Helping Trails and Inner Strength
Jill Rennicke, Alumni Coordinator

“This summer is not the first time I have worked with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), but it was the first time that I thoroughly appreciate the things my body could do. I had worked with tools and heavy equipment before but this time [on a detail this summer in Pope Branch, a Washington D.C. park] it felt different. I became aware of how fragile yet strong by body is. I went into this summer with arrogance thinking I was an expert at the job as I was familiar with the tools and had a lot of experience on the trail. I shortly proved myself wrong as one week in my muscles begged for mercy from working too hard and the only thing I ever felt was tired. Seeing that many of my crew members were feeling the same way we began changing up the dynamic of our space to allow more room for reflection and keeping an eye on each other. Having that supportive environment allowed us to work more efficiently rather than overexerting ourselves, and because we were now working as a unit, we were able to complete all of our tasks faster than others thought we would. Going forth, our bond as a group strengthened as we worked together with the same determination and zeal making every day an adventure.

Like ants, we marched from far distances carrying heavy loads to and from our worksite for seven hours straight.  Whether we were soaked in cold downpour or layered in sticky humidity words of encouragement were constantly expressed to keep our spirits high. We worked diligently on the land picking every earth worm or insect that crossed our work area giving them a new home to ensure their safety. At the end of every day we carried a piece of our trail home as mineral soil and organic matter stained our work clothes to remind us of everything we had accomplished. As our time on trail decreased with each passing day, I noticed that the pain and exhaustion I had once felt in the beginning was almost never there. Instead, it was replaced by mass amounts of joy and energy as I was doing the work I love with people I truly care about. By the end of those five weeks, due to our bearing power, we were able to complete all of our goals: create a turnpike, collect trash, assemble and install 8 bog bridges, build 3 water bars, pull invasive species, build a staircase out of cinder blocks, reroute several parts of the trail, and much more; I have never been more proud!

Trail maintenance is an extraordinary practice that everyone should be able to take part in at least once. Happiness floods the heart when finishing a trail as because of your hard work there will be many who can now access to a green space and discover all the beauties within it. Although this kind of work is not the career I would like to go into after college, I am confident in this moment that it will be a long term hobby I plan to continue participating in. I have never felt stronger than I do now!”

 

Trail building with SCA

 

Trail building with SCA