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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Jester Park, Granger, Iowa, USA

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Jester Park, Granger, Iowa, USA
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Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Des Moines
Posts: 1
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Some day, I want to be working for a park, educating the public on how to be a land steward. I have always had a secret love for nature but was never able to pursue it until I turned 16 and earned my license and a car. When I first visited Jester Park in Granger, Iowa, I was seventeen years old. I instantly fell in love with its land which has an equestrian, golf course, pond for kayaking and canoeing, multiple hiking trails, a recently build nature center, and its main attraction, an area where buffalo and elk can roam for the public to see.
So, as soon as an opportunity opened-up to get involved, I took it. It was an internship as part of a youth corps program through Polk County Conservation. I continued to work the same internship the following summer and plan on applying to be a leader in the summer of 2020 to come. As a member, who worked with a group of peers, many conservation projects were accomplished such as the removal of invasive species, water quality testing, tree planting, picking up trash, etc. During my time in the youth corps, I learned many useful skills and met a lot of individuals, like peers, volunteers, and professionals, who were all passionate about their community and being land stewards. They are the reason I chose to do an Apprentice Ecologist Project on the behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project. I also wanted to help Jester Park for the public, the park itself, and my love of conservation. I thought what better way to do that than by bringing those three things together to conduct a project that helps maintain a locally loved park.
My project was not too far from the new nature center at Jester Park- in an area just across from the golf course and off to the side of the road. Me and a group of five friends all met up at the nature center at nine in the morning on May 11th, 2019. There, I introduced them to the conservationist who approved the project and graciously let us borrow supplies to use for the occasion. Afterward, we all hopped into a Polk County van and were transported a little less than a mile away. Each of us, then, put on protective gear (gloves, glasses, and hard hats), grabbed a tool, chemical, or trash bag, and headed to a patch of wooded area across the street from where we parked. For 2 hours, we removed honeysuckle and garlic mustard, which are both known for being invasive in Iowa. Honeysuckle was sprayed with a chemical and piled up to be picked up later and garlic mustard was pulled out by the root and gathered in trash bags. Once the 2 hours were up, we made our way over to another area near the lake that had recently been flooded. There was debris everywhere so we all individually grabbed a trash bag and trash picker upper and began the process of clean-up for the next 1-2 hours. In the end, everything was weighed. A total of 25.4 pounds of garlic mustard, 15.3 pounds of trash, 15.6 pounds of recyclables, and a whole lot of honeysuckle was cleared out in less than 4 hours!
This project helped benefit Jester Park by bringing the park one step closer to its original state with no trash or invasive species. Jester was an important area to conduct my project because it is not only loved by the local community but by many people all over the world that come and visit the small town of Des Moines, Iowa. I want them to be able to see the land as it once was and in a condition that would best bring out its beauty. The land is important to maintain for the majority of the public who enjoy spending their time in the outdoors, specifically at Jester Park. That would include family members, friends, park staff, or anyone who loves the park as much as I do. I want Jester to be a clean environment where people are happy to come together as a community from near and far.
My Apprentice Ecology Project made me realize that even a small group of individuals can make a difference. I did not think much of the impact of volunteering in my community until I saw what my group and I were accomplishing as a team. Before we started, it was close to impossible to walk through the patch of honeysuckle, but after we cleared it out, we were easily able to see and walk through the area. I loved the feeling of looking back at the piles of honeysuckle and trash we removed, knowing my project was the reason it was now an open area as it should have been in the first place. The feeling inspired me to do it again and even pursue a career path in the field of conservation. I am now attending Iowa State University, studying Forestry so one day I will be able to work for a park and continue bringing the community together through environmental projects like the one I conducted this year. I also want others to enjoy and have the same passion for their environment as I do and know the rewarding feeling of being a land steward.
Date: December 30, 2019 Views: 2351 File size: 23.7kb, 5469.2kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 24
Volunteers: 6
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 to 18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 0.3
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 14.0
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