Columbia organizations team up for MLK Day service project in new park

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — For many, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day is just a day off from work.

However, for the Columbia Audubon Society, it’s a day of service in memory of the civil rights leader.

Around 20 volunteers in the Columbia area decided to use the day off to help improve a local park.

“It’s 45 degrees and wind. We have no idea how many people would come out so we’re thrilled with the turnout,” said Clay Parker, member of the Columbia Audubon Society.

Page Ellington Park is a new space in the Bull Street District that many did not even know about.

“I have never been to this park. I had four people already this morning tell me they didn’t know this park existed,”said Bailey Parker, Columbia Audubon Society member. “Not only are we giving them an opportunity to volunteer, but to enjoy the parks that we have and know about a new place to enjoy nature in the city.”

The morning was spent providing a home for a new species to come to the park with the installation of bluebird boxes.

“It’s a guess. Bluebirds like the wide open. We try to put them in the wide open areas but spaced apart enough so they won’t fight with each other,” Clay said.

“Putting them along the edge where there’s undergrowth or trees for them to hide but also facing an open space so the bird can go out and forage,” Bailey added. “They like to find insects, bugs and worms in the grass.”

The afternoon was spent cleaning up the park which sees trash of all kinds end up in the natural habitat.

“The water carries it. The wind on a day like this carries it. It winds up everywhere. Bailey pulled a bird’s nest that had some plastic wrapped up in it,” said Karen Kustafik, Columbia parks assistant supervisor. “It’s heartbreaking when you see trash affecting wildlife. It’s really appreciated that people came to help us get rid of it.”

In addition to the bluebirds that the group hopes come to the area, the park is also home to many species already.

“There’s starlings flying over. There’s a great blue heron here. There’s wrens tucked into the underbrush. This is a very deliberate habitat,” Kustafik said. “It’s a stream restoration and habitat enhancement in the middle of an urban area. It’s something worth celebrating.”