My favorite field trip was when we went to the Mystic River to pull out invasive species. Any time a field trip was announced, I knew it was going to be good, but I had an extra good feeling about this particular field trip. The bus smelled of sunscreen and excitement. All we knew was we were going to be pulling water chestnuts from the river and to bring a change of clothes because we might get wet. After a 30-minute bus ride, which was supposed to be a 20-minute ride, we arrived.
We got dropped off in a Starbucks parking lot. With excitement levels running high, we walked towards the river. Waiting there were people from the Mystic River Watershed Association. We were told we were going to be in two person canoes, pulling out water chestnuts and putting them bins and bringing them back to shore. They said afterward that they let them dry on land, decompose and then they would fertilize the water banks. They also explained the water chestnuts were brought to the Mystic by a Harvard professor in the 1800’s because he thought they were pretty, but they turned out to be way more dangerous for how pretty they were.
After getting out on the water in a canoe with my friend, we paddled around trying to find water chestnuts. We found a bunch and started shoveling them into the bins. Muddy water was going everywhere. All over my legs, arms and clothing. The water smelled foul, definitely not swimmable. Our bins started to overfill so we went back to dump our bins on shore. Stuck in the cluster of water chestnuts we were in, we frantically tried to paddle out. No wonder these were so invasive. I could only imagine a larger boat trying to plow through and the water chestnuts getting stuck in the motor. After getting ourselves unstuck, we got ourselves back to shore.
After going through this process of collecting and dumping, I was already starting to see a real difference in the amount of water chestnuts in the water. An hour or so passed and it was time to leave. I felt good, like I had accomplished something. I could even see the difference we had made. There were visibly fewer water chestnuts in the water. Now, there were only small patches of the plant left.