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Looking Back

members walking through green bog

by Karissa Vetsch, Youth Outdoors Crew Member/ AmeriCorps Member

As my term is shortly coming to an end, I have been thinking back to some of my favorite projects and experiences I’ve had during my time with Conservation Corps.

When I started with Conservation Corps back in February, I was both thrilled and nervous. I knew I was a part of Youth Outdoors, which meant we would have some youth terms during the year, but outside of those we would be doing fieldwork.

Our first few in-person days were filled with chainsaw training, and I was quite nervous. We spent the first day breaking down parts of a chainsaw and then the steps to felling a tree. We got to buck and limb some tress and practice face cuts. On our second day, we got to fell our first tree. It was very stressful but once the tree safely hit the ground, I knew I wanted to do it again. As my crew began our field workdays, we were told we would be using brush saws more than gas-powered chainsaws. Thankfully, we still got to bring a battery-powered chainsaw out with us for some bigger cuts.

person cutting tree with chainsaw
This is me bucking and limbing a tree.

Before beginning work with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB), my crew and I got to help out at the Camper Cabin project. One of the first tasks was taking apart the roof and dismantling the bunk beds inside. Once the roof was off, we could start taking down the logs that created the cabin. Once the cabin was taken apart, we moved all the pieces and got to rebuild it. This was a project each crew got a chance to work on. This camper cabin project was one of my favorite projects. I even had the chance to go out a few more times and work on it throughout our term.

cabin no roof
The roof completely off the camper cabin.
member tearing roof off small building
Working on removing the wood shingles off the roof.

Once we started work with MPRB, we got to have some garden days once a week. This often meant harvesting at the community gardens or weeding. I really enjoyed the mix-up of our week when we got to add in a garden day. It was nice to take a break from brush sawing to work in the dirt with our hands.

people with oversize paper bags on heads
Ashley and I trying to open up some yard waste bags for the weeds we’ve pulled.
lush garden
A Beautiful Garden that needed some new mulch on the paths.
members making a new path in a garden
This project required an old fashion Sod-kick and a Dingo (the machine the MPRB Staff Member is driving). We dug up the sod and prepped it to become pollinator gardens.
new plants on garden plot
This garden was created to become an educational pollinator garden near Hope Academy. The students got to come out and plant these pots with us.

Outside of our garden days, we could often find my crew doing prairie maintenance, buckthorn removal, and lots of brush sawing. One site we spent a lot of time in was the Quaking Bog. We got to see it grow throughout the seasons. The flowers and moss begin to brighten, and the tamaracks got green needles. We got to spend some hot days in the bog, and I even get stung by quite a few wasps (19 over the course of this summer) in there. We got to see the tamaracks change colors and get snow. It is a beautiful spot to visit inside Theodore Wirth Park and we did a lot of work to maintain the bog this term.

path through a bog with tools on side
The Bog in spring with our brush saws ready and waiting for us.
a boot sunken in muck
Lost my boot to the bog on a wet spring day (this happened a lot in the spring)
members walking through green bog
The bog looking very green and healthy this summer as my crew brush saws away the buckthorn.
golden tamarack larch conifer trees in bog
The tamaracks turned golden this fall. It looked like snow as they dropped.

Another fun project we got to work on was cutting the grass in the Reservoir Basin at Webber Park, Webber features a natural swimming pool and maintaining the reservoir basin keeps the water quality good enough for folks to swim in. It was a very cool park and helping prep the basin for winter was a treat.

people using brush saw at pong edge
Youth Outdoors Crew 5 working hard at the basin to trim plants and grasses.

Outside of our field days, we held youth terms. These were some of my favorite moments during my service term. I had a blast getting to know the youth and learning about what they were interested in. We got to lead Educational Activities with them and talk about nature, conservation, and culture. We also got to do full workdays on Saturdays with them. The pandemic added some new regulations and changed our programing a bit, but I am very thankful we still got to run our youth terms. I will miss working alongside these amazing youth and am so thankful I got to meet them.

youth sitting at picnic table
Selfie with our Spring Youth Crew after participating in the “Bee Olympics” and building a bee motel.
people holding potatoes in front of community building
Our Fall Youth Crew (Minus one) holding some sweet potatoes we harvested.

I am so thankful for my experience with the Conservation Corps. I will take these memories and newfound knowledge with me into the future.