Last October over 60 students and faculty from Lourdes University joined Olander Park staff at Sylvan Prairie Park to kick off the Green Ribbon Initiative’s Adopt-A-Natural-Area (AANA) program. With shovels, gloves, trowels, and bags in hand the students started work on their “adopted” area.
The AANA program was designed by the Green Ribbon Initiative to both increase the capacity for on-the-ground stewardship of partner lands and to connect people to nature by allowing volunteers to form a relationship with a piece of land or a project. This increased program depth makes AANA different from most stewardship volunteer days. Just one impressive stat: On their first day,, the Lourdes students planted more than 200 trees and 500 grasses and forbs, also collecting five 25-gallon totes of milkweed pods. Their effort was a great contribution to the restoration of Sylvan Prairie. However, the greatest benefit of the Adopt-A-Natural-Area program is that this class will continue to come to Sylvan Prairie to see the trees grow, the flowers bloom, and experience the positive changes that they helped make.
Thanks to the many conservation partners in the Green Ribbon Initiative, the AANA program has the flexibility to provide a personalized experience for each group. Volunteers can choose a site/habitat that intrigues them, is in a convenient location, and matches their restoration interests. For example, four members of the Ohio Certified Volunteer Network were paired with a high-quality dune site on Metroparks of Toledo property. The OCVN participants have expertise in local flora and fauna and wanted a site where they could put their skills to use. Their pairing allowed them to use their skills in identifying rare species and knowing which invasives to treat. Metroparks of Toledo Natural Resources Supervisor LaRae Sprow explains, “It is awesome to have a group of passionate individuals working in some of our highest quality areas where there is still so much to discover. The AANA program allows me to use volunteer stewards in our management units that need TLC, but where the most intense management has been complete. This frees up time for my crews to work in other areas, expanding our management potential. I love that the AANA volunteers get to develop a relationship with a specific area and watch that area change through all of the seasons and time.” This personalized volunteer opportunity is one of the reasons participants enjoy the program so much. OCVN participant Jon Zabowski said that this has been his “favorite stewardship work” so far.
The Nature Conservancy is currently working with two new adoptions at the Kitty Todd Preserve: General Motors and Wildwood Environmental Academy. General Motors will be adopting a site that accommodates different employees and levels of experience with the outdoors. The site offers beautiful wildflowers throughout the year, and TNC will even offer family stewardship days where employees can share their site with their loved ones. Wildwood Environmental Academy’s 9th grade Environmental Science class will be adopting a site that has several natural communities and has undergone various types of restoration — providing many learning opportunities and “visual aids” for in-class lessons.