By Marlena Hartman-Filson, Community HealthCorps Member, San Francisco Clinic Community Consortium
On any other Monday morning at 8am, I would be clambering out of my front door with my bike, hoping not to miss the bike shuttle that takes me across the Bay Bridge to my service site at the San Francisco Clinic Community Consortium. But on this Monday at 8am, I was getting into a bright blue hatchback belonging to my friend, and fellow AmeriCorps member, for a special road trip to Fort Baker. Four other cars, filled with the rest of our Community HealthCorps team, were also embarking on a similar adventure. Soon all five cars converged in a small parking lot just past a sign welcoming us to Fort Baker. Constructed just after the turn of the 20th century, Fort Baker provided permanent housing for soldiers who constructed, maintained, and trained at the surrounding batteries. In the mid-1990s, after nearly a century of continued use and service through two world wars, the military transferred Fort Baker and its surrounding land to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
It was here on the coastal cliffs of Fort Baker where my Community HealthCorps team began our Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project. We were excited to join fellow Community HealthCorps members, AmeriCorps members from other programs, and many other volunteers serving their communities across the nation to pay tribute to Dr. King’s legacy. Over the course of the morning, we worked with three biologists from the Park Service to improve the ecology of the area. We were split into three groups; the first group cleaned up litter, the second group pulled invasive French Broom, and the third group planted two native plant species, Pacific Madrone and Ocean Spray. Over the course of just a few hours, our team and other participating volunteers picked up multiple trash bags full of litter, a truckload of invasive French Broom (saving at least two gallons of herbicide from being used in the area), and planted nearly 300 itty bitty Madrone trees.
We were all smiles when the service day wrapped up. While the rest of the country was just catching its breath between Polar Vortex #1 and Polar Vortex #2 of the season, we had spent the morning playing in the dirt in sunglasses and our AmeriCorps t-shirts, enjoying sunny 65-degree weather with a light ocean breeze. We made a good-sized dent in restoring the natural ecology of a local coastal area, and we were able to work as a team to carry on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of community service.