National Night out 2018

Our display featured examples of invasive plants and descriptions of why they should never be included in landscaping plans
Every year, on the first Tuesday in August, communities gather across the nation to celebrate National Night Out, an evening for neighbors to come together in fellowship and good cheer, to get to know one another and the businesses they support, all in the name of tamping down crime in our urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, August 7, the Owings Mills New Town Community Association staged its sixth annual National Night Out event and, for the fifth time, Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. was invited to host a display. We happily accepted the invitation.

Alexis Weston, 11, of Owings Mills, gets a helping hand from SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc as she tries her luck with a folded paper "cootie catcher" filled with questions and answers about native plants and animals
To visitors who approached our tent, board members Lynell Tobler, Laura Van Scoyoc and Hazel McWeeney, along with Maryland Wildlife and Heritage biologist Paula Becker, posed a question writ large on a chalkboard above vases containing cuttings from an assortment of trees, shrubs and vines: "What is wrong with these plants?" Some suggested the plants were dying or needed water. Others asked if they were poisonous. All who ventured a guess received a piece of candy.

Right next to the SDCI booth (on the left) was a large landscape planting of beautiful but evil Miscanthus silvergrass, lending weight to our entreaty about how harmful these and other invasive plants are to native habitats everywhere
Probably the single most important outreach message we impart at Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., the Friends Group for Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area in Owings Mills, Maryland, is about the danger of planting non-native, invasive species of plants, vines, shrubs, flowers and trees, many of which can be purchased at any local garden center or big box store. To our "target audience", the homeowners in the Owings Mills New Town community whose properties are near or abut the Soldiers Delight wilderness, our message is especially crucial: the seeds from the common ornamentals, groundcovers and landscape specimens we displayed are carried by birds and the wind out of neighborhood yards into the Soldiers Delight NEA, where they sprout and spread without natural enemies to control their reproduction. The resulting takeover of invasive plant species wreaks havoc on the fragile ecosystem and overwhelms the sensitive native habitat of Soldiers Delight and other wild spaces. It is a message we fervently deliver whenever we get a chance.

Ranger Maddy Rubin, left, and naturalist Katie Crane show off some of the rehabilitated birds from our aviary at PVSP's Scales & Tales display
Next to our display, Patapsco Valley State Park Ranger Maddy Rubin, aided by PVSP naturalist Katie Crane, offered an American crow, a turkey vulture, and a red-tailed hawk from PVSP’s Scales & Tales Aviary at the Soldiers Delight Visitor Center for the public to see up close. A steady stream of enthusiastic children and adults enjoyed an encounter with these normally elusive animals.

On the other side of our invasive plant "pop quiz", SDCI set up a large plywood board

Sullivan Coady, age 5, of Owings Mills, takes aim at the "Controlled Burn" fireboard.
painted to resemble flames roaring over a grassy plain, with accompanying signage indicating that a “controlled burn” was “in progress”. On the lawn in front of the painted "fireboard", children lined up to try on genuine Nomex fire-shirts which were many sizes too large for our diminutive fans. Aided by Maryland ecologist Wayne Tyndall and SDCI board member Joe Kelly,
Morgan Dixon, 3½ years old, of Randallstown, gets some coaching on her aim from SDCI board member Joe Kelly
children donned the accoutrements of firefighting. Once suitably attired, each child took a turn spraying the "flames" while wearing a heavy backpack water-bladder, as board members Lynell, Laura and Hazel, along with Paula, regaled nearby parents with information about the twice yearly burns which help control invasive plants and further improve the delicate balance of native habitat.

This was the view from the top of the Baltimore County Fire Department's ladder truck. The beautiful white tents were furnished for our comfort by the Owings Mills New Town Community Association. Ours was the small tent in the upper right hand corner
Amidst our invasive plant exhibit and the wild animal presentation, SDCI board members staffed two long tables displaying literature about our visitor center, the nature programming we offer, and various specimens of the unique geological features that comprise the serpentine barrens and Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area. As the neighborhood commons flooded with residents enjoying various booths offering free food from area restaurants and demonstrations by local businesses and the fire and police departments, our SDCI display saw a steady stream of neighborhood families for the full two hours of the event. As the local fire department extended their ladder truck to its full height and the Baltimore Oriole mascot posed for pictures with adults and children, it was clear to all present that the Owings Mills New Town Community Association’s National Night Out event was a success.

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