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Alternative Spring Break #JagBreak

Submitted by Jessica Davis, CEES Assistant Director

I had the enormous pleasure of serving as trip advisor for one of IUPUI's Alternative Spring Break Trips through the IUPUI Division of Student Affairs - Community Service and Civic Engagement. Alternative Breaks at IUPUI are student-led, social issue-focused, and service-based trips that take place during the fall, spring, and summer academic breaks.  These trips are an "alternative" to standard college break trips: they are alcohol- and drug-free and focus on creating positive, sustainable change in communities and cultures across the US. Nine IUPUI undergraduate women attended the trip to Augusta, GA, which had a focus on water quality and environmental issues.  Over the course of the week, we were able to complete a large amount of restoration work in conjunction with a handful of community partners.  An overview of our trip is below.

Day 1 - March 15
Travel from Indianapolis to Augusta, GA

Day 2 - March 16
Today, we cleaned up the Savannah Riverkeeper property along the Savannah River.  This piece of land, which was once utilized for breaking down vehicles and a dumping ground, was recently purchased by the Savannah Riverkeepers with the goal of restoring the lot and building an environmental education center along the river.  The property was littered with tires, broken glass, seat belts, electrical wiring, construction waste, bottles, and just about any other sort of trash you can imagine.  We were able to load up 3 pickup trucks worth of trash for proper recycling and disposal.  Later in the afternoon, we traveled to a local park to remove trash from trails and along the streams that ran through it.  We then relaxed by the Savannah River and watched the water run over the shoals before heading home for dinner.

Day 3 - March 17
We spent the morning mulching trees that were recently planted at park owned by the Augusta Canal Authority.  After mulching, we moved on to cleaning up the park trails and surrounding areas.  This park was built on top of an old landfill, and it still had quite a bit of visible rubbish protruding up through the soil.  In the evening, the Augusta Chapter of the Sierra Club invited us to their meeting.  The City of Augusta's Planning and Zoning Department gave a presentation on the future of transportation - particularly bike transport - in Augusta.  


Day 4 - March 18
Today was water Wednesday!  Half of the participants cleaned Lake Olmstead, removing trash from the water by kayak; the other half cleaned the trails around the lake by foot.  After lunch, everyone loaded up their kayak with trash bags and pickers to remove debris from the Augusta Canal.  We ended up collecting 27 bags of trash, a tire, and a wooden pallet from the water.  As a thank you, the Augusta Canal Authority treated us to a historic boat tour of the canal.

Day 5 - March 19
There was heavy rain on Thursday, so our partners were kind enough to give us the day off.  We drove ~3 hours to visit historic Savannah, GA.  With cobble streets intact, the town has fantastic historic charm and fabulous architecture.  The city has also retained its historical layout, including a park every 3-4 blocks!  We did some shopping, ate seafood, and enjoyed a day of rest before our last day of service.

Day 6 - March 20
We spent Friday morning removing invasive plant species - particularly a Bradford Pear hybrid - from Phinizy Swamp.  The girls were able to take their swing at cutting down trees with axes, all while battling the thorns of the Bradford tree and green briar.  Later in the afternoon, Ruth from Phinizy treated us to a tour of the Augusta Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is just adjacent to Phinizy Swamp.  This facility is incredibly unique as it is both a conventional water treatment facility, as well as a wetland that provides a tertiary treatment to the wastewater after its initial treatment.  Not only do the wetlands play a vital role in cleaning the water, but the facility is also providing crucial habitat for egret, great blue heron, river otter, alligators, and the like.  Friday evening, we were treated to a pot luck dinner by the Augusta Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Southern hospitality was in full force as nearly everyone we met all week was there to thank us and provide us dinner.  We were overwhelmed by the level of gratitude these individuals showed for the work we accomplished.  One individual - Jay Jacobs of the Savannah Riverkeepers (and a local artist) - made each of us hand-painted great blue heron to take home.  


Day 7 - March 21
Return to Indianapolis

Special thanks to all our partners who were so helpful for the duration of our stay - Frank Carl and the Augusta Chapter of the Sierra Club; Jay Jacobs and Elena of the Savannah Riverkeepers, Julianna of the Augusta Canal Authority, Ruth Mead of Phinizy Swamp, and all the others who were working behind the scenes.  Also a special shout out to the two student leaders who organized the whole trip - Heather Rogers and Bridget Barbara!  


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