organizations and interact with them, learning that although someone might have a title they are still just as much of a regular person as I am. Emotionally I have become more resilient to change, and have learned not to get worked up when things don't go the way they were planned to go the first, second or even the third time around. I have also grown as a leader and development some important skills that I will need as a leader. These include budgeting, organizational, time management, and technical skills."
Today is the last day of our surveys- it seems like just yesterday we were braving the Tennessee “snow” two months ago, bundling up from head to toe, flurries kissing our faces to keep warm… and sitting here on this beautiful sun soaked day has almost come too soon.Like every day in the life of an “earth-saver,” the past two weeks for the Nashville Crew have been busy, checking off the end-of-season to-do list and trying to enjoy the time we have left. Mike and I completed our Bird Workshop at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, where we split a group of home-schooled students (I had the younger kiddos and Mike the older) and taught them about local birds through activities like a Bird walk, a speaker, bird-feeder building, and bird identification. The weather held up long enough for Mike to take his students on a bird walk on the Greenway, a walkway that circles Nashville, so that the kids could identify calls and different kinds of birds. My kiddos were an incredibly smart bunch, with one little girl proclaiming that she was going to grow up to be a “Bird Scientist!” This tiny thing knew almost every bird I threw out, and (with some help from her mom) corrected herself later by saying confidently that she would be “also an ornithologist!” She was only 4, and I’m pretty sure she is going to rule the world one day.Our partnership with the Shelby Bottoms Park has been wonderful, and we owe a ginormous thank you to Denise Weyer, the project manager at Shelby Bottoms. She helped us set up an SCA Booth so that we could relay SCA’s mission and history to those drawn to nature in the first place. Denise’s limitless support and help has given us the opportunity to become more active in Nashville’s community as well as engage and connect with the locals. Thank you Denise, for everything!Our Worm Bins have been improving, if by improving you mean that they haven’t drowned!Although my worm babies are just in the beginning stages of worm bins, I have high hopes for these little guys to break down the compost in 30 days’ worth of time! Fingers crossed!As the weather has been beautiful with a few bouts of rain, the Nashville Crew have taken advantage and took out our bikes to join in on the Music City Bike group, where a group of people get together to put the rubber to the ground, eventually ending up at a restaurant and all hanging out. Mike and Sophie ended up staying with the group and making new friends! And with the theme of trying to make new friends, the other night Mike, Sophie and I went out and biked to “East Nashville Underground” a music festival put on by a couple who love music, art and people! It was super fun, and we cut a rug! Mike and Sophie even contributed to the performing arts aspect of the Festival, wearing robot costumes and speaking in binary code for a portion of the night.And as the thermometer creeps upward the realizations of time past sets in. Some of us will move on other things. Sophie will go on and work for SCA in Mississippi, to continue being a fearless leader in the beautiful land of the South. Mike is taking on the Nashville crew for the summer, morphing into the fearless leader he has trained over the past two months to become so that he can teach young minds the minutiae and overall beauty of surveys. I too will stay in Nashville, living here and hoping to continue on with the amazing people and organizations that we have connected with other the spring program. Our involvement with The Nashville Food Project has left an impact on me, and I hope to volunteer and learn more from them in the future. Shelby Bottoms will continue to be one of my favorite places in Nashville, and I hope that my relationship will grow beyond this program with this wonderful center. My experience with merely being exposed to the beauty of the lakes of Tennessee via the surveys I will forever be thankful for. I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty interesting characters, to talk to the wonderful Park Rangers who work so hard for the Parks, to witness beautiful unassuming wildlife, to swim in deep blue waters, to drive stretches of land that many people will never get to see, because they are back roads, local roads, or just beautiful scenery. My experience this spring has given me the chance to sharpen my leadership skills, and I emerge on the other end more confident than ever. I know that once this program ends, I will forever appreciate my experience and the lessons that I have learned from Alex, Josiah and Liz; from Sophie and Mike; from my fellow SCAer’s; from Kyla, Matt, Dean, Deena and Meredith and others from the Army Corps of Engineers; from the wonderful locals of Nashville, TN and its surrounding area; and from the overall small talk and connections made with anyone and everyone during the course of this spring. Thank you.I’d also like to take a moment to say goodbye to the hissing Goose-couple at Sycamore Creek! You will always (and forever) terrify me. But you entertained me to no end. For that, I thank you Doris and Tina.Written by Eva Donnelly