This story appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Our Big Backyard, a quarterly magazine about parks and nature. Read more stories, plan an outing with a field guide, and find out more about fun nature events and classes.
Stacey found a unique way to solve that problem by volunteering with Metro as a site steward at the Upper Johnson Creek area.
“It was a chance to be with nature and the land to see it almost natural, almost untainted, which is almost impossible,” she said. “I was so hungry to be out by a stream and wander and see and watch.”
Site stewards such as Stacey commit to visiting a natural area at least twice a month. The volunteers report any issues to Metro crews and can also report wildlife sightings or pull invasive plants that they see. A number of the sites are not officially open for public access, giving site stewards a rare chance to connect with nature in a setting that often feels like a private slice of paradise.
Stacey, who is married to Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, started volunteering as a site steward in May 2013.
Over the course of the first year, she saw deer, hawks, rabbits, crawdads, minnows and freshwater mussels. She saw the creek rise in the spring and recede in the summer. She also saw the result of restoration efforts to improve the habitat.
“To see the difference at the beginning of the year and then the end of the year and how one year can really make a difference was beautiful,” she said.
Stacey also had the opportunity to share the site with her daughter, Hesper Stacey, and her grandsons, Bruno Norman, 6, and Archie Norman, 4. The experience provided a chance for her grandsons to learn about nature and how to respectfully enjoy it, she said. For instance, the family was careful to not disrupt crawdads in the river, pick flowers or throw rocks in the stream.
There’s always a need for more volunteer site stewards, said Dan Moeller, Metro’s natural areas land manager.
“Although we do our best to visit our sites, we just can’t get out there as often as we’d like,” he said. “Having site stewards gives us eyes and ears beyond what our staff can provide. Site stewards help us to know what’s going on, if there are any issues or what wildlife is using the property.”
Stacey said she loved her experience as a site steward and getting to explore nature on her own.
“There was an incredible healing, an incredible feeling of peace and filling myself with goodness that would last,” she said. “I’d take it home and be able to live with it. My person, myself became better, and I also felt like it was a way to give back.”