The next generation of environmental stewards are being trained at the Cook County Forest Reserve.chicago news

Chicago Conservancy crews cut buckthorns at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in August 2022. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

While federal legislation to create a modern civil protection unit passes through Congress, the Cook County Forest Reserve is going full speed ahead with a program to deploy youth and adult crews to work on district-wide restoration and maintenance projects. I’m here.

On a swamp-turning August morning, 17-year-old Nasser Broadnax and 15-year-old Trevon Dixon steadily rake and tamp freshly laid gravel while improving trails at the Sand Ridge Nature Center. was

Both admitted that if it hadn’t been for their summer jobs, they would still be sleeping. Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps (One Three legion options for Preserves, all paid positions), but “the more productive you are, the better,” says Dixon. “I like working hard.”

High school students are part of a 10-man crew (and crew leader) assigned to Sandridge for five weeks, with the majority of teenagers hailing from Calumet Park or South Holland. Corps crews assigned to other nature centers are similarly recruited from surrounding communities to reduce travel time, explains Alice Brandon, her manager of resource programs for the district. .

Brandon said Nature Center staff are focused on providing services to visitors, including offering public programs, and provide much-needed manpower when it comes to managing the reserve’s 70,000 acres. I’m here.

“We have volunteers, conservation crews, contractors and staff,” she said. “They are all toolkit tools. You have to decide who to deploy where and for what.”

Contractors tend to have more experience and access to heavy equipment, adult personnel may be sent to remote locations to tackle more complex and tedious tasks, and youth may be exposed to the district’s natural environment. placed in the center. Brandon explained that there are more diverse projects than just teens (such as toilets and air conditioners).

The center, frankly, raises public awareness of youth groups. This is a strategic consideration for underfunded, donor-dependent programs that operate in partnership with organizations such as Friends of the Forest Preserves and Friends of the Forest Preserves. Student Preservation Society“This is free advertising,” says Brandon.

video: Conservancy in action at the Sand Ridge Nature Center. (Patti Wetley/WTTW News)

Deep in the forest of Sand Ridge, half the crew wielded saws and loppers in a fight against buckthorn, clearing a section of invasive scrub forest. The results of their efforts soon became apparent.

“You can literally turn around and see what you’ve done right after the morning,” said Giancarlo Narcisi, one of two adult crew leaders.

16-year-old Keilah Jackson enlisted in the Corps because he could make an immediate positive impact.

“I’ve always wanted to help make the environment better,” Jackson said. “I like the idea of ​​going out and being helpful.”

Whether it’s creating natural playgrounds for children, removing invasive species, or grooming trails, teenagers are just as likely to benefit from their labor as the reserve. Some say they have benefited from the experience and have acquired skills that will help them in “real life.”

“Confidence, communication skills, persistence. Any skill is fine,” Broadnax said.

“I definitely learned what poison ivy is like,” adds 18-year-old Frances Boerman-Cornell. Hard work is the norm for girls here. She is undeniably empowering. ”

They all agreed that being surrounded by nature was a different kind of learning experience.

“We took a lot of pictures of slugs and turtles. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is amazing,” said crew leader Keisha Riggins. “I go to college for criminal justice, which can be pretty stressful. Working outside put me in a peaceful environment.”

Conservation Corps members improve trails at Sand Ridge Nature Center in August 2022. (Patti Wetri / WTTW News)Conservation Corps members improve trails at Sand Ridge Nature Center in August 2022. (Patti Wetri / WTTW News)

For some, joining the youth corps created a career calling.

Sand Ridge Assistant Crew Leader Jomareun Richardson is in his fourth year with the Corps. Now 20, he majors in Environmental Science and Sustainability at Illinois State University.

“Honestly, I wasn’t interested in nature. I feel like it,” said Richardson.

In the big picture, properly maintaining protected areas is part of a larger ecological puzzle related to climate change and the biodiversity crisis, he said. may seem small, but it is important,” he said.

But this work is equally important at the micro level in terms of ensuring that people have access to nature.

“I knew there was a forest reserve in Cook County, but it was a bit of a shock to find this one here,” said Richardson, who grew up in Calumet Park. “These forest reserves are very important to the people of Chicago. Not everyone can afford to go to a national or state park.

Inspirations like Richardson’s are one reason the Conservancy’s program is essential for forest reserves, Brandon says.

Cook County protects globally endangered ecosystems, but a portion of the population sees the land as ripe for development and could create future protectors. She said it was essential.

“More and more young people are being cut off from nature,” said Brandon. “If the next generation doesn’t care, there will be no forest reserves.”

Contact Patti Wetri: @pattywetli | | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]

The next generation of environmental stewards are being trained at the Cook County Forest Reserve.chicago news

Source link The next generation of environmental stewards are being trained at the Cook County Forest Reserve.chicago news

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