Archive for the ‘Insights and Reflections’ Category

As the summer comes to a close, Bryan park celebrates the hard workers and volunteers that helped develop the park. WIA (Workforce Investment Act) employees were Downsville locals and high school students who were given “green jobs” to work on the park over the summer. Jeff Bryan (aka Boss Man) led the group in creating trails through macheting and bush hogging. It was a lot of team work and physical labor but it shows as Bryan Park has begun to develop.

Pictured above are the WIA employees with their certificates of completion: Kyle Hicks, Leigh Anne Hooper, D’Marcus Griffin, and Parrish Brasher.

Byran park also celebrated the AmeriCorps Vista volunteers who were local university students from Louisiana Tech and Grambling University. The AmeriCorp Vista volunteers that finished their service are Jennifer Reed and Fabrice Tchouba. Jennifer kept up the blog and did research of Downsville’s history. Fabrice organized the accounting for the park. The six Louisiana Tech architecture students are continuing to work on completing the pavilion, the largest addition to the park. Bryan Park will be the first park in Louisiana with “green” waterless composting restrooms. It’s exciting that a park in a small community is so ahead of the times!

Pictured above with their AmeriCorp certificates is Victoria Christenson, Scott Dill, Jaymes Hanus, Brandon Mosely, David Suhren.

Pictured above is Bill Bryan making a speech at Bryan Park’s End of the Summer Celebration.

Ali Schmierer, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer


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Among the diverse plant life through the park is an equally diverse collection of wild mushrooms.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of certain fungiā€”the equivalent of the apple, not of the tree. Fungi, including those which produce mushrooms, are not plants; they are related to molds, mildews, rusts, smuts, and yeasts, and are classified in the Fungi Kingdom. (…) The slang term “toadstool” is best avoided, as it is ambiguous: to some people, “toadstool” implies a poisonous mushroom; to others, it means a mushroom with an umbrella-like shape.

source: http://americanmushrooms.com/basics.htm

They are identified several ways – where/when they grow; the shape, form (scales, wrinkled or warty textures), color and size of the cap; the stem size; etc. David Fischer’s American Mushrooms site notes that mushroom identification requires massive attention to detail. Considering how many types of mushrooms there are out there and, of course, the potential to mistake a poisonous one for an edible one, it’s important to have some experience in the field before one delves right into trying to cook wild mushrooms.

The best ways to go about learning how to identify mushrooms and then actually getting out there include –
Taking a class (many universities, as part of the biology or even forestry departments, offer mycology classes).
Buying an identification field book (the more vivid the pictures and indepth the details, the more helpful)
Practice, practice, practice! (the more you go out and attempt to label mushrooms, the more you’ll learn – experience is key)

AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer and site supervisor Shelby McDuff went around the park, identifying some of the native species of mushrooms. It’s an ongoing process, since photographs need to be sifted through and compared to field guide images carefully for proper identification. Here are images of the ones that have been successfully identified:

^ Blac-Footed Marasmius

^ Angels Wings

More coming soon…

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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Animal Tracks

Yesterday, Kyle, Leigh-Anne and I were walking up and down the trails with clippers (or “loppers,” they are sometimes called around here) to trim the sides of the trails and pick up debris.

As we made our way around the pond, Kyle stopped for a moment. Something in the dirt caught his eye. I started to ask him what was the matter, when suddenly he muttered, “Pigs.”

“Pigs?” I replied, looking around.

“Yeah,” he answered, leaning in to get a closer look at what I now noticed was a cluster of tracks. “At least one of them is around here. See these tracks? That ain’t a deer, I can tell you that.” He added, pointing to an area that looked disturbed beside the tracks, “See that? They root around and dig up plants and stuff. A whole bunch of them could tear up acres in a single night.”

picture from http://www.bear-tracker.com/wildpig.html
copyright Kim A. Cabrera

We continued along the trail, and before long I was able to point out more wild hog tracks or areas where they dug up for roots, to a degree.

Kyle also pointed out coyote pawprints, which looked like this…

picture from http://www.bear-tracker.com/coyote.html
copyright Kim A. Cabrera

… and various types of deer tracks.

deer tracks through mud near Bryan Park
picture taken by Shelby McDuff, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

The difference between a doe, buck, and fawn is actually very noticeable. For one, a buck has extra extentions behind his hooves. And obviously, fawn tracks are simple to identify, because they are so small.

Though around here the practice is usually to shoot wild hogs because of the damage they do to property. Or to thin out deer populations during hunting season (which is one the way). However, the animals are all protected, as long as they still roam Bryan Park.

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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July 27th, gravel was laid down on the main park road. First an 18-wheeler dumped the gravel down on the dirt road, and then the bulldozer ran it over several times, spread out the gravel, and evened out the surface.

Now the park has a lovely entrance, and when it opens vehicles will easily pass back and forth.

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I am compiling a list of memorable quotes spoken during stage 1 of Bryan Park’s development, during Summer 2009.

Kill the bear!*

Jeff “Boss Man” Bryan, WIA Summer Youth (on-site supervisor)

Service is the gateway to success.

Fabrice Tchouba, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

*”Kill the Bear” refers to a motivational expression used often during a rough workday in the park. To kill the bear is to meet every challenge head-on and to keep working until the task is complete.

More coming soon…

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Lately, with all of the construction and trail building going on throughout Bryan Park, debris of all kinds has been piling up, particularly discarded branches and brush. Last week, the volunteers (including the newest volunteer, Cooper, pictured below) went out and used Downsville Mayor Reggie Skain’s chipper to create wood chips. The chips will be used later to create zones around the picnic tables after the grills arrive and are installed.

In the image above, Cooper and Leigh-Anne behind him are gathering discarded branches to move to the wood chipper nearby. And below, Kyle, Leigh-Anne in the background, Parrish and Jeff “Boss Man” Bryan are putting branches into the machine. Because of the high risk involved in using such machinery, “Boss Man” is the only one allowed to actually put the branches through the wood chipper – the other volunteers simply move the debris closer to him. Safety is an important factor in everything that we do in the park.

On the other side of the park, another project of sorts was underway last week – painting the supply trailer. The trailer itself is an old refrigerated one, originally part of the old Bryan Sausage factory and then brought onto the property for storage. It was very rusty and hardly appealing to the eye, so the volunteers decided to give it a basic paint job to help it look better and blend a bit with the surroundings. Leigh-Anne and Parrish were in charge of painting the entire trailer brown (at first, camouflage was considered but eventually scrapped to save resources).

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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Many of the picnicking tables and benches have been set throughout the park in the most picturesque and calming of places. Last Friday, Leigh-Anne and Jaymes had a picnic of their own, enjoying the lovely, breezy wealther beneath a white oak.

The volunteers are also working on building campfire areas – below, Cooper and Kyle talk about roasting marshmallows by the pond.

All of the volunteers look forward to seeing other people in the community and visitors enjoy these peaceful places throughout the park.

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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