On a bright, brisk Saturday morning the Park Rangers from the Fort Worth District’s Bardwell Lake hosted an area cleanup along with other local organizations.
In all, there were approximately 70 people on hand to participate in the “Keep Ennis Beautiful” campaign, which took place at the Buffalo Creek Wetland, a nature preserve at Bardwell Lake in Ennis, Texas.
Organizations assisting in the cleanup effort included the Texas Conservation Alliance, the City of Ennis, Ennis High School National Honor Society, the Texas Master Naturalist- Indian Trail Chapter, Mater Dei Traditional Latin Mass Catholic Church, Troops of St. George and Rangers of St. Francis.
“One of the most rewarding moments in a Park Ranger’s career is witnessing the community coming together in the environmental stewardship endeavor,” said Bardwell Lake Park Ranger, Anthony Sanders.
The day started off with light refreshments during the registration, followed by a safety brief. Event organizers provided volunteers with reflective vests, gloves, trash grabbers, trash bags and buckets.
With public safety at the forefront of the cleanup effort, Sanders stressed that volunteers should stay in groups and not wonder off by themselves while cleaning up their designated areas.
He also advised volunteers to be mindful of areas where they are susceptible to slips, trips and falls, to leave the critters alone and to watch out for poisonous plants.
After the briefing, organizers assigned participants one of three cleanup areas to police. They also set up a makeshift weigh station to help keep track of the amount of trash and debris that people removed from the area before dumping collected debris into the large blue trash receptacle.
“We wanted to track the amount of trash we removed from the sites so I came up with a handheld weight measurer so we can get a pretty good estimate,” said Texas Conservation Alliance intern, Sam Rooney.
The cleanup area is part of the Trinity River Watershed which reaches down to Galveston. Trash and debris along this watershed create significant negative impacts to the flora and fauna that are a part of the basin.
“The removal of micro-plastics is key to the cleanup effort because theses plastics are very harmful to birds, sea turtles and other plants and animals that are part of the Trinity River Watershed,” said Mei Ling Liu, Texas Conservation Alliance Community Conservation Director.
According to Sanders, Park Rangers strive to not only be good stewards of the land but also to be a sounding board to influence others to become good stewards as well.
“When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” I hope all who participated while seeing the destructive and dirty side of our human nature were able to see, through our work, the greater good,” said Sanders.
Among the largest group in attendance were National Honor Society members from nearby Ennis High School. Approximately 20 students cleared cleanup area number three which ran along the shores of Bardwell Lake.
This enthusiastic group had the challenge of walking through some of the roughest terrain of the three sites, filled with shrubs, thorns and thick vegetation. Students managed to load several bags of paper, glass and plastics left in the area by previous park visitors.
After policing the area for approximately two and a half hours, event organizers rallied the participants to the tent to bring in bags for a final weigh in.
According to Liu, the volunteers picked up around 1500 pounds of litter as they wrapped up the cleanup effort.
“On behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I want to send our sincere thank you for all your hard work as volunteers for the Buffalo Creek Wetlands,” concluded Sanders.
And with that, the volunteers piled into their cars and left the area with a smile and a sense of accomplishment for doing their part to help protect our public lands.