My name is Oscar Roa, my pronouns are he/him/his, and I’m a third-year mechanical engineering student. I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. I am passionate about sports, outdoor activities, music, and food. One of my favorite things to do in life is to take a walk in nature and think about life.
I had the pleasure to volunteer with Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces. More specifically with the Castellow Hammock Preserve & Nature Center. Castellow Hammock is a 112-acre park that contains a mature tropical hardwood forest. This park was one of the first environmental education centers in Miami-Dade County, and it is popular with birders, butterfly watchers, and botanists. (miamidade.gov).
The main reason for my decision to volunteer with Castellow Hammock is the admiration that I have developed for nature and its preservation. Thanks to my Miami in Miami class, I’ve had the opportunity to visit places like the everglades national park, Vizcaya, and the Deering Estate. Where I learned about the unique ecosystems that we have in Miami. I admire park rangers and people who dedicate their lives to the conservation of natural landscapes. I want to contribute my grain of salt by volunteering at natural parks whenever I get the chance to. Even if my life will not be dedicated to nature conservation, I will always have it present in my mind.
When I was looking for parks to volunteer at, it came to my attention that there were several opportunities that had a name in common. Eco Action Day. I decided to research this and I found out that “Eco Action Day is an annual nationwide campaign in Singapore encouraging awareness and action for the environment, which culminates in the celebration of World Environment Day on June 5th. Over the years, it has grown to be an established platform for organizations and individuals to pledge environmental actions.” (Eco Action Day). I was excited to see that this initiative had reached my own city. Here in Miami, Eco Action Day is any day when people gather to collaborate in efforts to take care of the environment. I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of April 17th’s Eco Action Day.
Where and What
My service project consisted of a three-hour collective effort to clean and organize the installations of Castellow Hammock Preserve. Our team consisted of four volunteers, and we were assigned the task of clearing a small lot that was full of invasive weeds and debris. This lot would be later used as a nursery and as a small park attraction. The first thing that we did was to get rid of invasive plants/weeds. In the process of cleaning, I learned about the importance of endangered plant species. I wasn’t aware of the importance of native species for the preservation of the local wildlife. I learned that the plants that grew in the park had been intentionally planted because they attracted native species. After clearing the lot, we raked the ground floor to even it out. We later added pots for decoration and a couple of benches for people to sit on and admire the nursery. After organizing the small lot, we took a walk on the park’s trail. There we were assigned the task of making the trail’s path more visible. To do so, we used fallen branches to show the trail’s path. One of the most important facts that I learned on the trail is that there is a tree at the preserve that was a champion tree of the US until recently. Today it holds second place as the tallest tree of its kind in America. This tree’s scientific name is Sideroxylon Foetidissimum, its height is 86 ft, and its circumference is 4.5 ft. It was estimated to be 500 years old. (Champion Trees). After marking the path, we were taught about solution holes and how they are formed over hundreds and even thousands of years. These solution holes have a unique characteristic to them, the ambient temperature is significantly lower inside of them. This allows for species of plants that wouldn’t normally survive in our weather to flourish. There are dozens of solution holes at Castellow Hammock.
My service project took place on Sunday, April 17, 2022. From 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.
After my service time was done at Castellow Hammock I had the chance to take a walk around the visitor’s center. There were several exhibitions, mostly targeted toward children, showing some of the most important species that live in Florida. There was a microscope showing our state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing, and several books and toys. It all looked old and abandoned.
It was very sad and eye-opening to see the state that the visitor’s center was in. It made me realize that many of the people who live in Miami don’t have any idea of our natural treasures and the importance of nature conservation. I see every day on the news how our everglades are being threatened by companies who want to use them to build more housing. Unique species, champion trees, and invaluable solution holes are being forgotten but also threatened. It is very unfortunate to realize that many of the people who threaten our ecosystems are aware of the damage that they’re causing. While the people that will be harmed (residents) are unaware of what is going on.
I hope to raise awareness of the importance of preserving our natural treasures in my community. We should understand that no amount of money is worth the unique things that nature has given to us. No matter how much money a person makes, they will never be capable of building a champion tree. I’m optimistic that my generation and future generations will be activists for natural preservation.
Castellow Hammock Preserve & Nature Center. miamidade.gov
Eco Action Day. Eco Action Day
FDACS. “Champion Trees”. Champion Trees
Florida Hikes. “Castellow Hammock Preserve”. Castellow Hammock Preserve