SCA, Cuyahoga Valley, and Nestlé Partner to Remove Invasives
On Thursday, August 2nd, Nestlé gathered at Terra Vista Natural Study Area alongside SCA and Cuyahoga Valley National Park to continue a seemingly never-ending battle with invasive species. More than 140 participants came together to remove over 60,000 square feet of invasive autumn olive and honeysuckle! This was no small feat as many of these invasive plants were either almost as tall as or were taller than the volunteers and densely packed.
Throughout the day, the Nestlé employee volunteers worked hard to remove the invasives making room for native trees and wildflowers to take back their spaces. Anyone who walked past could tell the enormous impact the group was having on this area. One of the project leaders, Erica Larson, a SCA and Cuyahoga Valley alumna, recounted the day from her perspective:
— Stepping onto the Terra Vista Natural Study Area, Terra Vista for short, was a little like stepping through a time warp into my past. Back to when I was still in my 20’s – young, strong, and determined to devote my life to conservation and sustainability. The last time I visited Terra Vista in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), I was an intern with Student Conservation Association (SCA), dedicating my days to the removal of non-native invasive plant species. One in particular, called Autumn Olive, is highly prevalent at Terra Vista and is only removed by cutting, sawing, applying herbicide, and then sometimes by burning the areas where the plant had grown. It’s hard work but a labor of love. My time as an SCA intern was mind-blowing, physically exhausting, character building, and I couldn’t wait to do it again for one more day.
SCA and CVNP’s long-standing partnership sometimes involves hosting volunteer days for companies who are looking for ways to give back. As an SCA alum, I was offered the opportunity to oversee a group of approximately 20 volunteers as they worked to remove Autumn Olive from the park. Terra Vista is much as I remembered it. Vast, green, and although there are plenty of invasive species to be removed, beautiful.
An SCA staffer pointed out Autumn Olive to the group and said “once you see this, you can’t unsee it” and she was right. Unlike other plants, Autumn Olive is easy to identify with it’s silver toned leaves. The day’s volunteers picked up quickly on identifying the plant and went right to work. For over two hours they worked as a cohesive team in the hot sun, cutting down and piling up thousands of square feet of Autumn Olive. These were gung-ho volunteers and the dedication I saw was inspiring. I spoke to one woman who said that she chose to volunteer in the park that day because she just loves the outdoors. She was excited for the opportunity to help our local national park to thrive and to spend the day outside when she would normally be behind a desk.
I started working along-side the volunteers, using a lopper to cut down smaller Autumn Olive trees. The younger plants are thorn-covered and I was glad that I had remembered to wear long sleeves that day – even in over 80 degree weather. As I worked, I couldn’t help but think about the crew that I had worked with in the past and the relationships that are built when doing hard work together for the greater good. You learn to rely on each other, to play off of each other’s strengths, and to pick up where you see someone struggling. This same thing was happening in front of me but with a new crew. People who work together every day were tackling a new project and a new concept where they needed to learn to work together in a new way.
Projects like these are beneficial in so many ways. Our environment and habitats are positively affected, our bodies enjoy the sunlight, fresh air, and exercise, our relationships are strengthened, and we find an inner peace that you only get from contemplation in nature. What an experience it was to work in the park. I am more than thankful to have found myself back at Terra Vista even if only for a day. —
With inumerable piles of invasives removed, Nestlé employee volunteers were ready to celebrate the hard work they had put in at Terra Vista Natural Study Area alongside SCA and CVNP. The volunteers’ service was a vital step forward towards a native habitat for a diverse species of plants and animals. At the end of the day, everyone departed with smiles on their faces and appetites worked up, heading towards a much deserved lunch break.
Special thanks to Cuyahoga Valley National Park for their parntership with SCA and to Nestlé for their support of SCA conservation projects across the country!