A message to all of our New Canaan Land Trust supporters:

It is an honor for me to be able to update you on how the Summer Steward Internship is going. As a New Canaan native, it feels really good to be home and I feel so fortunate to be able to share my knowledge and experience with a new generation of New Canaanites. Our first five interns – Beau, Adriana, James, Lauren, and Avery – showed up on Monday ready to learn and work and have been non-stop impressing me ever since.

We spent the first day getting to know each other, the Watson-Symington Preserve, and a little bit about each of the projects we will be tackling this summer during the first session. For most of our interns, stewardship work is brand new to them, so we spent a good part of the day talking the history of the land and the Land Trust, going over safety, and learning how to identify some plants that will be crucial for them to know for the rest of the internship. Guest appearances by board member Eads Johnson and Executive Director Aaron Lefland helped the interns learn a little bit more about the structure of the Land Trust and the important work that they do.

We stayed at Watson-Symington on Tuesday as well. My goal was to get them very comfortable with the layout of the property and trails, and, by the end of the day, they were the ones leading me around! Despite the hot, humid, and wet weather, the interns got a lot done. Projects included: cleaning out the uphill side of all the water bars to reduce soil erosion and improve water flow across the landscape; lining the sides of the trail with good size logs to make it look nice and clearly demarcate the walking area, and removing sections of an old fence and gate by walking the pieces all the way from the top of the trail back to the truck, which took us several trips and was no short walk.

For the course of the summer, our Wednesdays will be spent on educational field trips throughout the area. I can’t wait to introduce the interns to different topics, professions, and organizations in our community that are related to stewardship, open space preservation, and natural resources. For our very first week, we started the morning at Irwin Park, where we talked about alternative ways to manage invasive species – namely goats! After a brief visit to see the goats chowing down on some Japanese knotweed, we headed west to the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, which was a great primer for everything we will be addressing during our four weeks together. Despite the Bartlett Arboretum only being about a twelve minute drive from downtown New Canaan, only one of our interns had been there before! We began with a 90-minute tour led by the Director of Education, Mike Belletzkie, which was very fun and informative. In fact, we all wished the tour could’ve been longer! Afterwards, we explored more of the gardens, chatted with an arborist on duty, and did some forest bathing by quietly walking almost all of the trails on the 90+ acre property. The interns all gave rave reviews about the day. I know I am really looking forward to introducing them to more unique places outside of New Canaan that they may have never been to before.

As it’s almost firefly viewing season, I had the interns read an article about the status of fireflies in North America. This helped prepare us to work at the Firefly Sanctuary on Thursday. We spent the majority of the day cleaning up the trail by pruning back vegetation, removing tripping hazards, weeding the seating area, and even repositioning an entire boardwalk. Beau and James found some “legacy litter” – a whole cache of seemingly very old glass bottles. Let us know if you can date any of them! 

Once we finished up our tasks at the Firefly Sanctuary for the day, we drove to Hannan Field so the interns could see another NCLT property. We didn’t spend much time there, but the interns learned that the beautiful stone wall along rte. 123 is 80+ years old, and still in amazing condition. After that, we made a quick stop at the dump to dispose of the old wooden gate pieces we had pulled out of Waston-Symington. During this trip, I regaled the kids with tales of me throwing bags of garbage into the incinerator as a child (decades ago) and memories of the landfill when it was still being filled. The day wrapped up with us taking a quick look at the Fieldcrest-Autumn Lane GreenLink trail, a property most of the interns didn’t know existed except for Adriana who regularly walks through it.

For the last day of week one, we started where we left off the day before – at the Fieldcrest-Autumn lane GreenLink. The interns did such a great job working together to spruce up the trail. In less than three hours, we cleared the trail, cleaned it up, added logs to line the path where needed, and stacked logs from downed trees. It was nice to be on a small property because they all really appreciated seeing the noticeable difference from start to finish as we worked to clean up the entire trail. For lunch, we headed over to Waveny. We ate lunch outside the Carriage Barn, where the mother of one of our interns works, and got to see one of the sculptures from last year’s sculpture trail. The day concluded by us all reflecting about how the program was going so far along with a brief trip to Browne Preserve to cut up and load some cedar logs into the truck so that next week we can start building some boardwalks!

The interns are greatly looking forward to their upcoming second week as Summer Stewards. Stay tuned to hear what else we get up to! And, if you see us working at a New Canaan Land Trust property, please stop by and say “Hi”!