Earth Team volunteers have helped transform a neglected area at a county fairground into an attraction experts say will help boost tourism and the local economy in Mariposa, Calif.
Earth Team is the name given to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service volunteers. They work side by side with NRCS employees on conservation projects to improve their local environment.
The formerly eroded, weed-infested site at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds has been turned into the Sierra Nevada Foothills Native Plant Demonstration Garden, thanks to Mariposa County Resource Conservation District (MCRCD) teamwork, community donations and Earth Team volunteers.
Funded by a grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the garden now showcases a diversity of indigenous trees, shrubs and wildflowers that stabilize the soil, protect water quality and attract native pollinators. The 2,000-square-foot site will have pathways which will be handicapped accessible.
Earth Team volunteers’ contributions include site planning, design and preparation; weeding and adding soil and mulches; identification and selection of plants; installation of the irrigation system; grading and edging to comply with American Disabilities Act (ADA) standards; and placement of 250 plants enveloped in hand-cut wire gopher baskets.
MCRCD project manager Kris Randal said Earth Team volunteers’ contributions were pivotal. “This project could not have succeeded without their persevering commitment and sustained support,” she said.
The garden will educate visitors of all ages. A retired educator is developing lesson plans and onsite activities for fourth-grade students, and the garden will serve as a model for local gardeners.
The Mariposa Native Plant Demonstration Garden and its Earth Team volunteers have received local recognition for their work. Newspaper articles have featured the garden and its environmental benefits. The volunteers recently received the California NRCS 2010 Earth Team “Volunteers of the Year” award.
In 2010, more than 32,000 Earth Team volunteers donated 641,549 hours of service to NRCS estimated to be worth $13.4 million. Since Earth Team was formed in 1985, over half a million volunteers have donated an estimated $327 million worth of time, in 2010 dollars, helping NRCS with its conservation mission.Learn more about Earth Team.
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