Mark Krivchenia earned an MS in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. After retiring from a professional career with the University of Illinois at Chicago, he moved to Marietta to pursue his passion for the science and practice of ecological restoration. Mark currently serves as Steward of the Broughton Nature Preserve, President of Friends of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and is a Board Member of the Society of Ecological Restoration, Midwest Great Lakes Chapter. He is an active member in the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). 

A New Year’s Eve Restoration Workday:  A story.

January 9, 2024

We had our final 2023 restoration workday yesterday, New Year’s Eve, at the Broughton Nature Preserve. 

I wasn’t expecting rain, but I got a text from a fellow steward telling me it was raining, but it would stop around 1:45PM.  The workday was to begin at 2PM.  Perfect:  cold, wet and now rainy!  

I figured I would go to the meeting place, and see who showed up, and we could decide from there.

Well, we were three hardy souls.  The rain had stopped, we figured we could get a brush pile fire going, so off we went up the Blue Trail to burn some piles of brush we had cut down earlier in the fall.  (There are certain times of the year when we are not permitted to do brush pile burns.)  

We started preparing the fire.  And lo and behold, a mother and two young kids (6 and 10) came down the trail.  They were dressed for the weather—boots, waterproof slickers—and clearly, they had already been playing in the creek.  

We invited them to join us—and they were game!  First, they watched as we got the fire going.  It’s a working fire, not a campfire, so we don’t allow kids to get too close to it.  Then, they decided they would like to cut some invasive brush. Kevin took them to an area that needed clearing and they learned how to use the loopers, to cut and then drag the brush near the fire.  They learned the invasives shrubs we were cutting (privet and multiflora rose mostly), and Kevin also pointed out the native plants we were trying to encourage and protect–pawpaw, Christmas tree fern, and the rarer grape fern. 

Next, it was break time!  We pay our volunteers with snacks:  granola bars, hot chocolate and fruit leather.  The kids dug in.  

I figured the kids might be done in for the day.  But I was wrong.  They wanted to do more.  So we found a couple of large privet shrubs we had missed along the stream.  However, these shrubs were large and require bow saws—they were too thick to cut with the loopers.  So, both the 6 year old and the 10 year old had at it!  They learned how to hold and cut shrubs, how to “let the saw find its way” into the wood.  They were able to do it!

So instead of a three person workday, we ended up with six volunteers—an end of year bonus.  It was a great way to cap off the year.  And here is what it reminded me of:

  • Almost anyone can participate in restoration work (with proper supervision).  We are using hand tools only, and want the experience to be safe
  • Kids can enjoy this work as much as adults.  They learned how to use a saw and loppers.  They get to see the rewards of their efforts.  Finally, they learn how to identify plants and understand what a healthy ecosystem looks like.
  • As long as you dress for the weather, getting outside in the winter is both fun and invigorating.

Come join us some day!

Mark Krivchenia