Blog by Kirsti Harms and Della Barbato
The Houston Chapter – Native Prairies Association of Texas (HNPAT) will be presenting its 2021 Prairie Volunteer Award to Charles Barfield on Wednesday, December 8 (6:30 pm to 8:30 pm), at the annual Prairie Stampede , which will be in person this year at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Charles is an HNPAT volunteer and member of the Texas Naturalists, Gulf Coast Chapter. He was instrumental over the past year for building 300 feet of board walk into the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve (DPP). Quite simply without him, today we would not have a boardwalk at DPP, a boardwalk that allows even people whose fear or physical disability prevent them from walking into the tall grass to experience the prairie.
When Deer Park Prairie volunteer Charlie Lundquist passed away in May 2020, Charlie’s sister Katie Sallean contacted NPAT about creating a project in his memory. NPAT decided to work on a boardwalk that would allow people of all abilities to get into the Deer Park Prairie. Donations toward this project came from Charlie’s family and many friends.
The next steps were to design it, purchase lumber and start building. This was also around the time that everyone was on lockdown. Glenn Merkord got the ball rolling, but Texas Master Naturalist Charles Barfield, who lives in Deer Park, stepped in very quickly.
NPAT ordered the lumber. Charles helped design the boardwalk, so that the entire boardwalk sits on top of the prairie and the soil is not disturbed, as required in the conservation easement. He then began building the frames of the boardwalk at his house and delivered them to the site. Charles put in hundreds of hours on the boardwalk; many of those hours were solo.
When volunteer workdays began again in 2021, Charles organized the construction and led the team in putting together the boardwalk segment by segment. He worked extra hours to keep the project moving and supervised the volunteer builders on our fourth Saturday workdays. He was always patient and positive with everyone. Everyone could tell that he really likes this type of work! Thanks to Charles, the first 300 feet of this boardwalk is now complete. Visitors can easily walk into the prairie and enjoy the view from the platform at the end. NPAT could not have accomplished this without Charles!
Della, NPAT’s Education Director, wrote that the boardwalk allows students who fear the dense vegetation and prairie insects to go out into the middle of the prairie and view the large fangs on spiders caught in a net and then transferred into a viewing jar or buzzing bumble bees covered with pollen or the multifaceted shapes and brilliant colors in the eyes of the damselfly. On the boardwalk, their curiosity overcomes their fears. A boardwalk provides an interface between the amazement of the spider and the fear that may have prevented them from experiencing that spider.
Charles Lundquist’s family also sent a message: “The Lundquist Family is grateful to the NPAT for providing the Boardwalk project at Deer Park to honor Charlie Lundquist III. We would especially like to thank Charles Barfield for his dedication and hard work in ensuring that the Boardwalk became a reality. Charles was always there to offer his knowledge and assistance as the Boardwalk was being built. He was the “go to” guy whenever anything was needed. Needless to say, without Charles’s involvement the Boardwalk might still be just a dream. Charles truly deserves being named “Volunteer of the Year”. Charlie Lundquist, Jr.