View from Two Rivers State Park where we partook in autumn olive removal

Although spring seems to currently be in a tug of war with winter, there were some really nice days in March that filled our lungs with the fresh smells of growth and allowed us to get our hands dirty.

At the beginning of the month, Lizzy, Kyle, Emily, myself and two other SCA members, Danni and Madeline, helped Lindsey (a Finger Lakes State Park employee) excavate black locust saplings (young trees) from two manmade turtle nesting beds in Horseheads, NY. This “turtle garden,” located just south of the Cathrine Valley Trail, off of Route 14, was created to provide the turtles with a nesting habitat that deters them from crossing the busy highway. It consists of two nesting beds, a rock wall meant to make it hard for them to get up to the road, and a tunnel that goes underneath the road.

The site is set up with the intention that the old timers will use the tunnel underneath the road to go back to the west side of Route 14 where they hatched, but new hatchlings will be born on the east side and never have any need to venture towards danger. If you get the chance to visit, there is great informational signage, but please be respectful of the turtles' nesting habitat.

Black locust is an aggressive tree species that has characteristic long thorns and can send roots for new saplings horizontally from the parent tree. At the beginning of the afternoon,  there were locust saplings scattered throughout the turtle bed (above). It quickly proved that we had underestimated the vigor of the shoots and had to call in reinforcements with shovels and loppers, but with a bit of grit and teamwork, the locust saplings proved no match for our determination to “do it for the turtles!” (left).

The following week, another beautiful day found us working outside helping to remove an invasive shrub called autumn olive (below) from Two Rivers State Park, just north of the Pennsylvanian border. Autumn olive is a an example of good intentions acted on prematurely. Introduced from Japan as a solution to prevent erosion and promote revegetation, autumn olive is now a major problem because of its thick branches that create dense shade choking out the sun and because of its ability to add nitrogen to the soil, changing the composition for plants that require infertile unshaded habitat.

To address the problem a three step process was enacted: chainsaw the bushes down to stop the growth, pile the branches into large heaps away from the trails for aesthetic purposes, and then spray the stumps with herbicides to prevent further growth. Emily and I specifically helped out with the middle step, piling the felled branches (left- Emily). While there, we also got mini lessons on differentiating between different pines (center- Scotch pine) and the process by which many insects deposit their eggs within the stem of plants to develop, causing a chemical reaction that results in a protective casing called a gall (right).Meanwhile, to prepare us for the unexpected come the summer season when we will actively be engaged with the public, we went through an intensive Wilderness First Aid certification course through Aerie Backcountry Medicine. All of the Parks Corps members, which now number about 20, came together to gain invaluable skills through verbal instruction and real life scenarios. The scenarios were easily the most important and instructive parts of the training.

They tested our abilities to “bring the calm” and follow the steps: assess the scene, check the patient’s ABC’s (airway, breathing, circulation) for a trauma patient and follow SAMPLE (signs and symptoms, allergies, medications, past medical history, last ins and outs, events surrounding incident) for a non-trauma patient. On the right, two of our instructors, Rachel and Ryan, are demonstrating how to prepare a sling to stabilize someone’s arm.

We each got the chance, in different scenarios, to act as both the patient and the caregiver. In one scenario I was suffering hysteria from heat stroke at a race, in another I had to grit down as I got a broken forearm bone stabilized by board and sling, but the most bizarre was when I suffered total hearing loss from a lightening strike. On the other side of the equation, I had to be the caregiver for a mysterious rash that had a possible connection to diabetes, stabilize a car crash victim who was suffering from multiple broken ribs, and handle the chaos caused by swarming bees.

Above in order left to right, Tori can be seen demonstrating a thermal wrap with our instructor Rachel, Autumn and Trick are practicing CPR, and Tori and Lizzy are practicing putting a sling on Kyle.

On March 29th, we had our official pre-season meeting for scaling that begins on April 4th. Scaling is a crucial preliminary step to opening gorge trails. Rocks that have become loose due to freezing and thawing are knocked down and removed, ultimately making the trails much safer for public use. Stay tuned for what it is like for me to be a spotter during this process and possible updates on program creations!

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