After coming back from McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area for the fourth time, it has been an immense relief to work in Austin for a couple of weeks. The work here has been a great example of the breadth of work that is done within Texas Conservation Corps.
Our first project site was at Town Lake. The Town Lake Trail Foundation has partnered with Texas Conservation Corps for a number of years. This year is phase one of a project to remove invasive species surrounding the lake. This is a massive undertaking. Our crew was assigned to the lake’s edge to cut down stands of China Berry, http://www.texasinvasives.org/plant_database/detail.php?symbol=MEAZ. We could not cut all of it because of the fear of soil erosion along the lake’s edge and the proximity of the trail to the lake. Trees of any type hold soil in place, so we had to cut some sections while leaving others alone. Cut trees, spray herbicide on the stumps, and hope that native plant growth will, in time, replace the invasive. Having done such work before in Montana with Russian Olive, my experience is that these sorts of projects take very long periods of time. Invasive species of plants will generally continue to sprout, but with each passing season their numbers will dwindle. Probably never removed entirely, but reduced to insignificance.
The second project was with the Travis County East Metro Park. Our work with the park was less focused on the environment than on recreation. With the recent flooding around Austin the rivers, streams, and creeks rose in their banks and washed away soil that has for years been parched. The East Metro Park was not immune to this problem. The disc golf course has goals located close to watersheds that washed away much of the soil. We were hired to go and clear out some of the interconnecting trails and to build soil retention barriers. The barriers would perform two jobs, hold soil in place and prevent more erosion from the streams. Considering the rain was exceptional rather than the norm, in recent years, it is doubtful that the logs will fulfill their purpose for a number of years. Even so, they will help regular users of the course enjoy their golfing experience more by not having to play on too steep slopes.
The last location we worked was Hamilton Pool. A beautiful geological formation, Hamilton Pool, was formed out of a limestone cliff where water cascaded over the side to eat away at the limestone and hollowed out a cavern. The pool is a viridian shade with water still pouring over the side of the cliff and into a wide basin. The area is a very popular tourist destination, which, for us, means that the structures that help support the visitors are heavily used and need to be replaced. The fencing to help keep visitors safe is a simple wood post and rail design. Cedar logs were brought to us by the Travis County Parks and Rec. division to be cut to size and fitted into place. We dug out the old fence posts and dug them deeper, placed the new posts and crushed rock around their base. The pulverized rock acts like cement. Adding a layer of rock, crushing it into finer pieces, then another layer on top, it will compress the rock beneath each layer and lock the post into place. On top of each post we cut notches for the rails and bolted them into place. Now visitors can enjoy a nice leisurely walk without having to worry too much of falling down a short cliff onto rocks.
Texas Conservation Corps does a lot for the community. The community may not be aware of the scope of such work, but it is real and tangible. You can go, now, onto Town Lake and see slopes that have been denuded of invasive species. You can go, now, to a small county park and see retention logs that hold soil in place. You can go, now, to a beautiful destination and see a fence that is helping keep both people and nature safe from each other. These are real, tangible benefits, and only a small part of Texas Conservation Corps’s work as a whole.
- J. Crumpler
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