Fifty-two volunteers from Clarksville, Nashville, and Surrounding Counties Converge at Dunbar Cave State Park to Help Bring Back Native Grasslands of the Southeast

Fifty-two down, 9,948 to go! The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative has a goal of recruiting 10,000 volunteers throughout their 23-state region to jumpstart a movement to bring back, understand, and appreciate native grasslands.

Group volunteer shot at Dunbar Cave State Park by Amanda Blount

Group volunteer shot at Dunbar Cave State Park by Amanda Blount

 

Clarksville, Tenn. (Jan 27, 2019) - The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative (SGI) held its inaugural volunteer workday at Dunbar Cave State Park on Sunday, January 27th, and all agreed it was a huge success. The predicted winter weather conditions were delayed in favor of perfect conditions for working outside. Families and individuals united by an interest in getting involved in something positive for the environment came together to lend a hand for the restoration of a new native grassland area that locals and visitors will enjoy for years to come.

 

By the end of the day, more than 50 people (children and adults)—some from sister organizations—volunteered as restorationists and citizen scientists to support the goal of local conservation. New friendships were created while old ones were rekindled.

 

Volunteer John Webb said, “I came with the idea of volunteering time just to help out, but left with a whole new understanding, appreciation, and sense of urgency for native grassland restoration. I got to meet a lot of great people of all ages from the community who also shared a passion for restoring native habitat.”

 

The activities included clearing invasive species, identifying species after receiving a quick training in use of the iNaturalist app, planting native seeds by hand, wickiup (grass hut) building for the kids and the young at heart, and a historic tour by SGI’s co-founder and Executive Director, Dr. Dwayne Estes.

 

The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative (SGI) is a project of Austin Peay State University. Be sure to join SGI for future volunteer opportunities and be sure to invite a friend. Those interested in future volunteer opportunities are invited to sign up as an SGI volunteer here.

For more inspiration, read what some of SGI’s inaugural volunteers had to say about the event:

Photo by Amanda Blount

Photo by Amanda Blount

I took the opportunity to spend this past Sunday volunteering with SGI at one of their TN restoration sites. The organization has reestablished a beautiful and diverse natural grassland within Dunbar Cave State Park property. I, along with 30+ other volunteers, helped with invasive species control, native species release, and seeding. We also learned a lot – what a wonderful opportunity to learn about the importance of grasslands hands-on and to appreciate the peace and aesthetics of just being in a well-established grassland! SGI exudes the passion, drive, and knowledge necessary for the success of their efforts. I encourage anyone to support and/or volunteer with them in the future!
— Daniel Chuquin
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

SGI’s volunteer day opened the community’s eyes to the unprecedented loss of the Southern grassland ecosystems. But, it also gave us a lesson on the resilience of nature and with that a bright path for the communities to take action in the restoration of these landscapes.
— David Pineros
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

We sowed seeds of flowering plants in the park’s new prairie. How delightful on a winter’s day to hold the promise of spring in my hands and imagine all the bees, butterflies, and birds to come!
— Margie Hunter
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

The SGI volunteer day was one of the most encouraging and moving experiences I’ve had. I can’t express how amazing it truly was to see so many citizens in motion to help restore native prairie right here in Montgomery County. As a candidate for State Senate, it was nice to get off the campaign trail for a morning, roll up my sleeves, and help make a noticeable difference at our local State Park.
— Doyle Clark
Photo by Amanda Blount

Photo by Amanda Blount

My husband and I were extremely impressed by the vision, game plan, knowledge and enthusiasm of Dwayne and his group. His message of acting now and empowering individuals to do so is one that would work for many areas of conservation. We were so happy to work side-by-side with the experts and other volunteers there that day, and we look forward to continuing to do so in the future. Thanks to all involved!
— Elizabeth and David Lemke
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Prairie day was super fun! I think all of us kids including me had a great time. All of us teamed up to build an amazing wickiup for wild animals such as rabbits, field mice, etc. I would love for another prairie day to happen soon.
— Anna (age 10)
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

I am thrilled to be a part of SGI’s new initiative. The inaugural event impacted me in ways too numerous to convey.

The fun, inspiring, and educational event included an in-depth history of the area and a detailed mission extending across one third of the country. A group of 40+ strangers instantly became one big Citizen Scientist Team with wide range of technical, physical, and engagement skills, armed with well thought out strategy and an arsenal of amazing tools. Together we recorded existing plants, eradicated dreaded invasive exotics, and planted carefully curated seeds with a plan that combines human help with nature’s inclination. We were lauded for BEING THE CHANGE, saying that all the money in the world is inert without people doing the actual work.

The visual reinforcement of our actions was surprising as the landscape transformed before our very eyes! We can look forward to visual updates in the future, giving us more ownership of the project.

The inter-generational group purposefully included youngsters, which brought a fresh and energetic perspective. We witnessed the project through the eyes of the children, with an innocence and urgency, as they will inherit what we leave them. Also, I was 10 years old again for a tiny part of the day. Bliss!

Our singular future depends on more unifying and community building efforts like these. Thanks for organizing it and inviting me to play a small, yet vital part.
— Brenda Stein
Photo by Amanda Blount

Photo by Amanda Blount

I came on volunteer day mainly to see how you planned to go about invasive removal and what you wanted to show us and talk about on the hike around. I was encouraged to hear how much financial backing you’ve already secured for your goals and am always looking for any new ideas on the how tos of native restoration that I might apply to my own land.
— Frank Lyne
Photo by Shawna Estes

Photo by Shawna Estes

So much environmental news is bleak and disquieting. My family was excited to be involved in a conservation effort in our community, to learn more about the nature around us, and to be part of a positive environmental change. The kids were so engaged with the wickiup-building, and I know that our daughter will feel connected to that place because of the volunteer day. Thank you!
— Anne Post
Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Photo by Rebecca Johnson

We had an absolutely terrific time at the prairie day. All of the children helped to build a wickiup, which is still standing through all of our recent rainshowers! I thoroughly enjoyed everyone’s company, and I hope to see another prairie day happen again in the near future.
— Olivia M.
Photo by Amanda Blount

Photo by Amanda Blount

Volunteering with Southeastern Grasslands Initiative was a great experience! We were able to both learn more about our local habitats and contribute to saving them. It was also great to meet others in the community who are also passionate about conservation. We are looking forward to the next event!
— Carly Rekosh