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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Belmar Park, Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Belmar Park, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
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Registered: November 2008
City/Town/Province: Lakewood
Posts: 1
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It seems that the entire country is “going green”—recycling bins are popping up everywhere, public transportation is at peak popularity, and an entire channel dedicated to environmental friendliness will even be hitting the air in a matter of months. But perhaps, rather than a countrywide personality change, Americans are simply becoming more aware of the far-reaching consequences resulting from past practices. This sentiment is certainly true when applied to myself. I never used to notice the destruction of the planet that was happening all around me, until one day when it just clicked. I was walking home from school (a rare occurrence in those days) when I noticed how truly disgusting the path was. Great quantities of trash were heaped in the grass, most of it recyclable.
I won’t lie and claim my sudden epiphany changed the entire trend of my life in that same day. It was a much slower transition. Several weeks later, I joined my school’s Environmental Club (during which all the recycling bins and boxes in the entire school are sorted and emptied). It wasn’t for a few months that I began to take any kind of leadership in the Green movement.
My project was officially born two weeks before Spring Break. Once more, the idea came during a walk home from school. Using the same all-important path through Belmar Park as I had earlier, my initial feelings of disgust at the trash littering the ground were renewed. The lovely grassland area that had so much potential to be a serene escape from urban life was still marked by signs of human recklessness. I then knew it was in my power to do something about the problem, and so I took the responsibility into my hands.
Within a matter of days, I had contacted the city regarding my pet project. Though the chain of emails detailing any permission needed was interminably long and at times indecipherable, I persevered. The process proceeded as I’m sure the process of arranging any community effort is bound to do: one stirs up a great deal of hype and enthusiasm, many others wholeheartedly pledge their help, but on the day of the project about 1/5th of the initial helpers are actually able to make it. This phenomenon seems true also of parties, those of the birthday persuasion in particular, but that is a story for another day.
It was the day I’d been looking forward to, at least subconsciously, for months. Our volunteer work had been approved by the city, each of the motley bunch who’d bothered to show up had brought emergency contact information, trash bags and gloves were at the ready, sunscreen had been applied liberally, lunch plans had been made and cell phone speed dials set to 911. Everything was arranged, all was in order, and the difficult part of the whole ordeal was surely finished. Or at least that’s what I believed as I drove into the parking lot where the group had arranged to meet in my aunt’s minivan (hey, saving the Earth is a task to be undertaken one step at a time). But a much more daunting task was waiting just ahead: the decision of where on Earth (or, rather, where in park) to begin applying our attentions. Our first attempt at picking up trash (or, as I like to call it, exfoliation of the topsoil) quickly proved a failure. The initial site of cleanup, a popular lake, was too crowded, too wet, and most importantly too inaccessible. The only littler at Belmar Lake was way out in the center; I can only imagine the fun some person had challenging himself or herself to beat the distance of their last litter-toss. Unfortunately, nobody was willing to wade in over the tops of his or her shoes to reach the trash. The native Canada geese occupying the water wouldn’t have let us in, in any case.
So we plugged on down the path in search of a more suitable location. Sadly though, the most popular ( and hence most accessible) sections of the park were fairly well-maintained and by the time we’d covered them all, not a single trash bag was even close to full.
Then Russell came up with a brilliant idea (there’s just something inspirational about the winding paths of a park): we should check the area next to the creek. As the trail to reach the creek was shaded from view by overgrown weeds and also potentially lethal, there was very little chance that the park’s janitorial service had already covered the area.
We each made the treacherous journey through the trees and down the 3-foot high sheer wall of dirt and rock to the tiny jewel of a stream hidden from the less adventurous public. What we found was a virtual treasure trove of discarded soda bottles, chip bags, and various other wrappers to the finer things in life. We also found things we had never expected: determined plants attempting to grow through and around the trash, like the tree whose roots were firmly entwined around a septuagenarian grocery bag. The removal of these items, and the freeing of local flora, began slowly and somewhat reluctantly—many were disgustingly old and filthy—but soon a group-wide transformation had occurred. Joyce discovered ancient shards of glass embedded in the dirt walls running alongside the creek; Caiti and Nikki leapt across the width of the water in a frenzied race to collect drifting plastic bags; Russell (the Great Locator) set about finding a sturdy walking stick for each of us; Caitlin set up a contest (whoever found the most disgusting item would win a dollar) to further heighten the trash-hunting fervor; I myself, wearing my trusty, knee-high Wellington boots, waded straight down the middle of the creek to obtain hard-to-reach items. Trash bags grew heavy and had to be left where they lay and recollected as the sun rose higher and grew hotter. All too soon, we’d traveled down the stream all the way to the edge of the park and found ourselves unable to continue without risking charges of trespassing upon private property.
After making a pass back over the newly-trash-free areas to collect our bulging bags, we emerged over the dirt wall, sweaty, sore, and two shades darker (from the sun or dirt to be determined at a later time), but full of laughter nevertheless. We disposed of the six bags of litter we’d gathered, sorting out recyclables and the true treasures. The contest Caitlin had set up was won by Nikki, who found a discarded pair of underwear. Posing for a final picture, we brandished our walking sticks in a manner most befitting true eco-warriors before heading to my house for ham sandwiches, jelly beans, and iced tea. What they say is really true: hunger is the best spice, and we’d worked up quite an appetite cleaning the creek. The awkwardness and reluctance to work from the beginning of the day had completely evaporated, and we all felt a great deal closer, both to each other and to the truly amazing planet we’d been gifted with.
Since that miraculous say, I’ve had yet another epiphany. The realization that has struck millions of Americans regarding detrimental activities has also settled in a different manner: the country has also realized the feelings of joy and accomplishment that go along with doing good things for the planet. Through noble organizations like the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative, millions of people are able to volunteer and protect the areas of our planet, like Belmar Park, that are so important to maintaining natural oases accessible to everyone. The environmental trends hitting the U.S. recently have struck me especially hard, and I’m so very grateful they did. Now, when I walk home from school, I can enjoy the sparkling cleanliness of nature surrounding me and hope that these trends continue and that the park is kept clean. From the very first moment a harebrained idea of this project entered my mind, I’ve enjoyed every last epiphany.
· Date: December 4, 2008 · Views: 4824 · File size: 33.0kb, 310.4kb · : 1500 x 1125 ·
Hours Volunteered: 15
Volunteers: 8
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 to 17
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 1.2
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 40
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