SDCI Celebrates National Night Out!

omntcaphoto0108-01-23.jpgThe weather could not have been better for National Night Out 2023 which, since 1984, has designated the first Tuesday in August as a day for communities to come together in fellowship, to get acquainted with their police and fire departments, with the local business community, and with their neighbors. Hundreds of residents emerged from their homes to enjoy the camaraderie of simply "being together" with one another in the "Central Park" area of the New Town community in Owings Mills, Maryland, parts of which back up to the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area.

nno-0508-01-23.jpg SDCI Board President Laura Van Scoyoc, Vice President Lynell Tobler, board member Josh Day, along with Josh's son, Jason, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service outreach specialist Edwin Guevara, arrived early to set up our booth for the event.

nno-0108-01-23.jpgWe offered lots of fun at our booth this year. There were samples of chromite ore, calsite, soapstone, magnesite, serpentine rock and other mineral samples to pick up and examine, all examples of the prehistoric geological makeup of the serpentine barrens, a winding stretch of fascinating strata that stretches from Nova Scotia to Alabama. And there were games to play! The SDCI booth offered candy to anyone who could tell us why certain plants in our display were "bad". Children could engage with our "cootie catchers", a form of origami in which folded paper is labeled with images or messages from which a player chooses, and on the inside are eight flaps, each concealing another hidden picture or secret message. It's no surprise that our images depict the wide variety of rare and endangered butterflies and plants that inhabit Soldiers Delight.

nno-0608-01-23.jpgOne of the most enjoyable activities we offer at our outreach events is an opportunity for children to dress up in genuine Nomex firefighting clothes, don a heavy water-filled bladder-pack and take turns shooting spray at red "Solo" cups, simulating the actions our burn teams employ when conducting a prescribed burn at Soldiers Delight.

Harjot Maan, 9, of Owings Mills, tries his hand at "controlling" the flames in our prescribed burn activity for children
We had many enthusiastic children offer to participate in our prescribed burn activity this year. Letting the children squirt water at our faux flames provided us with a perfect opportunity to explain to their parents the fascinating history of the "burn culture" employed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago and why prescribed burns are so important to preserving the native habitat at Soldiers Delight today.

Arianna Crowell, 7, of Owings Mills, takes aim at the faux flames with the same water-bladder that our real fire fighters use when conducting a prescribed burn at Soldiers Delight
Many visitors to our display were curious about what effect April's unexpected wildfire had on the Soldiers Delight conserve. We were happy to report that, while the wildfire was not planned and was a frightening experience for everyone, hundreds of acres of invasive greenbrier burned away, which was a blessing in disguise. Millions of native grass seeds had been lying just beneath the surface of the soil, awaiting a time when there would be enough light and air circulation to allow them to sprout. Greenbrier had been crowding out those native grasses for years. Within a week of the fire's extinguishment, native grasses, including Indian grass and little bluestem grass, had sprouted and was growing robustly throughout the burned area.

SDCI board member Josh Day talks to Owings Mills New Town residents Robert and Arlene Nusbaum about the importance of using only native plants in landscaping
Our display was not all fun and games, however. Probably the single most important outreach message we impart at Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc., is to implore neighboring residents to purchase only native plants with which to landscape their yards. The dangers 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, cannot be overstated. To our target audience, the homeowners in the Owings Mills New Town community whose properties are near or adjacent to the Soldiers Delight wilderness, our message is especially urgent: the seeds from common but terribly invasive ornamentals, groundcovers and landscape specimens, several of which we displayed at our booth, are eaten (and later expelled) by birds, caught in animal fur, and carried on the wind out of neighborhood yards and into Soldiers Delight NEA and other wildlands, where they sprout and spread with abandon.

nno-1008-01-23.jpgThe Owings Mills New Town neighborhood common area, a vast expanse of green space with a community garden and a dog park, was filled with happy residents enjoying National Night Out's various booths offering free food from area restaurants, including Mission BBQ, Lido's Pizza and Rita's Ice. There were demonstrations by local businesses and fire and police departments, and fun displays of all kinds, including a large bounce-house. Our SDCI display saw a steady stream of neighborhood families for the full two hours of the event; it was estimated that more then 1500 people turned out this year! As dance music wafted from a nearby stage and families munched happily on local restaurant fare, it was clear that the Owings Mills New Town Community Association’s National Night Out event was a success. SDCI was certainly happy to be invited back this year.

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