Coordinator Commentary: Who do National Parks belong to?


Written by Sara, California Coordinator

On Day 3 in Yosemite, we had an amazing opportunity to help take care of our park by participating in a stewardship project lead by two NPS staff members, Tom and Molly. Tom and Molly taught us how to identify invasive thistle, mullen, salsify, and blackberry plants, and gave us the skills needed to remove these species from a patch of land behind the Yosemite Valley Chapel.

During the stewardship project, Christian, Joshua, and I formed a team to take out thistles. Christian had the shovel, Joshua had the clippers, and I carried the bag to dispose of seed heads. Because we were sharing tools with the whole group, sometimes we would get called off, but Christian and Joshua made sure that the three of us always got back together to continue working. We fell into an unspoken rhythm where each of us knew what we needed to do—Christian cut the roots, Joshua cut the seed heads, I collected them—and we were successful. We did a lot of high-fiving that day.

 The boys also came up with a system to communicate the size of newly discovered thistles: the biggest were “papas,” then “mamas,” “teenagers,” and “baby” plants. They even took the placement of the plants into account—a big thistle with lots of little plants nearby? Oh a mama plant and babies! We’ve got work to do. I was so impressed by their amazing attitudes. When Joshua removed a thistle that was over 6 feet tall, he seemed so excited and proud of himself.

There were lots of mosquitoes, but we powered through to help do our part in the park.  When I asked Christian if he was getting bitten during the project, he replied: Yeah, but it’s worth it because I’m having fun. Christian and Joshua made the stewardship project really rewarding for me—their excitement was contagious! 


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