Hiking through the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, there’s no beating around the bush — Como Regional Park’s largest woodland area has an invasive plant problem. Luckily, local community members, including one longtime Saint Paul resident, are helping to turn a new leaf for the historically dilapidated site.
“I’ve been living near the park for over 20 years,” says Steve McVay, a retired IT specialist for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “I really enjoy the park and was really happy to give back.”
McVay volunteers as an EcoSteward for Saint Paul Natural Resources, a section of Saint Paul Parks and Recreation. The program matches volunteers to a small parcel of natural parkland in need of extra care.
“I began in April of this year,” says McVay. “Right now, I’m assigned a small area in the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, and I’m responsible for primarily removing invasive species like burdock, garlic mustard, Canadian thistle, and white sweet clover.”
That small area is a 1.3-acre parcel between Como Regional Pool and the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fireplace. McVay’s assigned parcel, which he cares for with the help of his wife, is one of nearly a dozen in the outdoor classroom.
“Steve has already put in more than 50 hours of volunteer time into his parcel this season,” says Ryanna Jackson, a volunteer coordinator for Saint Paul Natural Resources. “He is a very dedicated volunteer and consistently goes above and beyond what is asked of him.”
In addition to his EcoStewardship, McVay volunteers as a receptionist at the Minnesota Historical Society and a dog walker at the Animal Humane Society. “I actually walk dogs at the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. It’s just a nice place for them to go and sniff around. They’ve got nice paths there.”
Teachers wishing to utilize the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom for their students can apply for a free permit by calling 651-632-5111. And maybe — just maybe — one of those nice paths will lead to McVay.