By Addie Hurwitz, From her personal blog, November 18, 2019
From the Florida Keys, we drove north to the NCOBS Everglades Base Camp in Florida, known as Sunset Island. This base camp is a neat place to be, as it is located on an island off of Everglades City. You must canoe or ride the ferry pontoon across a canal to get to the base, a very different vibe than the mountain bases I am used to.
Our service component while in the Everglades took place at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. We worked as a crew along with two guest stars and two Audubon employees to remove invasive species from the swamp. The invasive species were Java Plum and Brazilian Pepper. We removed them using machetes and herbicide. This was one of those tasks that made me appreciative of the Service Bus experience, because when else in my life would I use a machete?
The reason for this project was to make it possible for a prescribed burn in this area in the coming months. The manual task of removing these plants has been in process over the years, with many volunteers and intern hours put into it. The invasive plants that we were killing are fire-resistant, and mess with the water levels of the fragile swamp ecosystem. By killing them, we were creating fuel for a prescribed fire to help “reset” the landscape, so to speak. Wildfires are actually natural and needed in many ecosystems. In the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the fires are prescribed as the land is managed by humans to keep it healthy and in its wild state.
Our second guest star was Caroline’s friend from Outward Bound California, Sarah. Sarah will also be working at the NCOBS Everglades Base Camp this winter. Sarah has a cool story with Outward Bound and the Service Bus. Liz interviewed her, in order to share more of that story and perspective:
Q: What is your history with the Service Bus?
A: I was part of the Service Bus out of Outward Bound California in the Fall of 2016. Our bus was composed of four field staff and we traveled throughout California and Nevada for four weeks doing service and exploring some beautiful areas where we run programs. I loved it!
Q: Why is the Service Bus important?
A: One of our pillars at Outward Bound is service and I can’t think of a better way for staff to engage with the curriculum and values that we teach to students than through action. I believe the Service Bus is important for staff because it is an expedition that keeps us accountable for learning experientially, similar to what we ask of our students. It also provides staff with new perspectives from peers and the communities that you get to serve on the bus.
Q: Why visit the NCOBS Bus?
A: I was so excited to hear that the Service Bus was making a comeback at NCOBS! Being a part of the Service Bus in California was such a highlight of my OB career, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to experience a little bit of another Bus expedition. I wanted to do service with the NCOBS bus to meet the amazing people who dedicated their time to this expedition, as well as spend some time learning about and supporting the area I’ll be spending my winter in.
After two days of service and a rest day, we set out on our third and final expedition. This expedition was three days of canoeing in the Everglades National Park. The only time I had ever really seen the Everglades was from a ride in a touristy airboat when I was a kid, so this expedition in combination with our service at Corkscrew taught me a ton about this wild area.