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Archive for the ‘Day to Day Activities’ 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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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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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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Both Americorps*VISTA and WIA volunteers have been putting in over 40 hour weeks apiece on average, and this tremendous collective effort has paid off! Stage 1 of the park’s development is near completion.

Many trails are set – most of this week has been spent trimming up and down the pathways, ensuring that they meet regulations and are clear to walk through. The bush hog, pictured below with Kyle in the driver’s seat, has been a major help with smoothing out any rough edges.

But the question is – what’s next? Various small projects throughout the park still need to be completed – boat repair, installation of picnic tables and grills, and painting a few structures on site (to name a few). Still, the atmosphere and tension that volunteers have been having is much more relaxed. Below, Jeff “Boss Man” Bryan is being goofy as he carries chain saw and an axe back to the tool shed.

Small projects aside, it feels good to see things coming together.

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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June 26th, the temperature was in the high 90s and a burn warning was out for the Union Parish and surrounding areas, forbidding anyone from even starting a control fire and warning residents that there was an increased risk for forest fires.

That day at lunch, we were all having a meeting about pavilion construction on the park grounds. Suddenly, Jeff Bryan and Downsville Mayor Reggie Skains sniff around, saying they smell smoke. At first we dismissed the comments, but soon Reggie started calling his friends working up the road, asking if they were burning anything. Finally he got a call from his daughter who was driving home for lunch – “The fire is coming from Bryan Park!” she told her father.

Reggie repeated what his daughter said, and without even thinking about it, we all took off in the direction of the blaze. Some ran, some hopped in vehicles – everyone was in a panic. In those dry conditions and in an area where we had cleared brush, even the slightest pick up in the wind could have set the entire park ablaze.

When we arrived on the site, the area by the park entrance was blazing. No one was working in that area that day, but it could have been a passerby discarding a lit cigarette. It would have smoldered all day, theoretically, and then started to really roar when it hit in the wind and dry debris. Either way, we were facing a serious and dangerous problem.

Moments later, the architecture students from the nearby pavilion site, and they tossed everyone a shovel or a metal rake. Reggie Skains gave the orders, directing people to go to various areas that were at risk of spreading because of the direction of the wind. Braving the extreme heat and smoke, the volunteers tossed dirt over the edge of the blaze, creating a makeshift fire wall.

What mattered most was getting the perimeters of the fire under control, otherwise it could easily spread further and perhaps endanger a volunteer or more of the wildlife and flora in the area.

Ms. Shelby called the local volunteer fire dept from Walnut Lane, Ward 5. They pulled up shortly after the call (some still dressed in PJs, having just slipped on some cowboy boots) and got right to work. They are impressed by the firewall that was already put up, and all that was left was to drench the smoldering piles in the middle of the decimated area to make sure that nothing was still smoking and capable to starting another fire.

In 2 hours, the ordeal was over. We slowly made our way back to our various places and finished our work for the day. The whole time, however, we couldn’t get past how close we came to see all of our hard work, all of that beautiful land go up in smoke, literally.

Fires are beyond destructive, and they are unpredictable in extreme weather conditions, such as the intense heat and drought we were having that day. I don’t recommend ANYONE taking the action we did – it should be noted, all the volunteers present that day were adults and aware of the dangers.

We are all just so happy that everyone was safe, and the fire only managed to burn 50 by 50 feet of land.

Stay safe,
Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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It doesn’t matter how strong you are. When you are working outside in the middle of the day in the hot, humid 95+ degree Louisiana weather, you are at risk of heatstroke or even worse.

As Edward Lipinski said in his 1998 New York Times article,

Strenuous work outdoors on a hot, humid day can quickly take its toll on the body. In addition to the heat absorbed from the sun, muscles will generate heat as they flex. This added heat will help raise the body’s temperature even higher. Unless the excess heat can be released in some way, the body’s thermoregulation mechanism will shut down and induce heatstroke.


Eric Gill

Eric whacking his way through the forest along the right-of-way.


Kyle Hicks

Kyle sawing limbs in the forest

Volunteers at Bryan Park in Downsville are wary of this risk – when we are out clearing brush, building trails, etc., we stick to some general rules to protect ourselves. We try to keep ourselves comfortably covered with hats, pants and sometimes (when we can bare it) long sleeves. We also stay very hydrated. Everyone usually has a water bottle handy, and the nearby utility van keeps a water cooler on ice nearby.

And of course, regular breaks are important. It helps everyone cool down and regroup. It’s important to take it easy if you find yourself working outside this extremely hot summer, like we at Bryan Park are.

Take care,

Jennifer Reed, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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