Groundwork Dallas - A Year in Review

Groundwork Dallas had an exceptionally good year and next year is already gearing up to be better.  We have a relationship with the City of Dallas that has never been better and we have created several new partnerships.  Working with the City of Dallas and our new partners will help us achieve our goal of providing educational and employment opportunities for our low income, underserved, and homeless youth.  Together, we will also transform the Elm Fork and Great Trinity Forest into the finest outdoor urban recreational areas in the state. This year’s accomplishments include:

Green Team Youth Program
The Green Team Program expanded in 2016 to include two additional Dallas Independent School District high schools: North Dallas HS and Moise E. Molina HS. These schools are aware of the impact environmental conservation and hands-on learning can have on youth lives. Groundwork Dallas partnered with these schools to provide an afterschool program that focuses on the Dallas ecosystem. The students are also encouraged to participate in Saturday service days where they work towards developing and maintaining natural environments while gaining job skills. Through this expansion, we have grown our active Green Team to 23 members.

Hines Park
This park is a long-forgotten city park that Groundwork Dallas adopted.  The park grounds and lake were overwhelmed with trash, which has taken years to clean up, and it is now one of the most beautiful natural areas on Harry Hines Boulevard.  The completion of phase one improvements at Hines Park include a loop trail constructed around the lake. Trail features include one bridge and four benches situated in beautifully forested areas that allow for observations of the lake, birds, and other wildlife. Phase two will include a bird observation deck, boardwalk, and an amphitheater.  Groundwork Dallas will use these amenities for summer environmental programs and film screenings.

Fraiser Dam Park (Placemark Name)
The planning process for Fraiser Dam Park, a stone’s throw from Hines Park, began several years ago. With Hines Park phase one completed, we are now in full construction mode to clean up the trash and debris, and develop a park that will include eight miles of multi-use trail, open grassy fields for picnics or sport activities, benches, tables, and boardwalks.  This park will also include canoe/kayak put-ins/take-outs which will allow easy access for paddling the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.  Scheduled completion: 2017

Trash and Debris Removal
Working with our Green Team Youth and volunteers, we removed 30,794 pounds of trash and debris from the Elm Fork Greenbelt and Hines Park. This was made possible by an increase in volunteers that worked to improve our environment. In 2015, 83 individuals volunteered to fight for a cleaner tomorrow. These numbers have increased to 143 volunteers within the Dallas region and now total 894 man-hours of restoration for the Trinity River and downstream waterways. Let’s acknowledge and celebrate these environmental heroes. They’re making Dallas a greener, healthier city.

Natural Surface Trail Construction
In addition to the Hines Park Loop Trail, we also improved trails at Scyene Overlook, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill, Kiest Park, and the Longhorn Council’s Sid Richardson Ranch.

 

New Leadership

Executive Director
Richard Buckley accepted the position of executive director in May of this year.  Richard is a retired Army officer who served as a Scout Attack Pilot, Instructor Pilot, Maintenance Test Pilot Instructor, Safety Officer, and Tactical Mission Planning Officer.  Other positions included company executive officer, platoon leader, production control officer, and quality control officer. After retiring from the Army, he accepted plant manager positions for Demilec, a chemical manufacturing plant, and Kerr Industries, an emergency vehicle upfit company.  He also started a low-cost, professionally-taught, trail building school called the Lone Star Trail Building School.  The school has taught trail building concepts to National Park Service Rangers, Texas State Park Rangers, city parks and recreation managers, bicycle club members, and community volunteers.  Rick was approached by Garrett Boone to serve as operations director and develop the Elm Fork into a National Park-quality environment.  Rick considered it for several months before accepting the position and now we are in full construction mode completing Garrett’s vision for the Elm Fork.

Green Team Youth Leader
Melissa Guevara began her career as an urban environmentalist at the Science Barge as a weekend docent and plant caretaker. As a youth, she joined the Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team and continued to participate as both a Green Team Member and docent for three years. Melissa continued her skill development by working with the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Steward as a seasonal trail builder. In the summers of 2014 and 2015, she worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. 

During her tenure at Wallkill River NWR, she worked to develop the partnership between the refuge and Groundwork Hudson Valley. Melissa coordinated events that provided children and young adults with programming that allowed them access to the country’s natural environment. As she finished her bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Urban Studies, Melissa knew that any job that she obtained would have to support her belief that all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserve the opportunity to dream and pursue a career in the environmental field. Melissa was hired as the Youth Program Coordinator for Groundwork Dallas.

