It’s 10 AM on a weekend and hundreds of Texas A&M University students are gathered together under a group of blackened pine trees in a winter woodland silenced a year ago by wildfire. And they were about to add a bit of spring to this important forest. Over two weekends (February 16 & 17 and 23 & 24) 8,800 drought resistant loblolly pine saplings were planted in the rocky, difficult soils of Bastrop State Park. The six hundred Aggie volunteers were lead by Texas A&M Forest Service, Bastrop State Park Staff, and yours truly – the Texas Conservation Corps.
After a damaging fire in Bastrop in 2011, the park needs help with becoming green again. Some areas in the park were so hot during the fire that saplings are not appearing on their own – and that’s where this group comes in. On this weekend, an organized team came through with a mission: rebuild this forest. The overall goal for the next five years is to plant 1,000,000 saplings in this once and future forest. Nothing is impossible, especially when people come together through weekends like this.
Looking forward twenty years from now, a fine looking forest is on the horizon at Bastrop State Park- all thanks to the men and women that tirelessly put time into this space. And that deserves an Aggie Whoop!
Joel D’Angelo, Field Crew Member
As a relative rookie to the practice of cutting down a tree, it would be easy to mistake the superficial simplicity of the actual process for dishonor or disrespect. It takes no more than a second for that tree to meet the ground, yet, for me, I cannot fathom a more ineffably reverential moment in time. I joke often about getting to play lumberjack to people who want a more concrete explanation of what I do and it comes as no surprise, in a culture that is somewhat beginning to capitulate to the whims of an environment that tires of our wasteful fickleness, that I am met with disapproval for eliminating from the landscape a general embodiment of good and majesty that is a tree. Yet, from the moment I began to listen to the voices at AYW who continue to teach me the particulars about all the facets of my job, notably the tree felling, I have never met a group of people who venerate the outdoors and instill that attitude in their proteges as effectively. The acute focus and scholarly attention to detail involved in our job at Bastrop State Park is an extension of the devotion of the staff. Being the aforementioned newcomer to this arena, it is rewarding to see that a job with rough-edged connotations can inconspicuously be as technical and comprehensive as it is. At a certain point, all the little things we do to pass the time, be they as grandiose as cutting down a loblolly pine or seemingly insignificant as digging into clay-ridden soil, organically coalesce into a sense of pride, enjoyment, and esteem in my work that has been unmatched by anything else I have ever done and may ever do. Sometimes it seems so simple to others, no more and no less than manual labor, but the uninitiated have yet to stand in my shoes and see how the cumulative effects of our work are an amalgamation of a lot of passion for the environment that we live in and share with others. It combines to create an everlasting, concrete appreciation for every gear in the machinations of the natural world; both for me and hopefully for the incognizant hiker who rightfully pays little mind to a bridge built, by our crew, with wood from a tree that possibly fell at my hands. That need to perpetuate admiration for our parks and, by extension, nature itself, namely by providing an outlet for such excursions, has been fostered in me since the day I joined up and will be something I hope to impart on others indefinitely.
John Hernandez, Bastrop State Park Restoration Crew Member