In March, Blue Crew headed out for their first spike of the year to Del Rio, Texas, which is about a four hour drive from Austin to near the Texas-Mexico border. After our drive, we met up with Pat Wharton (a man who lists his place of employment as simply, “Earth”) at the Lake Amistad National Recreation Area headquarters. Pat, who has been partnering with the Texas Conservation Corps for a number of years, talked with us about what we would be doing during our time at Lake Amistad. Pat is part of the EPMT with NPS, which stands for Exotic Plant Management Team with the National Park Service . He told us that we would be cutting down and herbiciding Tamarisk, also known by its unofficial name, Salt Cedar. As an invasive non-native species, it grows extremely fast and is very dense in some areas. It takes much of the moisture and nutrients that native plants could use to survive in this harsh region and also deposits salt making it difficult for native plants to grow, especially near fresh water sources such as Lake Amistad.
The next day, after our visit with Pat, our crew leaders P.T. and Ricky helped him scout some possible work sites. They came back with three sites in mind that needed to be attended to with chainsaws and herbicide. While they were out, we worked on getting everything ready for the following work day by sharpening chains and making sure that nothing was going to hinder any chainsaw from working. But of course, we had some issues with the mechanics of the chainsaws and unfortunately for Ricky, a fishing line that had washed up on the shoreline was a problem and found its way into a couple of chainsaws. In a perfect world, we would have gotten our three sites done, but in reality we had to deal with extremely windy conditions on a couple of days as well as heavy rain which shortened another of our workdays. At the end of our time at Lake Amistad with Pat, everyone on the Blue Crew felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. We even got a random donation for our program from a fine gentleman we met while we were shopping for groceries at the local HEB, as well as a very big thank you from a lovely lady named Gloria who pulled me to the side on our last workday. The ‘thank you’ or ‘thanks for your hard work’ comments are when I know I am making a difference even if it is a small one.
Michelle Sheldon, ERT Crew Member