Duane A. Snyder
Mousam Lake Youth Conservation Corps Program Coordinator
Photos by Duane Snyder
At Mousam Lake Youth Conservation Corps, we believe that the most effective BMP's integrate many considerations. Form and function are of course important, but it is equally important that the design "fit" and be something that can be appreciated by those inviting us to do corrective work. So it was indeed a rewarding compliment when one of our Erosion Control projects was labeled a "Zen Garden."
Upon reflection, an interesting parallel came to mind. The following four tenets of Zen closely parallel the Mission statement of the Mousam Lake Youth Conservation Corps Program. First, here is the philosophy:
1. "Nature is most perfect." We do best when drawing inspiration from natures' form and art in our constructs.
2. All things and all actions hold relationship with one another. All are interconnected, interdependent.
3. To better understand the subtle complexities of these harmonies (enlightenment), one does best when guided by a Master.
4. Enlightenment is best achieved through active engagement or through our physical labor.
Here’s how these ideas fit our work: During the course of our four seasons at Mousam Lake YCC, we have sought to reflect nature (Tenet #1) while discussing and planning our Best Management Practices (or Procedures). We actively seek opportunities to re-establish natural buffer zones, amend disturbed sites and water flow patterns, use Native and/or naturalized vegetation, re-introduce zones which may remain intact and undisturbed, and create avenues for water to flow into deposition zones rather than directly into Mousam lake. Land use and a healthy lake do not need to be contradictory.... We need only adjust our perceptions!
Tenet #2 states a basic principle of ecology. In ecological terms, we have come to learn that disturbance of any part of an eco-system may lead to far ranging consequences. Likewise, the manner in which we choose to enjoy our personal lakeside space may lead to degradation or balance.
“Master” guidance is also integral to a YCC program since the concept of "Master" suggests being a teacher or drawing on the resources available (Tenet #3). YCC programs are designed to be education programs as well as being public work programs. Whether one works as a director or crew leader, providing training and education to staff and teens is an ongoing affair. Each property owner's request for Technical Assistance is also a step along this path. Actually, in my role as Technical Advisor, I recognize the value of many "masters". Lake associations, local code enforcement officers, the DEP, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, are but a few examples of valuable sources of information. Each serves a role as "Master" in its turn.
Through the course of their involvement, the teens, too, become "Masters". Each completed project remains as a model or example to the greater community of an effective solution. Even more satisfying are the frequent examples of teens sharing peers and their community what they have gained.
Last but far from least, Tenet #4 relates to the heart of a YCC program. For many of our crew members, participation in the YCC represents an introduction to employment. Each project presents an opportunity for all of us to actively preserve our environment and our community.
In closing, it remains important to note that in creating an appealing design, it is also crucial to consider "Best" solutions available. One design may not be appropriate for all applications. Erosion control suggests options, in keeping with Zen philosophy... we do not control nature but strive to find balance. It is, however, most satisfying that such a balance may also serve, as in Zen, as a source for contemplation.