Greetings from Purple crew!
When we first arrived to Port Saint Joe we noticed the immediate needs of the community. We began assessing neighborhoods to see which homeowners we could help. We finally started to get a handle on things and began helping the community that surrounds us. The command staff has made connections with organizations that can help with projects that are out of our scope. For any projects that we cannot do we refer the homeowner to another organization. We have also set up our command office in the community center next to the EOC, where we have helped out some of the local senior citizens with assessments. We’ve gotten about 10 assessments from the community center and 47 from the field and/or crisis clean up. Our teams have completed 9 work orders and are currently working on 5 homes.
This being our first official work week we have hit the ground running, in spite of the unfortunate weather. Since it is unsafe for our crews to be on roofs and sawing under some hazardous trees, we have sent some of our teams to local donations centers to help sort and organize goods that have come in. We also have a team canvassing and talking with local businesses to see if anyone else needs assistance that is not in crisis clean up. We are using these rainy days to properly train people on how to use come along hoists so they can move trees that are too heavy to move by hand. Even with this weather setback we are still getting things done for the community and keeping our members healthy and safe.
Sonia Hernandez – DRT Crew Leader (White Crew)
Silver Crew went on their first hitch with their entire crew present. The first three days we worked with Jerry and Al of the Trail Dogs on the LOVIT trail that they built. It was a lot of walking with weed eaters, a scythe, and loppers. We cleared the corridor of the hike and bike trail, and past by quartz pits where they used to mine quartz. There were benches placed at great scenic spots along the trail to remind us to take water breaks and gave great views for our lunch breaks. The next five days we worked with Ron and Robbert of the Trail Dogs on sections of the Ouachita Vista Trail doing similar work. During our time working with the Trail Dogs we learned all about the area, how the LOVIT trail came to be, fun facts about islands in lake Ouachita, and the best place to eat pie.
-Danielle Brown – Field Crew Member (Silver Crew)
After close to a month of training, Aqua Crew finally tackled a project at Armand Bayou Nature Center. We drove down the long dirt road that led to our project site on the West Bank of the bayou, gazing out at the diverse prairie grasses and startled deer. We did morning physical training, project hazard assessment, and then it was time to get to work.
Our project partners had tasked us with removing invasive Chinese tallow trees from the edges of the prairie. We learned to identify tallow by looking for light green leaves trembling in the canopy and pale grey bark. Unfortunately, most of these tenacious trees were surrounded by yaupon, a shrubby tree that, while native, competes with prairie grasses. The yaupon clusters were prickly and full of vines, which threatened to cause hang-ups during felling. Most of our crew had only a week’s worth of chainsaw experience under our belts at the start of the week, but we strapped on our personal protective equipment and rose to the challenge. Many of our members felled a tree for the first time at Armand Bayou, and by the end of the week we were forced to venture deeper into the woods to find Chinese tallow. We powered through anxieties, soreness, fatigue, and all those vines.
On Friday, we put down the chainsaws and tried something a little different. We worked alongside volunteers at Armand Bayou to pull Chinese tallow seedlings out of the soft dirt, eventually creating a pile that probably contained hundreds of little tallow trees. Over lunch, the chief naturalist at the bayou, Mark Kramer, taught us about the history and ecology of Armand Bayou Nature Center. Our fellow crew at the Houston office, the Harvey Strike Team, joined us for the lunch.
Aqua Crew had a great first project and we’re ready for more!
-Sarah Vande Brake
This week Aqua Crew worked with Artist Boat, an organization on Galveston island that is working to expand The Coastal Heritage Preserve. We started our week with a presentation on the history of Artist Boat as well as a tour of their facilities. They showed us a plot at the recently completed Outdoor Classroom they created. Our first assignment was to prepare the plot for future use. We tilled the ground for them and then set out into the prairie to translocate several native plants. Artist Boat’s goal with this plot is to one day be able to educate people about the prairie. Coastal prairies are a very important habitat and mostly misunderstood.
Our next assignment with the organization was removing a fence located in their greenhouse area. With the fence gone they will be able to grow more native plants faster
and help restore the preserve. We spent most of the day using a variety of tools such as chainsaws, McLeods, and loppers to remove thick vegetation that had overwhelmed the fence. We also had to work together to remove the heavy posts that held up the fence, roll up the old wiring, and then fill back in the holes the posts were in. It was a lot of work! The wind rolling over the island was wonderful to behold, and we encountered many cute insects while we worked.
We spent the rest of the week removing invasive species from the property. China Berry – as they are commonly referred to – are bad for Galveston island. They prevent native plants from flourishing and do not benefit native wildlife, so we helped them remove as much as we could. The area also had poison ivy and poison oak, so we all had to be very careful as we worked. The week wrapped up as the heat returned to Galveston Island, and with it HUGE mosquitoes in full flourish.
-Tara Wilkins – Coastal Crew Member (Aqua Crew)
This hitch was a blast for the TAT crew. We spent some time finishing up two of
the bridges in Tyler State Park, started another bridge and a crib wall, as well as
some general trail maintenance. While it has been interesting coming onto a crew
that’s already halfway through their term as a new guy, they have all been very
welcoming. Since everyone on the crew was already fairly experienced, they were
able to help me learn along the way. The jokes, the communal cooking, sweating in
the humidity, and the evenings spent around the fire are all part of the camp life
while out on hitch. By the end of 10 days I felt as if I had known the crew for 10
The weather on this next hitch is expected to be cold, rainy, and absolutely
dreadful, yet somehow I just can’t wait to get back into the woods. My life back in
Austin feels like a waiting period to recuperate for the next push on our trail project.
Somehow the idea of living in a tent sounds better than being in an apartment,
dealing with mosquitoes rather than traffic, smelling like a campfire, sharing food,
and not having wifi sounds really awesome. I’m really excited to get back to waking
up with the sun in the morning, working in the woods all day, and going to sleep
with the stars overhead.
The work isn’t easy, sometimes the food goes bad, and its not always painless to
live and work with the same 8 people for ten days straight, but so far TAT has been
an amazing experience. At the end of the day when you’re tired and sore, you can
look back and see the work you did, and know that it helped make our world a
better place. I hope that feeling warms my heart when it reaches 40 degrees later
TAT Crew Member