by Carolyn Stephen It's not often that we get to interact with the people who live in the communities in which we work. Usually we are off in the woods in the middle of a conservation area or a state park and people besides ourselves and our contacts are few and far between. However, this last week my team was spraying for the pesky invasive Spotted Knapweed on a couple of state highways. Passing cars are not uncommon, and every so often someone will stop to ask what we are spraying for.
One couple in particular stood out to me. We first met J- (I just remember her name started with a J), the wife. She pulled her SUV over to the side of the road, hopped out of her car, and eagerly crossed the road. When we told her we were spraying for Spotted Knapweed, she was absolutely elated. I don't think I have ever seen anyone quite so grateful for the service we do. She told us how she and her husband had been fighting Spotted Knapweed for years now on their property, and how happy she was to see MDC and MODOT working to eliminate the invasive plant. Two hours late for work, she could not stay long, but her enthusiasm lightened our day, as she told us that she was going to call her husband immediately and tell him to stop by later. And off she drove.
We returned to our spraying up the roadside, when, about five minutes later, a man pulled up and climbed out of his vehicle, introducing himself as Julius. I thought he was just another person ready to ask questions, but it turned out that this woman's husband really was very eager to come talk to us, so there he was. He must have dropped whatever he was doing to come inspect our work as invasive sprayers. Like his wife, he was thrilled to hear that we were spraying Knapweed and proceeded to give us a list of roads that had some particularly bad infestations. After discussing the issue for some time with us, he walked along the road with me and another member as he headed back to his car. He helped us identify the plant on the walk, picking up roadside trash as we went. I was very impressed by this man's dedication to something that most people know very little about. It meant a lot to hear that someone from the community really cared about what we were doing, and took the time to walk down the road with us a little ways, even help us out in his own way. After speaking with him, I valued my own work a lot more, and felt a taste of the impact we might be having.