When our homeowners association formally declared its ten acres of jointly owned ravine slopes and creek as a nature preserve in 1985, it was recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as the first such use of the common property of a homeowners association. I agreed to keep the trail clear for walking, since my neighbors knew I didn't mind "wooly boogers." So I cut gaps through fallen trees, clear branches, pull out poison ivy and cut greenbriar, poison exotic fire ant mounds, and mow a path through exotic hedge parsley before its tick-like seeds can hitch free rides. My human neighbors must enjoy semiwild walks or they won't support semiwild lands.
Nancy and I take interested folks on a guided stroll along our preserve trail -- four-tenths of a mile -- each spring and fall. At the entrance we descend a natural draw made shallow by our subdivision's developers, who dumped wood, concrete, plastic, and other scraps and covered it all with exotic soil. We point that out and show neighbors how our native plantings help to restore naturalness. We note how rapidly Japanese honeysuckle, poison ivy, greenbriar, cedar, and sugarberry invade, because their fruits are selected and the seeds distributed by animals. These plants are weedy -- adapted for the fast growth necessary to hold the land together in early stages of reforestation.
"Wooly booger," by the way, is local country parlance for a really varminty-looking creature. One usually learns to fear a wooly booger and, because people live mostly indoors, hardly anyone has an impartial experience anymore. We tell our group about the new and strange life European pioneers found here, how their fears developed, how they attempted and in many cases did extirpate species considered fearsome or inimical to civilization as defined by their believed dominion over all life. On our walks we see people's reactions to organisms new to them and try to understand what they were taught to fear.