Dear Stewards, Parents, Members of the Board, and Land Trust Supporters:
Four weeks in and it is clear that we have hit our stride. We began the week opening new trail and exploring a property adjacent to the existing Hicks-Kelley Audubon parcel between Cedar Lane and Silvermine Road. We were able to put to test all of the experience and knowledge acquired up to this point. Plant and habitat identification, trail building, invasive control (a recurring theme), forest stand dynamics, hydrologic processes, and how to quickly estimate how many frogs and turtles might be in that pond (I’ll admit that part may be more of a guess).
Knowing where our work stood in New Canaan, we ventured up the coast to New Haven on Tuesday where we lent our freshly tested skills to the New Haven Land Trust. The Stewards saw the differences and similarities between land trusts operating in varying environments. A visit to the Pond Lily Preserve on the West River gave us a taste of urban streams, ecological restoration, and trail building and blazing.
We also explored the campus of Yale University, where we were charmed by the creative use of open areas where they are otherwise hard to come by, like within the walls of Sterling Memorial Library. With many an architectural landmark at which to marvel, we pondered how a sense of “biophilia” can inform the decisions made when designing the built environment and how treasured these areas become for those who visit. Finally, we ventured on to the Yale School of Forestry with its signature building, Kroon Hall: a LEED platinum building showcasing the latest in green building technology.
Back in New Canaan on Wednesday we greeted members of the Land Trust board as well as representatives from the Connecticut Trust for Public Land to show them work we had done in building a new trail and managing invasives (it never ends) in the Silvermine area. Having put in two good days of work on that property, we used the rest of the afternoon as an exercise in “shinrin-yoku”, or forest bathing. Stewards were encouraged to find a spot to sit quietly, reflect on the work they had done, and write, draw or just listen to the flourishing natural world unfold around them.
Despite overnight rains and thick morning air, the stalwart Stewards made more progress on Thursday at our old friend, the Colhoun Meadow. Freeing some mid-summer blooms from the stranglehold of the woody grapevine allowed us to see butterfly-friendly milkweed putting on a fiery pink show, and from the meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica), a similar display. We closed out the day with a visit to a spectacular meadow just off Smith Ridge Rd, hosted by Bill McDonald, where we witnessed an immense variety of wildflowers and insects in a micro-biome literally buzzing with life.
In our final week of the program, the Stewards will be putting the finishing touches on their projects, the product of which we hope to be able to use and share with all those who enjoy the Land Trust. We will no doubt finish with a final flurry of energy, education, and enjoyment.