July 2013, Blue Trail

Blue Trail Forest Restoration
By Don Recklies, Naturalist

Forest Restoration Workshop #204, July 2013

The July workshop attracted just one volunteer, a young highschool lad from Brooklyn who needed an activity on which he could write a school assignment.   We all bandy about the term “nature deficiency”, and bemoan how widespread the malady is among young people, but this was the first time I had actually interacted with a victim!   This fellow had little familiarity with a non-manicured park. He professed an interest in nature, saying that he was interested in marine biology, especially sharks (I wonder if TV “Shark Week” had anything to do with that), and was sure that he was not allergic to poison-ivy, even though he could not identify the plant. Although apprehensive, he nevertheless was game to go up the Blue Trail and cut vines from saplings, but wanted reassurance that there were no parasitic flies that might lay eggs in his ears as he had seen happening in a program about South America! He viewed the area with some unease, and was not at all reassured when we had to go off-trail to get around a recent blow-down close to the golf course high green. I don’t know why, but that portion of the trail seems regularly afflicted with blow-downs, and the briar is often thick and extensive enough to make going around difficult. I think he believed I was going to get us lost…

To me, this illustrates a problem: how do you introduce young people to the magic of the woods if they are unacquainted or have been taught to be wary of nature? Certainly there are hazards: poison-ivy, stinging and biting insects, vines and roots that trip up and catch the feet. We don’t see any reason to be excessive alarmed, but it can be hard to convince someone frightened of the woods that the hazards there are no greater – in fact probably less – than those posed by city streets, and that their trepidation is just a function of unfamiliarity. I tried to exude some nonchalance about traipsing through the woods, but I’m not entirely sure I was reassuring!