Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Madison, Wisconsin, USA

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Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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Registered: September 2013
City/Town/Province: Madison
Posts: 1
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“Inspiring Humanity to Protect our Planet.”
By: Elizabeth

The Nicodemus Wilderness Project is a non-profit organization that coordinates volunteer events and activities. The organization was founded by Robert K. Dudley and was named after his grandfather Robert F. Nicodemus. Together they shared a passion for the environment, and felt a need to protect our natural resources. Robert Nicodemus was an everyday hero, and his dedication should be replicated in the following generations. By taking initiative and working as a team everyone has the ability to make a difference, and that is the primary focus of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project. Their slogans are “Educating by Example”, and “Inspiring Humanity to Protect our Planet.”

By offering programs like the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative they encourage everyone to contribute to the local environment. This E.P.A. supported opportunity is extended around the world, and everyone is encouraged to write an essay and photograph the experience. All of the essays and pictures are made available online and any individual aged 13-21 has an opportunity to win a scholarship for their hard work. By encouraging local groups to educate and participate in preserving our natural resources we encourage educating the coming generations.

I had heard of the Nicodemus Wilderness Foundation before, and located an opportunity from them on VolunteerMatch. I sent them a brief message stating that I was interested in contributing and they welcomed me with open arms. I was required to register an account to be able to post my essay to the online forum, and was encouraged to include pictures. I was excited to get started immediately.

Being a long time resident to Madison and the north and east side, Rhythm and Booms had become a tradition, and eventually a yearly irritation. I always knew it was time for Rhythm and Booms because I would often wake up to the sound of the hourly boom that lead up to the eventual performance. The booms were every hour on the hour from eight o’clock in the morning until the sunset around eight or nine o’clock. Knowing the effects that these performances have on the ecosystem concerns me, especially for Blading’s turtle and the Metalmark butterfly. Both are endangered local species that have been spotted in Warner Park. I want to contribute back to the environment that I unknowingly participated in damaging.

I hope to set a positive example in my neighborhood. I will be working primarily alone, but I intend to document before and after pictures of my work to show the progress that can be made. The north side of Madison is prone to crime and home to low-income housing and hard working people. Along Sherman Avenue there are eight schools and nine stores or bars that provide alcohol. It is also part of trucking routes, and it receives quite a bit of traffic on a regular basis. During my walks around the neighborhood I could not overlook the litter and overall condition my neighborhood is in. When the Isthmus wrote about the effects of Rhythm and Booms it was like being awoken from a bad dream. It was while I was walking past a particularly littered corner of my neighborhood that I decided to put my foot down.

I wanted to reduce litter and to encourage the principals of recycling (reduce, reusing, and recycling). As the fall months approach the leaves will begin to fall. It has been years since I have raked leaves, and although it is tedious work I enjoyed it each time. I think that with a little elbow grease and by showing a positive example that I can help beautify the north side.

On October 6th of 2013 I set out on a mission to beautify the north side of Madison. I devoted five hours of my day to cleaning up my neighborhood’s welcome sign and removing litter from a nearby bus stop shelter. The sign to the Brentwood neighborhood has large brushes and shrubs surrounding it. The shrubs create a menacing shadow by mid afternoon, and completely swallow the sign’s greeting.

The Brentwood neighborhood has a high crime rate and is also home to low income housing. Some of the streets are still midst construction and litter can be seen almost every five feet. Children and house pets roam freely, and as a consequence there have been premature deaths. At 1502 Trailsway apartment tenants must place their garbage cans down wind, when walking home it is impossible to avoid a face full of the smell of garbage. The litter and negative atmosphere do not contribute to instilling positive values in our community. By working alone and with dedication I hoped to set a positive example and to inspire the Brentwood neighborhood to welcome positive change.

I started by removing large fallen branches from the yard around the Brentwood Neighborhood sign; one branch was so large that I had to remove smaller limbs before placing it at the curb near the road. The easiest way to accomplish this was by grabbing the limbs near the base (about 2-3 inches away from breaking point or the joint where the limb meets the trunk) and to pull down in the opposite direction the limb was originally angled. Some of the limbs were so large that it was necessary to break the limb twice at 180-degree increments.

