The Trails and Grounds team could very well have been mistaken for Team Redbull or some extreme Mountain Dew dudes last month. Several members of this group were involved in some interesting, if not dangerous, training to further our ability to manage all 100 acres of our jurisdiction.
For many years, Crystal Bridges’ ground crew has used prescribed fire as a tool of ecosystem management and safety throughout the grounds. Each year we determine a couple of sections of the forest, usually 10-15 acres at a time, to intentionally set fire to. This somewhat risky endeavor has always been conducted by a seasoned team of experts from the Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas Division. In September, however, Trails and Grounds Manager Clay Bakker and Horticulturist Cody George spent five days in an intensive prescribed fire training class at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock in order to learn every detail of the process. After several days of thorough classwork, Clay and Cody were assigned to teams that actually studied, planned, and successfully executed two different 25-acre nature burns in Camp Robinson. In the near future, you are likely to see the Trails and Grounds team conducting our own prescribed burns throughout this magnificent forest we call home. While it may seem scary, the use of fire—under the right conditions and with proper planning—can be a vital part of invigorating nature’s intended beauty for the forest and create a safer place for everyone to enjoy.
While some of Trails and Grounds crew played with fire, a couple of others got some serious “climb” on. It’s not hard to figure out that the largest assets throughout the grounds are our trees. These assets are not only large in size but in numbers as well. Managing the health and well-being of these beauties and ensuring guest safety around them is a monumental and never-ending task. Much of this effort requires working up in the canopy, high above the ground. Until now, we have left this dangerous job up to Northwest Arkansas’s top arborist and tree climber, David Raines and his team. But last week, two Trails and Grounds daredevils, Josh Erickson and William Aguilar, began learning the “ropes” of tree climbing and maintenance. Apparently they took to tree climbing like Tarzan himself and achieved some pretty hair-raising heights of accomplishment. This training will continue throughout 2015 to ensure these young men have the proper experience and safety knowledge for the job. So … if you come across a rope dangling from a large tree, look up (if you can bear the height) and give the guys a wave.