This morning I departed from Green River Preserve (GRP) after spending two nights in a camp hidden within a piece of protected land that hugs the Green River from it’s headwaters at the basecamp of GRP to the farm and paved road 5 miles downstream. Probably my favorite take-away from my visit is that GRP put an easement on a large portion of the property to provide protection to this amazing ecosystem. Even more-so that the two other camps I visited while in Western North Carolina had also enacted protections to preserve parts of their property. It’s clear from my visits that a common theme when highlighting examples of sustainability is the exploration and conservation of the natural environments in which many camps reside. The impact of protecting the natural community goes much further than changing a lightbulb or composting foodwaste. What a great legacy and example camps can leaving through these conservation efforts.
So you have a great natural environment to explore…now what? Missy Schench, Executive Director of Green River Preserve, shared with me the history and development of their programs and curriculum. Each morning all the campers are taken in small groups on mentor hikes to explore the Green River Preserve. My timing for my visit allowed me to visit with several camp staff who were wrapping up the summer camp season. The staff were excited to tell me about their experience at GRP and the impact the programs have on the campers. It was a delightful surprise to learn that staff are encouraged to work at other education facilities to help them become more well rounded educators. It’s clear that the staff are what make for successful, engaging and impactful educational programs.
On my way out of Green River Preserve I stopped by the farm and got a tour from the Farm Manager, Phil McGlynn. It was incredible to hear about the thought and intentional efforts to design their farm in a way that considers the available resources and challenges to cultivate the land. The soil in this area has a high concentration of sand which results in a lot of soil loss due to erosion…into the Green River. Depositing these sediments impacts the ecosystem of the river by reducing habitat for organisms that require open spaces for hiding between and amongst river rocks. By incorporating techniques such as hugelkulur, Phil is able to develop garden beds that do not need to be tilled and continually deposit nutrients as the organic mass within slowly breaks down over time. Additionally these trenches will collect runnoff water as it drains through the layers collecting the sediment that would otherwise continue across the slightly slopped land to the river. This was just one of the many examples of permaculture design that are demonstrated at the farm.
Much of my time on the Camp Visits has been spent discussing the definition of sustainability. There are some simple and clear definitions of sustainability like “to keep” or “to maintain”, but the application of this perspective can range greatly. So with the help of the Green Camps Certification I am helping camps facilitate the process of creating their own definition of sustainability that reflects the unique characteristics of their programs and facility. Green River Preserve provides a great demonstration of a “sustainable camp” and applaud them for all that they are doing.
A huge thanks to Missy and the staff of GRP for welcoming me to your community and sharing all the great work you are doing.
Please visit the Green Rriver Preserve Website to learn more about their sustainability efforts. http://www.greenriverpreserve.org/sustainability/natural-green-organic
Visits like this one were made possible by Donations to the Sustainable Camps Road Trip.
Your donations will help cover basic expenses for the trip including meals, camping reservations and trees that will be planted to offset the carbon emissions resulting from the 4,250 miles driven during the tour.