After removing the tree branches I inspected the welcome sign. There was lots of dead and over growth, garbage was peppered within the flora, leaves had begun to fall, and thistle bushes had begun to spring up as well. I decided to start at the top and to work my way down. I knew not to remove more than 25% of the overall growth, and aimed modestly at 10-15% instead. I started pruning the tops of the bushes, and at points used my bamboo rake as a faux hand to grasp some of the highest branches. The tallest bush lay behind the sign, and I worked my way around as if cutting hair, removing minimal foliage at the previously mentioned joints and focusing on regaining symmetry.

Now that the uppermost brush had been taken care of I began to focus more on the front of the sign. Using the new gardening shears I had purchased I pruned back over extended branches that had begun to engulf the front of the sign. Finally light was able to reach the top of the sign, and I began to prune back a very old juniper brush that concealed the word ‘Welcome’ entirely. At points I would use my rake to remove fallen trimmings from the brush, and was disgusted to find that soda cans, alcohol bottles, and other garbage had been seemingly shoved inside of the branches. I began to create a pile of the refuse I removed and continued to prune and trim any dying branches or growth.

There were two other smaller species of brush used in the foliage decorations for the sign that I was not able to identify. Each was a polar opposite of the other; one had begun to wither, while the other looked overwatered and wilted from supporting the dead growth. I pulled candy wrappers from the growth, and after ensuring that one could read ‘Brentwood Neighborhood Welcomes You” from the street I decided it was time to start raking. Fall brings the sunset earlier, and on this day it had been grey all day. With the first sprinkles starting, I knew I would have to be quick and to keep an eye on the weather conditions.

I was incredibly content with having purchased the bamboo rake that I did. It was very light and quick to grab leaves without requiring much hefting. I decided to pull all of the cuttings and dead growth out from the arrangement in a uniform circle. From there the leaves would be easier to bunch together and collect in bags that would be emptied next to the tree branches I had collected previously. As I made my way around I continued to pull out litter amongst the leaves. At points I was horrified to find that my rake had grabbed a used feminine sanitary pad and a number of discarded condoms from deep within the bowels of the brush. Thankful that I had brought a surplus of rubber gloves I quickly discarded these items into a waste receptacle near the bus stop I also intended to improve.

As I was working several individuals approached me with smiles on their faces. The most asked question was “Do you do this everyday?” and “Is this your job?” I explained to them briefly that I was volunteering for the Nicodemus Wilderness Project and also working on a project for school. I had seen a need for change in my neighborhood and took initiative to make it happen, and everyone I spoke with appreciated that. This helped motivate me even more than the imposing weather conditions.

After assembling the leaf pile, I took a step back to inspect my handiwork and felt content. Now the sign was visible not only from Trailsway but also from the bus stop on North Sherman Avenue. Pulling the garbage bag I had brought with me from my bag; I began to remove the previously piled litter and the surrounding from the bus stop as well. There were numerous bottles of alcohol, soda cans, large plastic bottles, a surplus of candy bar wrappers, half empty bags of chips, cigarette butts, bottle tops, plastic cups, bus tickets, receipts, and toilet paper. While I collected these discarded items I also noticed a large amount of broken cement and black top scattered in chunks in between the welcome sign and bus stop. I removed these from the grass and placed them along the bank of the run off canal near by where other large amounts of rock debris lay gathered.

As I scribed in side walk chalk the words “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” the light sprinkle of rain I had felt earlier turned into a drizzle. It was after seven and I knew the sun would be setting soon if it had not yet already, with the grey atmosphere included it had grown quite dark. I was thankful for the street light at the corner near the bus stop, and noticed the lack of another until the next block. The corner bus stop is quite dark, especially with the trees behind it. At night it is near impossible to see the welcome sign at all, and walking at night here would make almost anyone nervous.

Before I departed I tried to photograph my efforts as best as I could, but with the lack of the light this was difficult and I decided to come back the next day to see the sign with full light. When returned I brought my fiancée with me, and we both stepped back and appreciated my efforts. My work was wonderful, and although I still saw areas for improvement I knew that progress had been made.

Unfortunately when I had returned to the bus stop I was disappointed to see that already litter had begun to accumulate again. Quickly I removed the debris and once again became determined. I will quite regularly go for walks in my neighborhood, and after seeing the difference in one day I have decided to start carrying sets of rubber gloves with me when I do so. A little bit goes a long way, and by forming a positive habit it may encourage people to appreciate the effort even more, or even better to motivate them to help make a difference.
· Date: October 7, 2013 · Views: 2258 · File size: 16.0kb, 2093.7kb · : 2592 x 1944 ·
Hours Volunteered: 10
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 20.
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 0.2
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 50
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