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Dear supporters of the New Canaan Land Trust and Waveny Park Conservancy,

Today marks the end of our first session of the 2019 Summer Steward Internship. Alex Hazlin, Alex Schauer, Ben Walter, Jake Harasiuk, and Vivi Reeves have learned so much during their time with NCLT and WPC, and have contributed to many projects that will have lasting impacts across New Canaan. 

On Monday, we were joined by local stonemason, Greg Faillaci. Greg taught the interns how to restore and construct stone walls. We worked at Hicks Meadow along Silvermine Road, and extended the existing wall from single to double width. We worked as a team to complete approximately 15 feet of wall. The second session interns will continue restoring this stone wall, making it aesthetically pleasing for the community.

After Greg left, we continued to improve Hicks Meadow by pruning low-hanging cedar limbs and removing overgrown grapevine and weeds. Pruning the cedars restores their structural integrity and prevents vines from crawling up the tree and from competing for the cedar’s resources. If left unmanaged, the vines will ultimately weigh down branches until they snap, causing the tree to be more vulnerable to falling or contracting diseases. We also cleared bittersweet and grapevine from the right side of the meadow. Grapevine is very difficult to mow over, and often prevents our volunteers from mowing the meadow once annually. Without that annual mowing, the meadow would become unmanageable. It is in our best interest the remove the grapevine so that the other native plants can be cared for. 

On Tuesday, we moved to Waveny Park and continued working with Greg on the stone wall along Lapham Road. At this wall, we reworked the existing wall so that it was more structurally sound and more aesthetically pleasing. If you’re interested in learning more about our process, check out our time-lapse construction videos located on our Instagram and Facebook. These changes to exterior stone walls are beneficial for the town because it looks better and preserve the historical value of the walls. At one point in New England’s history, there was ~ 240,000 miles of stone wall delineating land use. The abundance of stone walls across New Canaan is a reminder of our past and growth as a community.

Following this session of stone wall construction, the interns conducted more visitor surveys and wrapped up the day by building more brush piles within the woodlands of the park.

On Wednesday, we attended our last field trip of the session. The interns and I traveled to South Salem, NY, to visit the Wolf Conservation Center. Regan Downey, the Director of Education at WCC, started our day by giving a comprehensive overview about wolves and wolf protection initiatives. This lesson emphasized just how vulnerable wolf populations are across the United States. Regan also discussed stigmas associated with wolves, and how through education and discussion we can decrease the amount of wolves poached every year. After this discussion, we walked to the ambassador closure and met Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai. These ambassadors showcase the importance of wolves in the ecosystem and help spread the mission of WCC. By seeing vulnerable species upclose, it inspires us to continuously fight for their survival.

After that program, we went to the Trailside Nature Museum at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. There, the interns looked at taxidermied animals native to the region, along with habitat descriptions and more fun facts. The interns had a fun time discovering new information on some of their favorite animals.

 The museum also featured Native American artifacts, which educated the interns on how people historically interacted with their environment. We concluded the day with a hike around the wildflower garden and along the orange trail on the property. 

On Thursday, we set out to complete our final day at Waveny Park. Unfortunately, thunderstorms cut our day outdoors short. During our short time on the trails, we identified 12 tree species. We catalogued these species with the intention that the second session interns will place species name placards along the trail. This feature will allow visitors of Waveny Park to learn more about trees and feel more connected to their environment as they enjoy the trails. After drying off, we moved to the New Canaan Library to work on a donation database and tree ID PowerPoint. The interns have not done much office work during their time with NCLT/WPC, so it was important to me that they experience multiple aspects of the organization. 

On Friday, the interns started at the GreenLink Trail. We began by doing a walkthrough of the property, and we were able to find and properly mark a beehive located on the trail along Weed Street. We widened the trail and cleared invasive species growth from the border.

 As a reward for their dedication, we ended the day by watching a nature documentary back at our office at 58 Pine Street. As we watched the documentary, the interns shared their insight and opinions on how the documentary showcased some of the lessons they had learned through our program. They also provided me feedback of how the program could be improved, and I plan to implement their ideas during Session 2.

Over the past four weeks, the interns have developed a passion for land and wildlife conservation. It has been a great experience for all of us to learn from each other and from guests that have shared their expertise with us. This upcoming week, interns from Session 1 and Session 2 will participate in our Flex Week, which is an opportunity for interns to make up missed time from their session and for me to create an itinerary for Session 2. Flex week activities will include pruning more cedars, watering plants at the Silvermine-Fowler Preserve, and completing invasive sweeps at NCLT properties and Waveny Park. 

For questions or comments regarding our Summer Steward Internship program, or any of our Summer programming, please email kelly@newcanaanlandtrust.org. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@NC_Land_Trust) for more updates!