Spring Big Chapter Project at Lakewood Outdoor Learning Area by Ginger Greatens

A tremendous amount of hard work was accomplished on March 31 at the Spring Big Chapter Project. Forty dedicated, enthusiastic Master Naturalists joined together to plant 25 native trees and 120 native plants.  They happily pushed endless wheelbarrows of mulch up and down hills and dug holes through tough, rocky soil.   In less than three hours, with many smiles and amazing teamwork, three areas were restored!

Being a new Master Naturalist (class of 2017), I was truly amazed at the amount of work that was completed.  Per Facebook commentary, parents, teachers and the Lakewood community were also amazed and immensely appreciative of these efforts.

LOLA has been part of the Lakewood Elementary property for the past twelve years and offers 900 students a unique experience for outdoor learning.  For the past 2 years, portions of the LOLA have been inaccessible due to a large school construction project.   Although necessary, the construction sadly destroyed many areas of LOLA and left areas with significant erosion problems.    The LOLA committee’s goal has been to keep LOLA and the outdoor education program sustainable despite some administrative uncertainties and construction hurdles.   We were discouraged and overwhelmed with the amount of work and funds that would be needed to properly restore the damage.

Then, Sam Kieschnick, from Texas Parks and Wildlife, came to visit LOLA.  With his enthusiasm and guidance, we were inspired to begin the restoration project.  Roger Sanderson from the Texas Discovery Gardens also made several visits to LOLA and generously offered to design a landscape plan that would prevent further erosion and would enhance the biodiversity of the naturescape.  With a plan in place, the Lakewood PTA, a nonprofit school expansion foundation (LEEF) and a Lakewood Elementary neighbor offered funds to help with the project.

The culmination of this project was the gift of time and the love of nature given by all the master naturalists on March 31.   Without the master naturalists’ support, the LOLA restoration project would not have been completed.  Today, the LOLA is completely open, the students and teachers are walking the trail, exploring and appreciating the outdoors just as we had hoped. I believe as examples of good stewards of the earth, the master naturalists have taught the Lakewood parents and students the value of philanthropy and nature conservation.  On behalf of Lakewood Elementary students, parents and teachers, thank you North Texas Master Naturalists!

A very special thank you to John Wilt, my advisor and MN friend, for his expertise and support throughout this project.  Also, Imelda Haley, MN, LOLA Chair and friend, for endless hours spent in the LOLA and fighting the good fight!  Thank you, Lisa Dolliver, Trinity River Audubon Instructor, for a wonderful hour of advanced training to wrap up the morning.

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