We’ve talked a lot this week about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy he left behind of service and mindful conversation. On Monday, Maureen talked about her experience in AmeriCorps and how she witnessed service bringing together people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and education levels. This past Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I experienced something similar.
Unlike my fellow Regional Coordinator, Corrine, I don’t mind getting dirty, I know what a watershed is, and I have participated in invasive species removals several times in the past; so the idea of travelling down to Denton to help the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with their MLK Day trail restoration project at 2 Johns Preserve was in no way daunting to me. What was slightly daunting was the cold, the two hour drive, and the requisite 5:45 am alarm that went along with it. I am not a morning person.
However, it didn’t take long for the leaf raking, tree trimming, and good conversation to warm me up and wake me up. I spent several minutes raking alongside one volunteer and found out that she lived two houses down from the trailhead. She said she was one of several residents who had come out that day to help with the cleanup efforts and that it was the first time in many years that a major cleanup event like that had happened. Although she and the other residents who came out use the trails at 2 Johns for their intended purpose of walking and enjoying the beauty of nature, more often than not, they see people on dirt bikes and ATVs riding the trails, people playing paintball in the woods, and coming in to collect firewood—all prohibited activities on a preserve such as 2 Johns. She believed, and I agree, that it was a matter of education; people don’t know that they aren’t supposed to do these things on the preserve. Hopefully the cleanup efforts will raise awareness of the preserve and bring in more residents from the surrounding community to use the trails for walking, running, and bird watching.
While the cleanup brought together residents from the surrounding community, it also brought together AmeriCorps members from several different programs, Volunteer Maryland included. The project was co-hosted by Habitat for Humanity Choptank, who brought several of their AmeriCorps VISTA members, and attended by the Maryland Conservation Corps Assateague State Park Crew. It was great to see so many AmeriCorps members coming together to help with the restoration and their hard work definitely contributed to the success of the project that day.
The day ended with a nature walk along the trail that allowed volunteers to see the results of their work and learn a little more about the history of the preserve and some of the trees and plants that can be found within it. I think it’s safe to say that everyone learned something that day, whether about tree identification or the neighborhood they live in. I think, in that sense, the event embodied Dr. King’s vision by bringing together locals and outsiders and giving us all a chance to learn about each other and discuss the issues we encountered that day. They may not have been civil rights or human needs issues, but environmental issues affect everyone and are just as important to discuss. If you’re interested in learning more about ESLC and how you can get involved and help them preserve the heritage and character of the Eastern Shore, check out their website!