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Students take on community park wetland rehab for class project

April 16, 2012

Six students from professor Mona Becker’s Environmental Problem Solving class are taking service-learning to a new level by transforming a community eyesore into the bio-diverse wetland it was meant to be.

So far, most of the work in Westminster’s King Park has involved identifying and clearing the area of invasive species such as Canadian thistle and garlic mustard. It’s become a familiar sight on Monday and Tuesday afternoons to see students, park neighbors and master gardeners working side-by-side in what initially was thick, overgrown brush.


Alexa Riland (left), Hannah Rhodes (right), Melissa Rosa (back)

But the students say the experience has been well worth the three to six hours a week of hard work each puts into the rehabilitation.

“I thought it would be a great experience and opportunity to somehow make an impact on the environment in this community,” says Hanna Rhodes, a senior Sociology major from Silver Spring, Md., who was among the students choosing to work on the wetland restoration instead of doing a traditional research paper. “A restored and healthy wetland means more diversity and abundance of native plants and animals in Carroll County.

“And, there is no doubt that I have gained a great amount of knowledge about wetlands and their ecosystems through participating in this project.”


Alexa Riland (left), Hannah Rhodes (center), Melissa Rosa (back), Drew Garrison (kneeling)

In addition to Rhodes, students restoring the wetland are senior English major Drew Garrison of Phoenixville, Pa., and Environmental Studies majors sophomore Maria Englert of North Haverhill, N.H.; freshman James Hobbs of Chadds Ford, Pa.; freshman Alexa Riland of Bridgeton, N.J., and sophomore Melissa Rosa of Trenton, N.J.

Becker offered her students the option of working on the wetland project because she is always looking for ways to involve her students in service-learning and the wetland rehab has long been a target of Westminster Parks and Recreation. The Environmental Studies professor and Westminster resident is supervising the academic side of the project, but has put the fieldwork coordination in the able hands of local master gardeners, particularly Steve Allgeier and Terry Heinard.


Image of debris cleared out of wetland area.

“It was an eyesore and unmanaged – and I had lots of free labor,” Becker says, adding that she expects to continue the project by including it in her first-year seminar in the fall. “The students are keeping a weekly journal of their work in the wetland and relating it to what they have learned in the classroom. At the end of the semester they are required to make a poster that highlights their experience”

Neighbors and frequent park visitors couldn’t be happier about the restoration.

“I think it’s wonderful,” says Ann Gifford, who can see the wetland from her home and has noted the progress in terms of piles of overgrowth being hauled away.


Students Alexa Riland, Melissa Rosa, Maria Englert, James Hobbs, and Drew Garrison


Alexa Riland and Master Gardener


James Hobbs


Maria Englert (blue, left), Melissa Rosa (right, dark blue)

 
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