Remember the classic 80’s song the Future’s so Bright (I gotta wear shades…) from one hit wonder Timbuk3. I couldn’t help but think of it when I met the Rice University students volunteering at Mason Neck State Park. These 12 students and their faculty advisor traveled from Houston,Texas during their spring break to work on conservation projects for state parks in Virginia.
Juniors Zeno Yeates and David Ouyang coordinated the trip. They told me it was challenging with their extremely busy schedules but their efforts were worth it.
The group got off to a slow start when an unexpected snow storm hit on Monday, their first scheduled work day. However, they made the best of it. One student had never seen snow before! Others had only seen the fleeting Texas snow that doesn’t stick and had never had an opportunity to build a snow man or have a real snow ball fight. However,fun in the snow didn’t last long. They came to the park to work and they wanted to get busy. With no outside work possible the students cleaned the Jammes House where they were staying from top to bottom.
It was a through spring cleaning early. By Wed. they were ready to hit the trails. Working side by side with Park Ranger Marc Ingramm they created 788 feet of new trail to reroute an existing trail that passed too closely to a recently discovered Bald Eagle’s nest. Marc was impressed with how quickly the group worked and soon they were on to other projects including removing brush that had grown up behind the park’s Visitor Center and blocked guest’s view of the sparkling Belmont Bay.
When I met them, the students were dirty and tired but excited about what they’d accomplished. They work hard at school,having just finished mid-terms the week before they arrived. This kind of work whileexhausting was sort of a break for them. One student told me this was the first time all year that he didn’t need to wear a watch.
We are more than grateful for their help. Without them we would not have had enough staff to complete these projects in such a timely manner.When I think of these self-sacrificing students using theirvacation in Virginia to make a difference, I gotta wear shades!