by Christine Boeckel
“Hey Michael—Could we do a 5K run for LWC?” More than a couple times we kicked around the idea of hosting a 5K or other running event to benefit Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, but found it logistically challenging and of limited appeal to many of our members. Getting outside? Awesome. For a run? Maybe.
What if I want to go at a pace to enjoy the flowers? Doesn’t flower-enjoyment pace better align with our mission anyway? How could we integrate flower-enjoyment activities with a fixed duration event? What if I’m not into flowers and want to check out all the frogs? And how could we ever choose which of our incredible local outdoor spaces to feature as “the” spot for such an event? And what about choosing a single date—what if I’m out of town? What if I have no idea what I’m looking at and another team is full of pros? And what about social distancing?
More Days, More Wildlife, More Flexibility, More Fun
All of these considerations and more led us to create the most open and inclusive wildlife event in Loudoun Wildlife’s history. Visit a nature place anywhere in the world, count your distance if you want, record any plants/animals/living things you see if you want, bring a friend or go solo, and go as much or as little as you please during the month of October. Record species via iNaturalist, and log places and distances via a Google form on our website. Getting outside in nature—check. Citizen science “biodiversity blitz”—check. My favorite question about this event so far was: “Can I go to more than one park in a day? Is that allowed?” Absolutely! The name of the game here is to get out there. If you’re doing that, you’re almost certainly doing it right.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
The event page is up, people have registered with some cool team names, and lots of folks came by the Gatehouse to pick up their t-shirts. It struck me that this is really real when I arrived at the Gatehouse on an absolutely perfect Saturday afternoon to see stacks of green and white “Walk for Wildlife” t-shirts on the tables and the excited smiling faces of LWC members. But how did we get here? Well, it took a lot of brainstorming and teamwork to make this dream work!
The day I knew we could make this work was the day Allison Gallo sent me the list of parks and nature spaces in Loudoun. Not only did she track down a list that included tons of places I’d never heard of, she included links with more information for those places. And, she actually went to the places she’d never visited before just to see what was there to know if we should recommend it for participants. Wow! And I don’t remember if it was the same week, but Julie Borneman delighted us one evening with beautiful prototypes of the medals we could make for the event and t-shirt designs. Michael Myers and I worked on landing pages for the website and got lots of help from the team to make it as clear and simple as possible. Janet Hensley was excited to reach out and seek sponsors as our event was coming together. BJ Lecrone worked some magic to create the Google form for submitting nature spaces visited and miles walked; I sprinkled in a few tricks with pivot tables to share a leaderboard; and Doreen Varblow got us up and running with an official “project” in iNaturalist. Sheila Ferguson helped throughout the process to get things posted to the website so we could tell everyone about the exciting event and get people to join our fun. Special thanks to Julie Borneman for leading and hosting the medal-making operation. I think it’s fair to say that Allison Gallo, Jim McWalters, and I had a lot of fun with that part. I, for one, can’t wait to help pass out medals on November 6th to celebrate our first Walk for Wildlife event!