Pre-College Programs

Removal of Invasive Species

From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change

Author: Melanie Goddard

My action plan, which was completed August 28, 2010, was to remove invasive species from the local park, Pine Lake Park, to preserve the native plants in my community and for the safety of the young children who played there and on the nearby beach. At first, I wanted to try to get a customized project with the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust, but I will admit it was also because I did not want to deal with all the politics that trying to clean a city park might entail. I soon found out that Pine Lake Park was a private city park, and not a state park, and therefore the Trust did not have any rights to work on the property. It took a day to muster up enough courage to write the email to the city volunteer manager and coordinator, but when I did, I found out that the city already had a plan to do just what I had wanted to do. At first I thought to simply join that project and call it good, but then the coordinator told me the city native plant garden (which almost no one knew existed) was badly in need of weeding, and that she could help me set up a project there.

The next step was moving the members of my community, namely my friends, to come do the project with me. That was what turned out to be the hardest part—people were busy, the Washingtonian weather was unpredictable (a large percent chance of rain), and many of my friends were too lazy or squeamish of getting dirty to come pull up invasive weeds for two or three hours. However, one thing I learned from BELL was how to connect and make your ideas appealing. I pointed out that many of my friends, members of National Honor Society, needed community service hours, and that we would have food. That way, I managed to scrape up seven people to join me. Altogether, including the supervisors and myself, we had eleven volunteers. Personally, I was a little disappointed—I had hoped for more, but the coordinator told me that any support was better than none. I have learned to set my standards lower now.

In three hours, we removed a truckload full of weeds and brought a semblance of order to the garden. The city now looks to me for contacts and volunteers for nature related events. The confidence I gained at BELL has stayed with me now as I move into another part of the community—my school. Skyline High School has an environmental club, but it is small and poorly managed. I joined quite recently, but was elected President by the third meeting due to the inactivity of the last president and other officers. We are now taking ungainly, but rapid, steps toward expanding the club and gaining more members, and all of us hope that the club can do great things in the future of the school, such as make an organic plant garden and advocate environmental awareness and education.

I feel that most of the reason I feel better about doing this than before is because of the experience of being forced out of my comfort zone at BELL. No one knew me, and I knew no one, so there was no familiarity to fold in on but on myself. It would have been a long two weeks if I hadn’t unwound enough to make friends. Now, it is easier to assert myself and jump into those situations, and thanks to that, I was actually able to make change in my community, and continue to help make change today.

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