I originally wrote this post about a month ago…oops! That doesn’t change the fact that this was still an awesome experience and totally worth sharing, though.

Two Six weeks ago, I had the chance to help out at my first Habitat Restoration Event! Despite ominous weather and general uncertainty about how the day would proceed, it went really well and we got some amazing work done. One of the unique and occasionally frustrating parts of our park is that we don’t actually own most of the land within the park; we often work with land-owning partners, like the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, to set up restoration events. Such was the case for this event, hosted at a site called East River Flats.

We worked with a group of about 20 students from Volunteers of America High School who were involved with the National Parks Conservation Association. For many of these kids, growing up in an urban area meant they didn’t have many opportunities to get out and explore nature. They were participating in our service activity then going out and paddling on the Mississippi River with Wilderness Inquiry, a local nonprofit that organizes inclusive recreational opportunities around the world. For the students, this was a day to explore their city as a natural area and experience it in a new and fun way.

For our portion of the day, we organized the students to pull invasive fox tails out of raingardens and trim burdock growing along the hillside. I was impressed by how readily and thoroughly they took to the task, working together to nearly eradicate fox tails in one of the gardens. We collected around nine large trash bags full of foxtails! The group working on burdock got a similar amount done, and their efforts turned the hillside from something straight out of a haunted house to a much less terrifying collection of stumps and twigs.
I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. I definitely had some anxieties at the beginning of the day because I don’t have much experience with habitat restoration and invasives, but the work was fun and easier than I expected. It was also nice to work with active volunteers; so much of my time has been spent recruiting and developing programs that I rarely get to see the fruits of my labor. Sometimes you just need to dig and and get a little dirty to remember that you’re actually getting things done.