Saturday, July 30, 2011

No, "The Kids" Are Not Ruining It - A Day with the Vans Warped Tour

There is a historic school campus in Baltimore that lies a few hundred feet uphill from the Jones Falls, a historic trout stream devastated by 200 years of human interference.  This school and its parking lot cover over two acres of land, fully paved, and have runoff piped directly underground and to the Jones Falls.  In warm weather storms, this water is superheated and undoubtedly kills everything it comes in contact with.  In cold weather storms, it's just trash and pollution.  Not good.
The City of Baltimore knows about this site, and hundreds of others like it, and has failed to take action to reduce the pollution - hard to worry about water pollution when 200 murders occur annually on your watch. 

Neighborhood residents know about it, and have not really been interested in making a fuss over it over the last 100 years that the site has looked this way.  The local watershed group, Blue Water Baltimore, learned about it 4 years ago, and worked with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to secure funding for an ambitious effort to turn back the clock on this huge paved lot and its huge impact on water quality downstream.  Checks were cut, permits were signed, contractors were hired, and volunteers..........

Well, you might be surprised who showed up to help make this happen, and not in a "yay, let's plant a ceremonial tree" kind of way.  Hold on to your Orvis catalogs and Sierra Club backpacks.

A lot of people would cross the street to avoid people who look like this.  If your neighbor's kids dressed like this, you might think that either they are on drugs, or they should start taking drugs - one or the other.  The truth is that they are all young people who showed up from the Vans Warped Tour on their day off to help a community out - in a city they know nothing about.

Some of them are in bands.  Others are budding professional skaters and BMX riders, and others still were the thankless support crew for the nationwide tour, which aims to bring positive underground music and alternative sports to kids across America. 

All of them gave up a "free day" on the summer-long tour to break up a 100-year old, 1 acre marble chip parking lot in 100 degree, 80% humidity weather in our city.  And while the grilled lunch provided by the Tour definitely included vegetarian quesadillas and vegan burgers, they also had hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ chips.  These kids look different, sound different, and maybe act different.  But they are American kids.

I was out there swinging away with a maddock too, as hardcore music blasted from one of the tour vans.  200 of these kids worked harder than any volunteers I have ever seen -  carting wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of asphalt and marble chips away, with the knowledge that this will be a good, positive, natural space for local children to enjoy (coincidentally, just across the street from the skatepark).  But also with the knowledge that they'll never even see the results of their hard, unpaid work.

Within our inexplicably still isolated and quickly aging conservation community in the United States, there has got to be a better effort to engage the next generation in volunteer leadership.  As 65 year old men bicker back and forth in Washington DC over problems that should have been solved a generation ago, the real solutions to our nation's problems lays idle in front of the TV, wondering if anybody will ever ask them to do something real.  Some meaningful hard work. 

So ask them.  And at the next meeting of your favorite nonprofit group, ask somebody why more people under age 40 aren't there. And ask somebody what can be done to bring them in the door.
After all, where will your group be in 20 years without them?


Map Monkey said...

Fabulous post, Swamp Thing! Right on, Brother-Man. Kudos to those "kids" who volunteered their sweat and hard labor. It must have been like being on a chain gang, especially in that heat and humidity. One always has high hopes for the "next" generation (although it's funny in a way how you classify the next generation as those under 40! The threshold increases as we ourselves get on up there in years). Yeah, it's hard to know what happens to the idealism of "youth" even as we re-define youth to include those over 30. (40 years ago, "youth" would never be caught dead trusting anyone over 30, remember?) After all, I'm sure that some of those old farts arguing now in Congress once thought of themselves as do-gooder types and progressive, if not radical, and look at them now. Ah, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. and so it ever was.

LB @ Bullets And Biscuits said...

I had so many thoughts while looking at the first picture of volunteers..."man, these kids look like half my, look that chick is wearing Vans...hhmmmm, between the tatts and Vans, they look like skaters...I bet these kids are rocking out with the van door hanging open"

I think this is an excellent post and thank you for pointing out that you can't judge a book by its cover. You are so right about people avoiding these kids on the street. I have five employees that look EXACTLY like those in the pictures and I would not trade them for anything, including Twinkies ;) They are such hard workers and so giving when it is needed most.

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