Lifetime impact

By: Rose Lundy

I am evidence that early exposure to conservation work can impact a lifetime. When I was 16-years-old, I chose to do a four-week program related to Conservation Corps called Student Conservation Association, instead of going to Europe for two weeks with my family. My older brother had spent the summer working in Uganda and we were all supposed to meet him in Amsterdam when he was done, but I was assigned to a crew in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania at the same exact time. Instead of Amsterdam, I chose to fly to a place I had never been before, to live and work with people I didn’t know. My parents came home with stories about canals and old bell towers. I came home with stories about shoveling swamp grass and lopping tree branches. I loved it.

The next two summers I was on crews at the Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. After my first year in college, I did a 10-week internship at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. I went on to have two full-time, paid summer internships at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency before spending this summer working for Conservation Corps.

My point is that when I was 16, I applied to a youth environmental association on a whim, and it directed my life for the next six years. I got a college degree in journalism, but somehow I keep applying for and accepting conservation jobs. I was exposed to the importance of environmental protection and appreciation at an impressionable time in my life, and it will be impossible for me to forget those values in the future.

Conservation Corps is an honorable organization on a very surface level with tangible environmental efforts such as invasive species removal and trail clearing. But it also goes so much deeper than that. The young people who are hired to spend their time protecting the environment are impacted in ways we can never know. It is hard to see the influence of one job on another person’s life trajectory, but I am here to tell you that those four weeks I spent in Pennsylvania instead of going to Europe completely altered my current career path and my outlook on life.

I was sad to leave Conservation Corps at the end of summer, but I only signed up for that length of time because I have been planning a trip to New Zealand. I have been saving money for a long time now, but my friend and I are also planning to work to make it more financially possible. We will travel around the islands working for host families in exchange for free room and board. Most of this work will be organic gardening, farm maintenance, brush clearing, and composting — all skills I have practiced this summer with Conservation Corps! It is clear that my first step in Pennsylvania is still influencing my choices today.

Our environment is beautiful and important, and we need young people to care about it. My generation will soon lead the charge on conservation, and organizations like Conservation Corps are crucial to reinforcing the value of a healthy environment.

If you want to follow Rose’s adventures in organic farming in New Zealand, her personal blog is roselundy.wordpress.com

Urban Rain Gardening

By: Rose Lundy

IMG_1854.jpeg

I have never been much of a gardener. My mom would work tirelessly out in our tiny city backyard, pulling creeping charlie, meticulously planting flowers and propping up plants with metal cages. I used to help her with as much interest as I showed doing any other necessary, but dull tasks, such as laundry or vacuuming. Then I started working with Conservation Corps, and suddenly most of my days were filled with gardening tasks: weeding, planting, trimming, composting. And somewhere along the way I gained a new appreciation for such intricate work.

I have learned this summer just how valuable rain gardens are to urban conservation. When I think of conservation, I often picture remote parks that are nearly untouched by modernizing forces, where dedicated environmentalists spend their lives preserving the wilderness. However, urban conservation is quite a bit different than this image. When there are a lot of people living in one place, chemicals and pollution are naturally going to move around, especially when it rains. In a city, there often is a lot of concrete, so there are fewer places for rain to be absorbed into the ground. As a result, the rainwater flows over roads and into storm drains, gathers pollution and sediment, and collects somewhere like Como Lake.

However, if we have multiple small rain gardens along that path, the runoff has somewhere to dump the soil and join the groundwater. Rain gardens are often situated in a slight basin so that when it rains, the water gathers there and is drawn into the ground. Native plants absorb chemicals in the runoff, extracting the pollutants out of the water. This absorbs runoff, prevents pollution movement and helps refresh groundwater.

Rain gardens are a wonderful, natural solution to a common problem in the city. But they do take a lot of maintenance. It is necessary to constantly remove invasive species and trim overgrown parts. My crew often returns to the same rain gardens to clear soil from the outlets, remove weeds and shovel out sediment. The reality is that these projects are never finished — we will never be able to cross it off on a to-do list and move on forever. Future crews will probably have to return to the same locations to take care of the work that crews started years before them. And yet, the benefits make all the effort worthwhile.

Maybe I will never learn to love gardening in my own backyard, but I now understand a garden’s crucial role in an urban environment.