Community Engagement Fellow: Ally Ratliff
There is nothing quite like adventuring in the great outdoors. You strap on your worn mud-packed boots, fill your water bottle, and head out to the trail head. In front of you is endless hues of nature. The trees cascade down the mountainside, eager for you to summit. As you look down the path, a squirrel scurries by. Just for a moment, you take in the smell of the live soil, the sounds of birds chirping and then you are off! On another adventure, seeing what Mother Nature has in store for you.
Along the way you find bear tracks, see a family of deer, and ford a river. As you come to the tree line, soil gives way to life’s fundamental elements, rock, and lichen. The wind begins to howl. You follow the trail signs that now are painted on the bare rock instead of on the tree’s bark. As you turn a switchback, you can see the trail sign indicating the summit 100 yards ahead. Your pace quickens to reach it, and finally you are there.
The summit is majestic; you are on top of the world, seeing for miles all around. In one direction there are boats making harbor, and in another, cars drive through town looking like toy cars on a child’s race set. Suddenly, a big gust comes up behind you, and you find a rock for shelter. It’s the perfect time for lunch. You take some homemade beef jerky, trail mix, and an apple out of your pack. As you eat, the sun comes out and warms your chilled ears. The wind dies down for a few minutes, signaling for your journey to continue. You strap your pack back on, and, with one last glance back, you begin the descent.
These types of connections have instilled within me a desire to protect natural lands. When I was a child, yet to know of the complexities that the world presents, I instinctively wanted to be a part of conservation efforts. This instinct led me to graduate from college with a B.S. in Environment Science and a minor in Environmental Writing. With the advice from a professor, I pursued opportunities with the Student Conservation Association (SCA).
This pursuit led me to many different parts of the United States. In New Hampshire, my love and respect for trails expanded as I strove to rebuild existing paths. In Indiana, I discovered plant diversity and the complexities of ecosystems, while I helped to restore prairie and black oak savanna lands. In Alaska and New York, I learned just how critical streambank stabilization methods are to aquatic ecosystems through tending to them. I also found myself teaching science for two and a half years in Dallas, Texas.
As each of these pages in my story turned, I experienced new adventures with nature, and I am very excited to continue that journey as a Community Engagement Fellow this summer. I will be striving to connect communities and provide them with the opportunity to forge a closer bond with their local and national lands.
#NestléCares, a national day of volunteering across Nestlé’s 120 U.S. hometowns, is one such opportunity. Nestlé and SCA have teamed up to host conservation events in ten different cities on August 10th. In Ohio, SCA and Nestlé volunteers will be traveling to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, in order to help to restore the park’s extensive 125-mile trail network. These trails support exploration of nature, while building connections between people and the land. The trails are used regularly by the various camps at Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center and by the public.
The Ohio event is just a sneak peek into all of the exciting events happening via this partnership. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs featuring other locations and juicy bites of information on new SCA developments.