As a former teacher, I’ve always associated autumn with buying pencils and notebooks and easing back into the school year. However, in my newer role as NPCA’s California Desert Field Representative, the season has taken on a whole new meaning.
The fall is now inextricably linked in my mind to National Public Lands Day. It’s a day to celebrate our national parks and other protected areas, but also a day to give back and invest in future generations.
I thought a great deal about these values during our Nature Valley Restoration Event at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve on September 29. With the support of Nature Valley’s Preserve the Parks program, the event was a community-led collaboration between NPCA, Friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, the Palm Springs Bureau of Land Management, and College of the Desert. More than 40 volunteers from our partner organizations, along with the U.S. Marines, local youth, and citizens from Morongo Valley, removed invasive clover and cleared trails during a cool fall morning. Big Morongo Canyon is an essential source of water for Joshua Tree National Park’s bighorn sheep, as well as an internationally renowned bird-watching destination. The restoration work to remove invasive species will result in a healthier ecology for this fragile canyon and for Joshua Tree National Park.
Adding artistic expression to the restoration, College of the Desert Professor Ruth Nolan brought her students and ran an afternoon poetry workshop in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Ruth is a published poet who has written extensively about the desert and was editor of No Place for a Puritan, an anthology of writing from the California desert. “In my class curriculum, I integrate the literary written arts with an emphasis on nature, particularly our surrounding desert areas,” says Nolan. Not only did her young students pull more invasive clover and clear more brush from trails than I did, but they also made the connection between the world of art and the world of nature. Two of the young students wrote poems demonstrating their appreciation for public lands after the restoration event and a hike through Big Morongo Canyon’s lush desert oasis.
By Jennipher Martinez
sand dune loose, looks soft
tortoise treading its way through sand
oasis providing water for animals and plants
lizard looking for bugs to eat, then sliding away
sunrise the time I look to make a new day
Desert Oasis Soundscape
By Darlene Arciga Here I sit, alone, hidden beneath the trees, in my solitary state but I know I am not alone.
The trees beside me sway gently to and fro, responding to the cool caress of the afternoon breeze,
Their leaves like strands of my hair, swaying peacefully. The warm wind whispers its hushed secrets
to the life around me: the faint buzz of unknown creatures, and the cheerful chirps of birds singing songs to the earth
How relaxing this is…. let me stay here forever.
After hearing and reading these poems, it occurred to me that if stewardship of our national parks and public lands can be thought of as a relay race, these students had taken the baton and were running towards the finish! Luz Olmeda, one of the College of the Desert students and poetry workshop participants, summed up the value of special places like our desert national parks and public lands nicely:
“It’s important to protect public lands because they are areas that connect us to our origins and source. These areas have essence, stories and life. When we preserve them we give ourselves the opportunity to stay in touch with nature and wildlife that we don’t get to experience any other way.”
About the author
Seth Shteir Former Californian Desert Program Manager
Seth joined NPCA’s California Desert Field Office as a Program Manager in 2014.