By Marlena Hartman-Filson
On any other Monday morning at 8am, I would be found clambering out of my front door with my bike, hoping I wouldn’t miss the bike shuttle that takes me across the Bay Bridge to the SFCCC office in San Francisco’s Mission district. Instead, on this specific Monday at 8am, I was just getting into my friend, coworker, and fellow AmeriCorps member's bright blue hatchback and taking off on a little roadtrip. Four other cars were about to embark on a similar adventure. The three of us in the Oakland car flew down the commuter lane and across the new Bay Bridge, admiring it’s striking view of downtown SF and the red bridge that connects the city to the rolling hills of Marin. We wound our way over the San Francisco streets, across the Golden Gate, and took one of the first exits on the right. The road, lined with oak trees and drought-stricken grasses, was a sharp contrast to the urban health clinics we would find ourselves any other Monday morning.
Five cars converged in a small parking lot just past a sign that welcomed 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 (http://www.nps.gov).
It was here on the coastal cliffs of Fort Baker that our SF Community HealthCorps members began our Martin Luther King Day AmeriCorps Service Project. All across the country, when others were lounging around the house on the final day of their three day weekend, AmeriCorps members paid tribute to Dr. King’s legacy by getting together and serving their communities outside of their ordinary sites.
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 species, Pacific Madrone and Ocean Spray. We worked in teams, occasionally switching tasks and taking breaks for water, apples and granola bars graciously supplied by our wonderful Team Day Team. Over the course of just a few hours, HealthCorps members and other volunteers picked up several 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’s legacy of community service.