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A Day in the Life with the Ozark Crew

A rocky waterfall

By Anna Kerr, Ozark Field Crew Leader/ AmeriCorps Member

Elk in a field
Elk at the project site.

Welcome welcome to southeast Missouri and our home here in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways! I’m excited to share what our experience down here looks like on a day to day basis. Let’s start with a little background, our housing unit that the National Park Service provided for us is in SE Missouri in one of the campgrounds in the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. I moved in mid-January and the crew moved in the first weekend in February. Our home shop back in Iowa is about 7 and a half hours away so it was a long move. The nearest town is  around 12 miles away, but we typically drive about an hour for groceries every week. Our crew is one of two NPS dedicated crews starting this year. However, our crew will spend about 50% of our time on an autumn olive removal project in the Ozarks.

Branches of a tree
Autumn Olive

The autumn olive removal project in the Ozarks started back in 2011 at a collection of sites called Powder Mill. Back before it was owned by the National Parks Service, there was a lot of land, including Powder Mill, that was owned and cleared by farmers to be crop land. Since the 1830s autumn olive has been cultivated as a barrier to fields and erosion control along the river. At one point when the park was first being established, the park service even spent time planting autumn olive and promoting it to the public with pamphlets! Today, though some of that land is still maintained as hay fields for historic value and profit value for the local economy, much of that land has grown into a more wooded environment and filled up with autumn olive with multiflora rose as a companion. Our job is to go to each project site and cut out the autumn olive and spray it with herbicide. In the long term, each site is checked in a cycle of between 3 and 8 years because it is between those years when the plants start getting big enough to start producing seed and need to be cut and maintained again. Today we started on a larger site that hadn’t been cut in about 5 years so the autumn olive was very pretty and in bloom and ready to be cut.

Someone in a helmet in a very brushy tree

I started my work day by getting up and meeting the rest of my crew outside our house to walk to the truck by 7am. Because we don’t have an actual shop down here to store our equipment, we keep everything in a trailer and at the beginning of the week load the truck from there. Today on our way to the project site to meet the other crews and the project host, we stopped in the nearby town to get gas for our truck and our saws. Once we made it to the site and unloaded our equipment, we had a stretch circle where we talked through our plan for the day and potential hazards and concerns we had for the project today. We looked at our map in ArcGIS and pointed out the boundaries and areas that were particularly full and in need of attention. We then broke for lunch at noon and talked about any and all the cool things we found in the field while we were cutting (our field specialist Kandyce found a snake skeleton in a tree!). The day ended around 4 to allow time for saw maintenance and travel time back to the house. But our day didn’t end there; I am finishing this post sitting on the banks of Rocky Falls. Our crews decided to go for a swim at Rocky Falls today to unwind after a long week and I’m ready to dive in, so this is where I will leave you for the day. Thanks for reading and coming along with me through my day! I look forward to sharing more with you again soon.

A rocky waterfall
Rocky Falls