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Thanks for an Unforgettable Summer

nature center building

By Madeline Peterson, Anoka Field Crew Leader / AmeriCorps Member


I can’t believe February 1st was over six months ago. It seems like only yesterday I was at orientation, shivering in the February cold as I held a chainsaw for the first time.

member holding chainsaw by downed tree smiling.
I was nervous about cutting down this Siberian elm because it was pretty close to a fence. Anoka County staff coached me through it and it came down easy, no fences were harmed! It’s great to have people who support me while I learn and practice new skills as a crew leader.

Now it’s August, and I wish time would freeze so the black-eyed susans and blazing stars would never stop blooming. I only have about four months left of my service term as a crew leader. I’ve learned so much, grown as a leader, developed my skills with power tools and plant identification, and tested my physical limits.

I’ve had some really challenging days (chipping piles of brush in freezing rain this spring was not my favorite), but I’ve also had some really fun days. Days filled with natural beauty and meaningful work, days that make my inner child go “this is why I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up.”

Beautiful sunny days where I get to work with awesome people who love being outside, doing prairie restoration and other natural resource work with my own two hands. Asking questions about ecology and discussing possible answers, learning from people with more experience than me and getting to pass on what knowledge I have to others. Working with enthusiastic volunteers who ask me curious questions.


boardwalk through purple flowers

hand holding purple flower
A boardwalk at Island Lake Regional park. Look at all that invasive purple loosestrife! Pretty, but harmful to biodiverse native plant and wildlife populations.

One of my favorite things about working on a team is our ability to pool our knowledge of natural resources. I don’t need to be an expert on everything, everyone can contribute their own knowledge of plants and equipment. I work with Anoka County staff who have years of experience with prairie management and equipment. My crewmember Thuy An would point out plants similar to ones she recognized as we worked. Did you know that common prickly-ash you can find in Minnesota’s forests is in the same genus as Szechuan pepper? I didn’t! Her knowledge of culinary spices and her background in firefighting brought a unique perspective to the group and I learned things I wouldn’t have even thought to ask questions about.

To everyone who I got to meet and work with this summer, thanks for making it unforgettable.

nature center building
Landscaping at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, with native plants such as queen of the prairie, coneflower, and wild bergamot.