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Then and Now: A Year of Restoration at the Wetland

AmeriCorps Wetland Restoration Technicians enhancing the trail

The first year of restoration has officially wrapped up for the proposed Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area! I think most people would agree that this was a particularly difficult year to implement a new program, especially one of this scale, but an enormous amount of progress was still made, despite the setbacks.

Since September 2019, our 14 AmeriCorps Restoration Technicians were able to apply treatment on approximately 140 acres, improve 47 of those acres, establish more than 400 native plants, install 15 nest boxes, build six floating gardens, repair two access bridges, enhance one mile of trail, patch 12 deflated tires, run over two mower cords, tow a utility vehicle out of the mud (twice), and remain positive during a pandemic.

What is your favorite or funniest memory?

One of my favorite memories would have to be the Wetland Relay game that we did for the orientation of the half-year techs in February this year. There were multiple relay stations that included putting on waders, filling a wheelbarrow with gravel, dragging invasive species, and tossing the survey quad over a “T” post like a ring toss, all while holding onto a baton that was actually a walkie talkie. It was not only hilarious to watch, it was a great bonding experience for the team.

What were some of the biggest challenges/ accomplishments you've faced in the last year?

I think it goes without saying that the biggest challenge this year was the pandemic. It very much put a wrench in a lot of our plans; from people needing to stay home to keep vulnerable populations safe, to our orders being delayed two weeks so the techs could quarantine in a warehouse before coming to the wetland. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand these precautions, but it did make getting things accomplished much more difficult.

Another big challenge this year was equipment failure. I can’t tell you how many times we had equipment or tools break, malfunction, or simply stop working. This ranged anywhere from our first mower shredding itself when going over the Whitetop, to our leaf blower having the string yanked out of it. I honestly lost track of how many times we had to take a UTV tire to Les Schwab to have them patch a hole because we drove over something dumb and sharp on the property.

There was also a time where our UTV was out of commission and we had to wait almost a month to get it into a shop. Once we finally got it to the dealership, after having quite the morning trying to actually transport it, they told us there was a plug near the accelerator that had come loose. I had never been so annoyed in my entire life. We had our most frequently used piece of equipment sidelined for a month and it just needed to be plugged in. Infuriating!

Despite all of the setbacks, the technicians were able to accomplish some very exciting and important things. The removal of noxious weeds being one of the most exciting. Trying to get weeds like Purple Loosestrife and Salt Cedar removed before they become as big of a problem as the Whitetop was extremely important, and they did an excellent job with that. Also, having the bridges safe to walk across again is super important and a very visible accomplishment that was achieved.

How has this role/ experience impacted you personally and professionally?

This role has definitely impacted me personally and professionally in a lot of ways. Professionally, it is a huge opportunity to be a part of a program from its inception. Being able to be a part of the planning and implementation of a project like this is extremely rewarding for me. This position has also helped me become a better leader. I can see areas where I do well, but more importantly, I can see areas where I need to improve to make myself a stronger, better leader.

Personally, this project is extremely close to my heart. I was born and raised in Reno/Sparks and I received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UNR. As one of those kids who “would never live in Reno when they grow up” I’m so glad I stayed and feel so lucky to work in a field I’m passionate about for an organization where I feel valued. I’m so excited to watch this project progress and I can’t wait to see what it will look like in five years.

What do you hope the wetland can bring to the community once it is opened?

There are a couple things I hope the wetland can bring to the community. My two goals, which I would consider equally important, are to restore some sort of function to this habitat and create an area where all members of the community can come to learn about and appreciate their open spaces. Wetlands are extremely important biological communities. They help with flood mitigation, support disproportionately high amounts of biodiversity, and are rapidly deteriorating throughout the world. I would love to be able to show the community how important this area is and how vital it is that we conserve these delicate systems. I think the best way to do that is to have them experience those areas. Hopefully, people get as excited as I do when they see a beaver or a blue heron or a muskrat, and they want to keep the habitat those animals need clean and healthy so they can be here for a long time.

To learn more about the restoration process you can head to our webpage, here.


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