 

Thank You!
From all of us with Groundwork Dallas, thank you to all our volunteers for all the work and support you have offered to help revitalize the Trinity River Corridor. We hope that you will all continue to spread our message because, together we can change the Dallas region for the better. As the holiday season goes into full-swing, please consider donating to Groundwork Dallas. Your tax-deductible donation helps us purchase trash bags, build trails, fuel our equipment, and allows Green Team members to pursue and realize their full potential. Happy Holidays! We hope to see you in 2017 for another year of Changing Places, Changing Lives

 

Submitted by Scott Eddy, Groundwork Dallas Board

Green Team Adventures

As the temperature started to rise above 100 degrees you could find Groundwork Dallas out with the Green Team and the AmeriCorps youth throughout the week cleaning up trash and performing habitat remediation. These youths who would otherwise spend the summer at home enjoying the air conditioning and cruising the internet were out in the humidity helping to conserve their local ecosystems. They learned about water quality issues, the hydrological cycle, biodiversity, and conservation efforts in the Dallas Metroplex. They volunteered more than 500 hours of serves to better understand environmental conservation careers. These hours of service were not only executed in the Dallas area but also our great national parks. Three AmeriCorps Youths and a Green Team Member were invited to the Grand Tetons National Park Green Experience Corp to perform historical conservation work. An additional three Green Team members Hillary, Cindy, and Nohelia were invited to participate in conservation work at the Yellowstone National Park Green Experience Corp. These opportunities were made possible by the collaborative work of Groundwork USA and the National Park Service. These programs allow urban youth to escape their surroundings and wander into the great unknown. Many of them are the first of their families to ever step foot into a National Park. Once they ventured into our national treasures they found it difficult to leave and hard to envision a future without these amazing parks in their lives.  

By Melissa Guevara, Green Team Leader, Groundwork Dallas
 

Groundwork Voices from Yellowstone: Hillary Reyes

What a Journey Into Conservation Looks Like.

Hillary Reyes walks with an air of confidence amongst a room of conservation professionals at Yellowstone National Park despite only being 17 years of age and growing up deep in the city.  Her journey into environmental work started at age 12 when she first started working for Groundwork Dallas.  Her parents had an appreciation for nature, but with little financial resources, they never ventured far from their urban neighborhood.  They recognized her passion for green, though, and when they heard about Groundwork working in their community, they encouraged her to apply.

“My first experience at age 12 was sitting in a canoe removing trash from the Trinity River,” Hillary recalled.  She was hooked after that.  For the next five years, Hillary remained active with Groundwork, an organization founded by the National Park Service and the EPA that engages local residents in marginalized communities across the US to improve the quality of life in their own neighborhoods through brownfields and urban waters reclamation and urban trail and greening projects.
 
Splashed across her Facebook pages are scores of photos: Hillary working with Groundwork Dallas; Yellowstone National Park, including serving last summer with the park’s Youth Conservation Corps; her time spent at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center as part ofGroundwork’s Youth Summit; and her recent summer experience with Canyon County Youth Corps in Monticello, Utah. “I’m still in conservation, because even when I’m in school in the bleakest winter in Dallas, all I think about is being outdoors in nature,” Hillary confided.  “I still remember the first time I saw the mountains of Yellowstone,” she reminisced. “We just don’t have something like that in Dallas, and it’s the mountains that keep me wanting to return.”  
 
Groundwork USA employs a time-tested model to encourage youth to become the next generation of conservation stewards.  The youth remain with their Groundwork Trust working on conservation projects, sometimes for years on end.  Groundwork pairs the work the youth are doing in their neighborhoods -- work often praised by local residents as improving the quality of their lives -- with time spent working with federal partners such as the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  This helps the youth see that the restoration projects they are doing at home are connected to broad conservation efforts.    Groundwork also includes lots of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) enrichment activities so that the youth are better prepared for the rigors of academic training as they pursue a career path in conservation.  
 
Reyes already has her own approach to encourage others to engage in conservation.  She describes it as follows: “People in my part of the city don’t often get to experience nature, but with all the environmental challenges facing our planet, people need to see the beauty of it all, know what’s out there, and get in mind that we need to take care of the earth.”  When pressed on what she would say to convince others to care, Hillary just shook her head.  “I don’t think I could find the words to inspire others to get involved, but I know how to show them.”  
 
Currently, Hillary is working with a crew of Groundwork Youth at Yellowstone National Park.  The program is a collaboration between the park and Groundwork USA founded by Judy Knuth-Folts, Deputy Chief of Resource Education and Youth Programs, and Bob Fuhrmann, Youth Programs Director and Volunteer-in-Park Coordinator at Yellowstone.  The crew is made up of Groundwork youth from 23 different cities working on trail improvements and other such preservation efforts through the end of August.  The YCC/GWUSA partnership has been very successful, allowing youth who progress through Groundwork’s youth programming the opportunity to spend a whole month doing conservation work at Yellowstone. Currently nine Groundwork youth have enrolled in the program this year.  Hillary ended the interview by saying “Without Groundwork providing me with these experiences, I wouldn’t be here… I wouldn’t have found a way for doing what I love doing.”

Submitted by Curt Collier, National Youth Programs Director, Groundwork USA
 
Groundwork USA is the only network of local organizations devoted to transforming the natural and built environment of marginalized communities — a national enterprise with local roots, working at the intersection of the environment, equity, and civic engagement.