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Want to join the Camp Meeker “Ivy League”?

Welcome to summer, Camp Meeker! Hopefully, you are still basking in the glow of the first in-person CMVFD Pancake Breakfast in three years. As I type this, it's still in my future, but I am looking forward to it big time. While you were enjoying your pancakes, winning your raffle prizes, and admiring the big red shiny fire engines, perhaps you noticed how nice the firehouse’s greenery is looking, around the basketball court and down by the creek on "Camp Meeker Beach." That's because you have awesome neighbors. Allow me to elaborate: and, fair warning, I will talk about fire safety again. However, I promise that rather than leaving you with a feeling of dread and helplessness, it will be the exact opposite.

A brief recap of the history of Fire Safe Camp Meeker (FSCM): two previous surges of energy went into FSCM: the first was the organization's founding, the reaching out to interested parties, and the creation of a mission statement. The second phase was a mass of paperwork, including but not limited to the creation and funding of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Both of these phases are complete, and the people who put so much time and energy into those phases have generally moved on to other stages of their life: the creation of an organization from scratch in the first phase and the grant writing and report writing in the second phase – those are titanic efforts, and we owe a huge debt to the neighbors who pulled it off.

But where does that leave us? What's next? If the answer to that question is "nothing," then we have wasted the hard work those first two phases of FSCM put in, which would be a huge shame. Fortunately, other neighbors have stepped up and are creating the third phase of FSCM. Let's call this the "boots on the ground" phase – but FSCM has an even better turn of phrase: the "Ivy League."

What is the "Ivy League"? On two Sundays this past May and the third Sunday of each month going forward, the Ivy League will be a handful – or a small army, depending on you – of Camp Meekerites. They will don gloves and heavy gardening gear. They will attack the invasive species (such as the ubiquitous English Ivy) or overly aggressive native species (think poison oak and blackberry) that tend to dominate an unsupervised landscape. Note: English ivy is toxic to humans and many animals.

Efforts so far have focused on the common areas of Camp Meeker around the Post Office, beach, and Firehouse. In addition to making those areas nicer places to hang out, those areas are now much less likely to cause problems in a sudden evacuation. Although there are many wonderful things in the FSCM mission statement, facilitating a safe evacuation in the event of a wildfire is job one. Preserving our dwellings and making a beautiful forest are secondary to making sure people and animals can get out safely in a wildfire.

This next part is where you come in – and where this becomes joyful and empowering. If you are able-bodied and willing to endure some sweaty, unpleasant labor, you can be part of the Ivy League. I was down there for the first meeting, and even though I only stuck it out for an hour or two, I was able to look down at a patch of ground on Camp Meeker Beach, no longer covered with a massive blackberry vine. I could look around and see other patches of ground similarly clear. I could see the beach start to re-emerge as a place to hang out.

Most importantly, I could see the happy smiles on the rest of our work crew. We don't have to sit helplessly wringing our hands, waiting for a fire to sweep across us. We can take control of our destiny. So get your coveralls, gloves, and garden shears and start looking around for egregious undergrowth, particularly where it chokes already-narrow roadways. Let the Ivy League know about it - and start snipping. Many hands don't just make light work – they also make friends and neighbors.

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