By: Kayla Hunter
On the cold, rainy morning before Earth Day this year, AmeriCorps members descended upon Frick Park. Some came armed with heavy soles and nylon, others toted umbrellas and mischosen cotton hoodies. We were faced with a teeth-chattering morning of removing invasive mustard garlic and planting trees to celebrate nature in all her bounty. Of course, Mother Nature had decided to celebrate by reminding us of her presence in the most tangible and uncomfortable of ways.
This task may have seemed daunting, but AmeriCorps members are no strangers to outdoor physical labor. As Urban EcoStewards through Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, we are tenderers of a plot in nearby Highland Park, where this year we have built deer exclosures, collected trash, and planted trees. It’s a legacy; service members before us adopted it, and future members will carry it on. So with hardly a grimace (well, perhaps one), we set to work that morning pulling, digging, and filling.
And what better place than the serene woodlands of Frick Park, Pittsburgh’s largest municipal park at 561 acres? Nestled east of Squirrel Hill, Frick has a nature reserve of more than 150 acres of undeveloped flora and fauna, with the Nine Mile Run watershed at its base. It is also home to the Frick Environmental Center, Frick Art and Historical Center, and famed Blue Slide Playground. On any given day in the summer you can go for hikes on the various paths that wind through the trees, and in the winter you can sled down the sloping hills of Blue Slide Playground. Pittsburghers of all ages can be seen traversing its well-worn arteries, for it truly is a breath of fresh air in the city.
However, one may forget this on a day when it feels like nature is not being too kind. I know that if someone would have said to me, halfway through pulling garlic mustard that morning, “But Kayla! Don’t you know that rain, cold or not, is the lifeblood of this tract of land that brings so many in our city peace and enjoyment?” I might have slapped their overzealous little face with my sopping wet sleeve.
But there was something nevertheless deeply satisfying about our work this Earth Day. One of the main reasons for doing AmeriCorps is enacting change and seeing the results with your own eyes. And nowhere does that happen more vividly than in nature. Where there was no tree, now there is. Field exploding with ivory-flowered weeds? Cleared. It’s certainly something that warrants a good wipe of the hands on a job well done. And perhaps, soon thereafter, a blanket cocoon and a mug of hot tea.