200 volunteers clean up cypress preserve riverbed

September 23, 2018

There are plenty of excuses teenagers could make to avoid getting up early on a Saturday morning, but none of the volunteers who showed up early to La Posada Montezuma Cypress Preserve used them.

About 200 high school and university students were joined by scout troops to remove plant growth from the riverbed during the Keep Brownsville Beautiful cleanup.

Eli de Leon, community service specialist for the Brownsville Parks and Recreation Department, said the city purchased the two acres of land to create a park. The area once was home to a tobacco plantation, he added, and is still home to 200-year-old Montezuma cypress trees.

The river restoration will create a place where Brownsville residents can go canoeing, tubing, kayaking and fishing, de Leon said.

“I’m very happy with the turnout. I would have been happy with 50, but 200 is what we were aiming for,” he said of the volunteers. “They give their heart to the project. They’re here to complete it. They give it 110 percent, and it shows.”

Volunteers hauled branches and invasive plants out of the riverbed, clearing a path to a 125-year-old bridge. De Leon said that heavy rains allowed the plants to retake the riverbed after volunteers cleared part of the area during the summer.

Volunteers were so eager to get started that the cleanup started about 30 minutes early, he added. De Leon has seen firsthand how students’ involvement with Keep Brownsville Beautiful can transform their perception of the city from a boring small town to a vibrant place they’re proud of.

Eduard Thompson, 16, is a member of the parks youth advisory board, which was responsible for recruiting volunteers.

“I started to feel like I don’t have a lot of opportunities here, so I should leave,” he said of his view before working with Keep Brownsville Beautiful.

While Eduard plans to live outside Brownsville in the future, he said he plans on returning.

“If it’s not what you think it could be, come back and improve it,” he said. “I hope people see what we’re doing and get motivated to take part. This is home.”

Seventeen-year-old Stefanie Thompson, Eduard’s sister, echoed his comments.

“As a teenager, you don’t think there’s a lot do to in Brownsville,” she said. “But since going to KBB … I have so much more appreciation for Brownsville. It’s good to see all these teenagers care about Brownsville. They want to see it grow, also.”


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