Generations Saving the Earth

On a sultry August morning, just before the start of school, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteer Mary Elmer of Elk River, Minnesota and her two granddaughters, Lilly and Bella, headed out to complete a volunteer task just as they had each week all summer. They traveled from Elk River to a spot north of Big Lake where the Snake River passes under a small, but busy road through a culvert just north of Big Lake. When they arrived, all three volunteers knew their role. They made their way to where the water flowed into the culvert with a bucket that had a rope tied to the handle and a clear measuring tube nearly as tall as Lilly. With Mary close at hand, Lilly drew water from the river in the bucket. Bella stood ready with the tube, which was then filled with water from the bucket. Next a flat disk was lowered down into the tube and observed through the water from the top of the tube to monitor how far down in the tube it would go before it could no longer be seen. On this day, even though the water appeared quite murky, the disk was visible all the way to the bottom of the tube. A good day for water clarity! (This task is completed by volunteers throughout the state at different locations for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The effort is locally coordinated by the Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).)

This summer Mary, Lilly and Bella also assisted in a tree inventory for the Sherburne SWCD, which involved being trained to work along side other volunteers to inventory what varieties of trees exist in specific locations. This inventory data will be used to plan for the future of trees in Sherburne County.

Mary chose to dedicate part of her summer to these volunteer projects specifically because she loves everything about the environment and they were both tasks she could do with her granddaughters. Mary said that both her granddaughters have become more sensitive to seeing litter in the environment. They are upset that anyone would intentionally throw their trash on the ground. They appreciated the consequences of litter and pollution on the earth. When Bella was asked what difference they are making through their volunteer service, she summed up their purpose for the summer in this way, “If we help people (and trees and water) now we can figure out how to save trees and measure how clean the water is to help save the earth.”

-Charlotte Strei