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