By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
BROCTON - Seven young adults comprise the conservation team that is part of the AmeriCorps program based out of Buffalo. All have gone to college. Four have a bachelor's degree, one an associate's degree, while the remaining have just begun higher education.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
AmeriCorps volunteers work to shore up a culvert at Greystone Nature Preserve in Brocton. A crew of seven volunteers spent four days in the area, both contributing to the upkeep of the preserve as well as learning conservation principles and techniques. Left to right: crew leader Ethan Weston, Brian Purcell, Kyle Cox, and Kelly Gavin, crew leader.
The crew, Ethan Weston, Brian Purcell, Katelyn Almeter, Kyle Cox, Kelly Gavin, Nick Potopchuk, and Brendon Scherer, have been working together on various conservation projects in Western New York this summer. In return for their service, they receive a living stipend, health insurance coverage, and an education award at the end of their service.
Ethan Weston, one of the crew leaders said, "At the end of our service, we receive about $2,700 that can be used for future education or to pay off student loans."
Weston said many people think the educational award can only be used for future education. If more college graduates realized that it can be used to pay off loans, more might participate in AmeriCorps or Vista.
The crew recently spent four days at Greystone Nature Preserve located at 8531 Bear Lake Road. While the site's address is listed as Fredonia, it is actually located on the Portage Escarpment in Brocton. The preserve was founded in 2005 by Diane Clark and Bill Moran, a married couple who live there. Clark is the founder and director of the site while Moran is the operational manager.
Greystone is a 501 3(c) non-profit organization whose mission is to present experiential environmental education to individuals of all ages, and ability levels.
Clark was happy to welcome the crew to Greystone. She said, "As Bill and I get older, it is nice to have some help with keeping up the property."
Clark also tried to build some educational elements into the crew's schedule.
"Since Greystone Nature Preserve is an environmental education facility, I thought it important to the AmeriCorps students to not just come here for conservation work," she said.
Bruce Robinson, forester, taught a crash course in forestry theory and technique. He spoke to the group about forest diversity and proper lumbering practices to ensure a sustainable forest. He pointed out many birds, bugs, and flora to the students. He helped them with their work by showing them how to make water bars to control erosion along the trails in Greystone. He directed the construction of drainage ditches along the trail and had the crew lay stone to control the erosion along a stream which leads into the Brocton watershed.
Jon Titus, biology instructor at SUNY Fredonia spoke to students about invasive species and their impact on wildlife, stressing the need for balance in nature. He also stressed the need to maintain native species. In particular Titus was on site to lead the crew in pulling out honeysuckle at Greystone.
"Bush honeysuckle is a non-native species from central Asia that is widely established throughout the forests of western New York," Titus said. "This invasive species quickly dominates the forest understory (the group of plants including small trees, shrubs and vines that grows in the shade of the taller trees), crowding and eventually eliminating native plant species that our wildlife depend on for food and habitat. Honeysuckle also reduces the resources available to pollinators that are important to our natives plants. Thanks to the energy of AmeriCorps youth who energetically pulled many honeysuckles, we were able to restore forest habitat for both our native flora and fauna."
Clark also arranged a trip to Barlows Mill for the group. Jim Wilmoth, master gardener and wine maker, conducted a tour of vegetable gardens, a fruit orchard, berry bushes, his wildflower gardens, and his vineyards. He explained his unique rainwater collection system. After picking apples, the group was able to press apple juice, a first time experience for all of them.
During the four days at Greystone, the group camped on site. Clark and Moran provided meals for them, and led the group to appreciate the nature on site such as the goldfish pond, the bird feeders and the organic gardens. The group also participated in star gazing and campfire stories.
"We are always appreciative of volunteers and interns who can help us with the many facets of experiential environmental education," Clark said. "Just call 792-7899 and ask for Diane or Bill."
The Service Collaborative of Western New York which is responsible for AmeriCorps, Service Corps and Vista is located at 2188 Seneca Street in Buffalo and can be reached at 448-8500. Their website is www.tsc.org. A second website is www.wnyamericorps.org has better contact information.
Kate Serata, interim CEO of the organization explained the Conservation Team is a relatively new component of AmeriCorps locally. At this point, she said Eric Weston, crew leader, is the "point person" who helps to organize the assignments for this group.
Serata encouraged students to look into joining one of the programs the Service Collaborative offers.
She also said that non-profits may benefit by using the services of one of these programs. There is a cost involved. (Clark and Moran paid $350 and supplied meals during the time the students were at Greystone).
"That is dependent on the project, its scope and its duration," Serata said.
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