Dear New Canaan Land Trust supporters:
In my Wildland Fire Program at school back in Wisconsin, a lot of emphasis is put on the value and importance of regular briefings and debriefings. Debriefing after an action-packed day is way to reflect and evaluate how things went and how they could be improved upon in future. I have implemented daily and weekly debriefs so far with the interns, and they have been a great learning opportunity, as well as a way to cement memories and events that might otherwise blur together. The weekly debrief especially has been a way for the interns to really process all the tasks they tackled, the people they met, and the new topics they were exposed to over the course of the past five days. We took time at the end of today to reflect on all the things we got up to and accomplished this week and, as a group, we were collectively amazed by everything we did.
Our week started off on Monday with a great visit by New Canaan native and master arborist Chris Busak of Almstead Tree. Chris met us at Colhoun Preserve, where he talked to the interns about what it’s like to be a professional arborist, and lead us on walk through the property so we could learn about tree pests, tree diseases, and species identification. While the interns had heard about Emerald Ash Borer before, they learned about the blonding they cause on Ash trees and saw the “D”-shaped exit holes for the first time. After our morning with Chris, we did some pruning along the trails, picked up litter from the parking lot, and practiced using the cordless drill – the first time for most of the crew. I had hoped to get started on some boardwalks that day, but we were thwarted by the lumber shortage.
Tuesday, as you may remember, was a hot day! We focused on getting a couple small projects accomplished in the morning. The main one was clearing out an area at the end of the spur trail next to the pond at Colhoun Preserve so that we can ultimately make a nice seating area with a bench to sit and enjoy the pond. I was shocked by how quickly the interns cleared the area. The other project that morning was relocating the trail at the edge of the meadow and the woods. We moved the trail to higher ground and blocked off the low ground, which has been unable to grow vegetation because it has been getting walked on while being wet too frequently. By the time we finished, the day was hot so we took a drive over to the New Canaan Nature Center to explore the Oenoke Lane GreenLink trail.
We ended the day at the NCLT office writing thank you notes to some of our guest speakers. We watched a show called America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell that focused on Wisconsin’s sustainable forest industry and introduced the interns to the state I live in – a great place to study natural resources! We also read some articles about plastic pollution, the great pacific garbage patch, and textile waste. Single-use items seem to be the primary garbage we see on NCLT properties this draws attention to the fact that our country’s out of control waste production threatens open space preservation in the form of litter or land conversion to landfills. Our day ended with Executive Director Aaron going over some of the critical work he does for the Land Trust, like creating a 20 year plan. He explained to the interns about how he uses GIS maps and other data to help locate which areas of town have the highest conservation value.
Wednesday is our field trip day and we started out at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in Waveny this week. I had arranged for the interns to hear from a Pound Ridge Artist, Carol Paik, because Carol’s work centers around reusing materials. The interns saw all the ways she uses things considered “trash” as her mediums for creating art. We talked about how empowering and interesting it is to mend things yourself rather than just discarding them into the trash and how art and the environment go hand in hand. I encourage you all to check out her work. Thank you to Hilary Wittmann, the mother of our intern James, for hosting our talk with Carol at the Carriage Barn.
Since Wednesday was also another hot one, we headed to Sherwood Island State Park to hang out at the beach. We got a tour of the nature center, learned how to seine fish, and heard from two of the Friends of Sherwood board members. Cece Saunders, an archeologist, told us about the history of SISP. Did you know it was Connecticut’s first ever state park? And master gardener Michele Sorensen talked to us about the dune restoration work she is overseeing. Despite having worked at Sherwood Island as a lifeguard for three years, I had no idea that the dunes at the East Beach had been deliberately bulldozed and removed. The interns got to hear why dunes are important to coastal ecosystems and how they can be involved in restoring them. To celebrate surviving the heat, we ended the day with some delicious gelato.
On Thursday, I was finally able to get lumber for us to make boardwalks for Colhoun Preserve. We spent the day trudging through harsh conditions to move the heavy pieces of lumber all the way down the trail. The interns worked really well together to troubleshoot the best way to carry the boards and the best way to position the cedar support logs for the boardwalks. They maintained positive attitudes despite the heavy rain and some unfortunate vespine encounters.
We finished assembling two more boardwalks at Colhoun this morning. Four total in two days. The interns worked really well together on this project. Their communication and coordination as a crew have come a long way since last week. As the rain rolled in, we hopped in the truck to stay dry and headed over to the Still Pond Preserve to see some of the projects we’ll be working on next week. Our day ended back at the office, writing some more thank you notes and reviewing all the things we accomplished this week. While my account of the week may seem lengthy, there were lots of other projects that the interns worked on that I’ve actually had to omit for brevity and interest’s sake!
The interns are all looking forward to our third week together. We are hoping to tackle many projects at Fowler/Hicks/Still Pond Preserve. Please stop by and say “Hello” if you see us working on the trails!