Youth@Work 2016 Week 1
Welcome to the Youth@Work 2016 Blog!
We are really excited to have a great group of kids working with us this summer, to keep East Rock Park beautiful! Remember to check the blog periodically to see all the different projects we will be tackling this year.
Week one was hot, humid, and lots of fun! Despite the heat (and the bugs) the team got right to work on different parts of the park that needed a little care.
Tuesday, July 5th
After the holiday weekend, the crew started the workday with a HUGE trash sweep of College Woods.
There was a lot to pick up. Full grills, charcoal and lots of paper plates, plastic cutlery, and cans and bottles were picked up.
It is so important to try your best to leave no trace when picnicking in the park. It makes more enjoyable for people, plants, and animals who rely on the park.
The crew was able to get College Woods back to the way it looks best: free of trash.
The crew then moved on to sprucing up the playground at College Woods.
Raking fallen leaves, sweeping sand and pulling weeds got the playground looking great!
The little kids at the park loved watching the big kids taking care of their park.
After a morning full of hard work, we took the afternoon to explore the park, and to get to know each other. We decided to hike to Whitney falls!
Half of the team had never been there before, and it was great to see all the beauty the park has to offer.
We ended our first day very tired, but feeling good about what we had already accomplished.
Wednesday, July 6th
On day 2, we started off with some stretching and yoga led by East Rock community member and yoga instructor Ashley Emerson! She was nice enough to join us at 8 in the morning, and teach us the best ways to stretch our muscles to make sure we don’t injure ourselves doing the heavy lifting and hard work that comes along with the program.
After learning some great techniques, we make sure to stretch before work in the morning, and in the afternoon before heading home.
Then he gave us a pair of binoculars, and we went out into the park to see if we could find any ourselves!
The Bird feeder Ranger Dan puts out every morning is a great place to spot some beautiful birds. We saw blue jays, cardinals, red-winged black birds, and cowbirds hanging out there. Lots of squirrels too!
We also learned that looking into the other end of binoculars would allow us to look at things as if through a magnifying glass. We looked at flowers, slugs, mushrooms, and daddy long-legs up close!
We learned a lot, and saw a lot on our bird talk with Ranger Dan. We were able to spot a peregrine falcon nest, cat birds, more cardinals and blue jays, MANY robins, downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers, and a red tail hawk up close!! (I was too mesmerized to take pictures!)
Then, after lunch, the crew had to move on to a less enjoyable task…
removing Japanese knotweed!!
Knotweed is one of the most prevalent invasive species in the park, and also one of the hardest to eradicate. As a study done by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources states, “As much as two thirds of the mature plant’s biomass is stored underground in its extensive systems of thick rhizomes… In addition, fragments of both stem and root material can sprout, giving rise to new plants or entire colonies. While fragments near the soil’s surface are most likely to sprout, sprouting has been demonstrated from fragments up to 1 m (39 in) deep. Because of this, it presents an enormous threat along rivers, streams and floodplains, where plant parts may be washed downstream by flood waters. It can also be spread inadvertently during construction and road maintenance, by mowing crews and in fill dirt.” (Source: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/knotweed_BCP_372280_7.pdf )
Having said all that…its pretty nasty.
This ended up being a two-day project for us, but we gave ourselves a pretty good start this afternoon.
Thursday, July 7th
To start the morning, we headed back to the corner of Orange Street and Farnam Drive to finish off the knotweed!
We removed 10 bags in total. It was a lot of work on such a hot day, but these kids work hard.
All the knotweed needs to be bagged up and thrown away– or else it could re-root and start growing again where every we leave it. Like I said, nasty stuff.
Next Monday we will head back to this site and cover the area with mulch. This will help to prevent the knotweed from re-growing too quickly.
After this big effort, we did a ‘sit spot’ activity in which each crew member found a spot by themselves along one of the trails throughout the park. They sat there for 25-30 minutes quietly observing the nature around them. I asked them to take notes on the things they noticed that stood out to them, and after the about a half an hour, we all came back together to share what we had seen.
Some of the crew were sitting by the Mill river, and noticed frogs, fish, birds (blue jays and great egrets!), and unfortunately trash floating down the river. One of the crew members even tried out the bird calls that Ranger Dan had taught us on Wednesday.
Other members sitting away from the water on the trail noticed an increase in people passing by them, and chipmunks!
We had a great conversation about what we noticed and how our sit spots were different. This is definitely an activity we will do again.
In the afternoon, the crew did a great job clearing the Black trail from the entrance at East Rock Road all the way to the Whitney Gate.
There were many fallen leaves on the trail from the past year, but we were able to rake it out, and get it back to looking great.
This will make it safer for runners and more enjoyable for hikers throughout the park.
The crew was happy, but VERY tired when we finished up. This was the hottest, and most humid day all week!
On Friday, we were lucky enough to have Ranger Dan give us another talk on the invasive species in the park. This will be really helpful information for the crew throughout the rest of the program. We will be pulling out many of these species!
As we walked through the trails, Ranger Dan pointed out and described some of the most invasive, non-native species in the park. Some of the most prevalent were: Norway maple, bittersweet, knotweed (but we already knew that), garlic mustard, winged euonymus, multiflora rose, and barberry.
After the invasives talk, Ranger Dan needed our help removing a large tree that had recently fallen across the white trail.
The crew was really interested in watching Ranger Dan chainsaw the tree. It was a difficult job, but we learned a lot watching him make different cuts.
Periodically, we would remove debris so he could have a clear path to the tree.
Eventually, we had to move the large logs he had cut down so they wouldn’t block the path. They were HEAVY so we worked as a team to carefully roll them off to the side.
Now hikers have a clear path to reach the trail to the summit!
When we finished up we headed back to the Rangers station where David Shimchick and David Budries joined us for a pizza lunch, which was delicious! We chatted about the work we had done so far, and how the crew members felt after the first week of the program. Some people thought the program was what they were expecting before starting, but others were surprised to see the kind of work we will be doing. Everyone agreed that we hope for better weather next week!
After plenty of pizza and soda, we headed back out to accomplish a few more things before the end of the week. We focused on raking the picnic a and weeding and re-mulching the garden next to the playground.
We were happy with the work we had done, and agreed that it really made the area look nice.
AND THEN WE FOUND THE BIGGEST BEETLE EVER!
We carefully moved it to a safe spot, and wrapped up a great first week of work!
See you next week!