Dear New Canaan Land Trust supporters: Can you believe it? Session one is done!
Beau, James, Adriana, Avery, and Lauren knocked it out of the park this week. They all really stepped it up for our last week together and had great attitudes and work performance every day. All in all I think this was probably my favorite week so far, and I hope that’s true for the interns, too!
Monday was everyone’s highlight because we got to work with the wonderful Greg Faillaci. The master dry stone wall mason generously donated his time to work with the interns on the wall at the Hawkins Preserve. The crew started by tearing down what was there all the way to the ground and then Greg showed them how to rebuild a rubble-filled dry stone wall. It was a lot of lifting and heavy labor, but the crew worked hard and got a big section done.
After our time with Greg was over, we headed to the last property we had yet to visit, Livingston-Higley. We spent time walking the the trail and talking about all the plants we saw there, practicing the plant ID skills the kids have acquired during this internship. We also did some trail maintenance, like lining the trail, pruning back vegetation along the trail and trailhead, and clearing around a stone bench that had been overgrown.
Tuesday found us back at Watson-Symington. Because that property and its trail system are so big, there’s always lots to do there. We started by pulling burning bush – a seemingly Sisyphean task. We spent the rest of the day lining the trails and cleaning out waterbars that had been filled up during last week’s tropical storm.
For our final field trip on Wednesday, we took a watershed view of things. With our new Get About chauffeur, Dan, we headed to Oyster Shell Park in SONO to meet up with the Norwalk River Watershed Association. The group has a regular maintenance day at OSP every Wednesday morning, and one of the NRWA board members, Louise Washer, took time to speak with us about the health of the Harbor, its history as a dumping ground, and future plans for the park. We learned that the inner Norwalk Harbor received a F-grade on the 2020 Long Island Sound Report card from Save the Sound. After our talk we got to work helping out for two hours removing some invasive plants at the park like mugwort and tree of heaven, which has a peanut butter-like smell.
When we were done at the water, we headed around the corner to meet @the.eco.dude at his store ecoevolutionco on Washington Street. Brad Kerner (aka the eco dude) chatted with the kids about how overconsumption and plastic pollution are threats to public health in addition to environmental health. The interns got to see low waste alternatives to plastics and single use items. His shop is a fun place to stop by, hang out, and find eco items and locally made goods from local CT artisans.
Once our time with The Eco Dude was over, we journeyed upriver to Wilton and the Norwalk River Valley Trail, where we talked again about why it’s important to think about things from a watershed perspective. We also met up with Liz Craig, who is involved with both NRWA and NRVT, so that she could talk to the interns about the history of the trail and how to implement a pollinator garden project. Liz showed us the garden situated right next to rte. 106 and explained all the steps involved in creating a public pollinator garden – from getting a grant to choosing your site and managing volunteers. One of my big hopes for the interns after their time with NCLT is that they will be inspired to start a pollinator garden at home or to implement a public project somewhere in their town.
Thursday started at Browne Preserve with the group chatting and pulling burning bush. We also cut some cedar logs for the session two crew to use for their boardwalks. Then we headed over to Colhoun to drop the logs off and finish clearing the end of the spur trail to make way for our new seating area. The interns also got to see how the part of the meadow we blocked off weeks ago from being part of the trail is filling in well with vegetation. Pretty cool to see that transformation! As Thursday was our last day together as a full crew, we spent the rest of the afternoon reflecting on our experience together and talking about ways they continue pursue educational and professional opportunities in natural resources fields in the future.
On our last day, James was not able to be with us, but we were joined instead by Mike Pazareskis, our Land Steward. The crew worked seamlessly together. Not only did every chat and communicate tasks effectively, but they got so much done. We started off at Hicks Meadow where I had just wanted to free some juniper trees from encroaching vines. But, when we arrived in the parking lot, we saw a tall pine tree had fallen so we went to work limbing it, bucking it up, and making a brush pile with the branches. While in the meadow, we saw some unique fauna, like a box turtle that Mike found and an unbelievable amount of green June beetles. Once the parking lot was restored to normal, we focused on project Free the Tree, and were able to clear off the vegetation from two juniper trees.
Then we finished our program where we began, at Watson-Symington, where we moved a waterbar to a more effective spot and redid the legs on the bench by the mudflat so that it sits sturdier and more level. It was a great last day of a great last week. I know I am sad to see these wonderful young people go, especially as they are such an ace trail crew now.
Thanks for reading about our crew’s journey during this first session, and stay tuned as I do it all over again with some fresh faces starting next week.