“Look this giant oak tree we freed from English ivy!” exclaims Rock Creek Conservancy crew (RC3) member, Umbrella. “Let’s take our photo in front of it - it’s some of our best work from the summer,” says Evelyn as she leads her fellow crew member to the tree.
RC3 is a six-week summer youth employment opportunity at Rock Creek Conservancy that provides Washington, DC, and Montgomery County high school students their first job in conservation.
This year’s DC crew was particularly proud of freeing a large oak tree of English ivy at Fort Slocum mini-oasis. It took 3-4 days of work and required great care to not damage the tree while removing the vines. For a closer look, enjoy the time-lapse video on their Instagram page (@RockCreekRC3).
Many of these young people come to the job with an existential concern about the impact of climate change on the world. Spending the summer making a tangible difference gives them a sense of agency - that they can do something to help make their world a better place.
And day by day, that’s what they did. Braving the yellowjacket's sting and the relentless grip of invasive vines, our DC RC3 crew cleared a jaw-dropping 3,950 square feet of invasive plants and rescued a dozen trees from strangling vines in the Carter Barron Mini Oasis. The Montgomery County RC3 crew persevered in the heat and humidity, clearing 3,300 square feet of invasives, liberating four trees, and collecting 25+ bags of trash! Students also learned about stewardship practices they can bring back to their homes and share with family, friends, and neighbors.
Serving on the crews provides an introduction to nature and to having a job. But it goes beyond that -- the experience expands and increases student comfort and sense of belonging within nature. The more than 150 RC3 alum are some of Rock Creek’s best ambassadors. For a full glimpse of the crews’ summer; check out their Instagram page (@RockCreekRC3).
Beyond the RC3 youth crews, Rock Creek Conservancy is working to preserve and protect the environmental health of the parklands and watershed while also creating spaces for community engagement within green spaces. Bold efforts underway include:
People-Powered Restoration - We are on track to have another year with more than 4,000 volunteers removing more than 45,000 pounds of litter and 40,000 square feet of invasive plants from parklands throughout the watershed. Our volunteers leave feeling inspired and equipped with the tools and training for the ongoing care of Rock Creek. This collective action helps restore the forests in our mini-oasis and expands community engagement within a diverse set of neighborhoods and communities.
Saving our Forests – Together with Rock Creek Park, Rock Creek Conservancy is developing a pathway toward equitable management of the forests through the development of the Forest Resilience Framework; ensuring the forest and parklands remain the heart and lungs of the DC region in the face of climate change, invasive species and other stressors. This will provide a guide to years of restoration and ongoing maintenance in the park’s forests and serve as a model for other parks’ efforts.
Creating Community - Our “mini-oases”, dedicated demonstration sites for restoration, are strategically located through the park and anchored in neighborhoods to help track immediate impact and long-term data for larger-scale restoration efforts while increasing access and community stewardship of the special spaces within the park. Rich history, stories, and also celebrations continue to bring us together through programs like Race, History and Rock Creek and Summer in the Parks. And 20 students just completed our
Carter Barron Alliance - Excitement and momentum continue to build for the restoration of the 4,200-seat, outdoor amphitheater, keeping with the spirit of preservation and inclusion with which it was created. The Alliance continues to build a community of support, keeping close to the venue's history of inclusion and preservation. It’s already being used again as a gathering space and portal to the park with Summer in the Parks programs and stewardship events at the nearby mini-oasis.