Junkyard to Wildlife Habitat Restoration, PA

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EcoTopic / Project Category
Consumption & Waste, Education & Awareness, Habitat & Wildlife
Project Goal Summary
Habitat Recovery & Kindness Project formed after we unknowingly bought a junkyard, and decided to take action and restore the land. 
  • Clear land of garbage and debris 
  • Plant trees to phytoremediate the soil
  • Host community events to involve, educate, and encourage awareness
  • Install an eco-friendly housing structure for land steward
  • Create and install permaculture plan and practices 
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The following is our story as told by my partner, Ocean Clark:

We bought a 23-acre farm site-unseen via online auction. 

When we arrived, snow drifts swept across endless rolling hills down to an enchanted overgrown forest as a winding icy stream coursed through. During that first visit I decided I wanted to build a home here. We cleared his loan in trade for a big slice of the land. Before I even returned home that weekend I put in notice on my apartment and just a couple weeks later moved into a tent on this raw land with plans of building a homestead. However, when the snow melted the truth about the land began to reveal itself amongst the fields of spring flowers...

As Spring approached and the deep snow drifts began to melt, so did my heart. I had dreamt all winter of nature at its best: Billowing fields filled with rainbows of flowers, fertile soil to grow food for my loved ones, fern gully crawling with life. Nevertheless, that dream quickly became a nightmare. Nature’s kryptonite made itself apparent…The land had been used as a dump. How could our sanctuary be a junkyard?!

A quarter-mile long tire pile trailed along one of the hills. Dozens of rusted vehicles littered the landscape. Gas cans, broken glass, and nails were within every footstep. Ruins of what we would find out were old factory farm chicken coop facilities laid dilapidated across the horizon. But the worst part was the lovely little five acre forest and stream were littered with tires and garbage too. Instead of working on our home, I hired a few friends and we spent the first building season just cleaning up those woods. Now the little forest is once again pristine. I fell in love with the land and became determined to keep working until every inch was cleaned up even if it took the rest of my life.
 

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Project Location
Damascus, PA 18415
United States
Project Goals and News


Our project was created to address contaminated land, with a goal of restoring it into a habitable wildlife sanctuary. 
  • We have removed 40 dump truck loads of garbage
  • We threw a Tree-Planting Campout Party and planted over 3,700 trees and seeds with 40 supporters and friends
  • We had one corporation sponsor 1,500 trees to sequester and offset their carbon
  • We built a hybrid shipping container and cabin home to house future land stewards on the property, powered by a standalone solar power and battery system
  • We installed a hydroponic and a 20' greenhouse to shelter it in, to be used for either food or as a tree nursery
  • We gained partnerships with tree-sponsorship platforms, art collectives, local conservation efforts, and nonprofit organizations
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A shortened summary of project components:

The cleanup: 

Funded by us personally
-Dump Truck and Fuel
-ATV, wench, other heavy equipment
-Paid team of laborers

Reforestation Costs:
50% of funding for reforestation came from us personally
50% of funding was raised through tree-sponsorship platforms

-Seeds
-Greenhouse
-Hydroponic Setup (donated by local commercial operation)
-Electric and water costs to power the garden
-Shovels, mulch
-Landscaping Equipment

Home Construction:
Funded by us personally
-Shipping Containers
-Locally sourced wood

Eco-Friendly Amenities: 
Funded by us personally
-Solar Panels & Batteries
-Low Energy Consumption Washer & Dryer
-Composting Toilet


The biggest challenges:
-Intense Physical Labor
-Financially draining

The biggest challenge we faced, however, was coming to terms with the fact that we would never be able to restore it entirely. We can set the land up for the best success possible, but with every rain washed more glass and debris to the surfaces of the dirt. We could set up garden boxes, but could not plant food in the ground. We picked all the tires out of the stream, but there was always a chance more litter arrived at the shore. We rescued many, many chickens from slaughter to live happily-ever-after on our land where they could act as natural composters, but we did have one die from eating glass. 

The project could be infinite. We made incredible efforts alongside a team of supportive friends and allies, and that's what cleaning up this planet is all about: At this stage in the game, we all need to join together and do our best to set our environments up for the most possible success in getting back to their natural states. The work will never be done, but we are invested because it is meaningful and powerful work. We are committed to doing more, beyond the borders of our first farm in Pennsylvania, that accidentally landed us on a wonderous path of environmental work. 

We created a home and infrastructure for someone to live and continue to caretake the land. While handing over the property responsibility, we passed along best practices and guidelines for living alongside with wildlife, looking after the trees and everything that lives within them. 
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Project Feedback

Wow! This effort is so impressive, thanks so much for sharing!
  • Posted Mon 29 Mar 2021 08:26 AM CDT

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Alyssa Portaro
Alyssa Portaro
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Date Added: Mar 27, 2021
Date Last Modified: Mar 27, 2021

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