Armed with machetes and saws, Buc S Dexter Jackson and dozens of others helped rid Copeland Park of unwanted, invasive plants
Trimming trees and picking weeds? Noble weekend pursuits but not ones you'll find on the Saturday morning agendas of either your typical professional football player or your average high school student. Fortunately for the residents who enjoy Copeland Park, neither Tampa Bay Buccaneers Shane Grice and Dexter Jackson nor the members of the Buccaneers Student Advisory Board (SAB) are average.
Grice, Jackson and the members of the SAB all gave up their beauty sleep this Saturday morning to help clean up Copeland Park as part of the Mayor's Beautification Program.
Julie Sternfels, the City of Tampa Parks Department Naturalist described the goal of the clean up. "Copeland Park has a lot of natural habitat left, but being in the city it has been exposed to a lot of invasive plants," said Sternfels. "What we are trying to do is remove the invasive plants and allow the native vegetation to flourish and provide the proper habitat for the wildlife that live in this area."
After meeting the group and introducing park supervisor Kevin Serra, Julie gave the Buc representatives a brief overview of what the invasive plants do to the indigenous ones, what the invasive plants look like and how to best go about removing them. The students and players then split up into two groups along the path through Copeland Park and began the demanding task of removing the invasive plants.
To rid the park of the unwanted vegetation, the students and players were armed with work gloves, large and small pruning shears, saws and machetes. With tools in their gloved hands, everyone headed for the trees and went to work.
"This is one of the best groups that I've ever worked with," said an impressed Serra during the clean up. "These kids are working hard out here."
Sternfels agreed. "It's really very, very helpful and they're working good, too," she said. "That's really unusual in a volunteer group."
Serra and Sternfels weren't the only ones pleased with the day's work. Jackson and Grice enjoyed the interaction with the students made possible by the combined effort. "I'm having a blast," said Jackson before the effort was done. "Everybody out here is working hard and striving for the same goal. It's a great time."
As the day progressed and the groups became more comfortable in what trees and weeds to remove, the work moved smoothly and large areas of invasive plants were removed. "It means a lot to have everybody out here today," said Serra. "They got more done in one morning than we could get done in a month because of the lack of manpower that we have."
Perhaps the obvious improvement was a reward to the workers, because not a complaint was heard throughout the day, only voices asking which area to work on next. "It's fun to come out to events like these and help out," said Jackson, covered in sweat and soot. "Maybe our being out here will encourage others to help out and volunteer their time."
After a strenuous morning of cutting down trees and picking weeds, the groups got back together and sat down to drink some water. During the rest, they discussed the day's activities and the importance of what they had accomplished.
"We're trying to educate our youth about the environment," said Serra. "What's a good plant and what's a bad plant and why?"
Student Advisory Board member Tyrone Moses paid attention to Serra's instruction. "I had a good time out here today," said Moses. "We learned a lot from Kevin and Julie, cut down some trees and pulled a million weeds."
Grice agreed. "It was a very informative day," he said. "I learned a lot about the plant life in the park and about the steps that need to be taken to provide the right environment for the wildlife."
Moses summed up the overriding message of the day with his statement: "Working hard is better than doing nothing. "
Even on a Saturday morning.
To find out how you can contribute to the Mayor's Beautification Program, call Raina O'Neil at (813) 221-8733 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on how you can become a Buccaneer Student Advisory Board Member, call 813-870-2700 ext. 274. Applications for the 2002-2003 Student Advisory Board are currently being accepted.
The 2001-2002 Student Advisory Board Members are Lisa Bardwell (Eastlake), Meghan Bowles (Tarpon Springs), Kevin Brown (Dunedin), Mika Bulmash (Blake), Brian Calhoun (Brandon), Michael Carty (Durant), Maria Cevallos (Wharton), April Coates (Wharton), Zachry Cooper (H.B. Plant), Jarod Dicks (Plant City), Johnny Dicks (Plant City), Aaron Garcia (Armwood), Shelley Griffin (Plant City), Ricky Harb (Berkeley Prep), Carlista Hawls (Thomas Jefferson), Christina Hernandez (H.B. Plant), Amanda Kern (Tarpon Springs), Jeffrey Livingston (Palm Harbor University), Brandi Mabe (Blake), Brittany Mills (Manatee), Tyrone Moses (Sickles), Ari Nikjeh (Palm Harbor University), Kari Pfeiffer (Palm Harbor University), Hailey Pike (Tampa Bay Technology), Ashley Potter (All Saint's Academy), Matthew Riebow (Armwood), Robert Sadler (Durant), Christopher Sampson (Hillsborough), Matthew Scott (Jesuit), Candace Sharrow (East Lake), Nida Siddiqi (Tampa Bay Technology), Christine Spiker (Bloomingdale), Robyn Stambaugh (Boca Ciega), Kayce Tillett (East Bay), Melissa Valdes (Sickles), Torran Wakefield (Leto), Christy Walker (Durant) and Mackenzie Wilkinson (Riverview).