Dear Supporters of the New Canaan Land Trust: And just like that – our season with the Summer Stewards is over! During the past nine weeks, ten interns maintained trails across our properties, accomplished many building projects, and learned about the environment through field trips in Fairfield County and beyond!
This last week started with the stone wall wizard himself, Greg Faillaci. The interns, Mike, Aaron, and I spent Monday morning working with Greg at the Hawkins wall on North Wilton Road. The interns got a primer in wall building technique, and we ended up more than doubling the section of wall that is finished on the north end. Everyone always enjoys learning about how to build the walls and getting to interact with Greg. We are so grateful he generously donated his time to work with our Stewards again this year.
Monday afternoon, while we had Mike helping us, we tried to tackle some bigger projects – fencing along the parking area at Watson Symington and moving the informational kiosk sign to a better spot. We got a section of fencing done, but, man! It sure is hard to dig down far enough to put those posts in! We pivoted towards the end of the day to moving the information kiosk sign and removing the post holders that had been supporting it. We wanted to reuse the post olders, but turned out that tree roots had grown around one of them, which made it extremely difficult to remove so Aaron decided to just order us new ones.
On Tuesday we started out at Fowler pulling burning bush for the morning. We ended up meeting a gentleman who wanted to see the meadow for inspiration for his owner pollinator meadow project in Wilton, so the interns and I gave a little tour and shared everything we had learned from pollinator mavens Susan Bergen (NCLT) and Liz Craig (NRVT & NRWA).
After we had enough of pulling burning bush, we moved over to Hicks Meadow and tackled some more overgrown trees. We finished clearing off vines and limbing up about six cedars and then had to drag the brush away. If you take a walk through the meadow, hopefully you’ll notice what a difference the interns have made.
We wrapped up the day by playing a tree-themed game that Aaron had given us. It ended up being quite a bit of fun and educational, though Beni smoked us all and won by a lot!
I was really happy with how our last Wednesday field trip came together. Not only did we go somewhere that the interns have spent little, if any, time, but our two stops were out of the box ways to think about land preservation. Our day in Bridgeport started in area called Whiskey Hill with the Green Village Initiative. We met with Farmer Rich and Executive Director Ellie who gave us a tour of their urban farm and talked about the history of GVI. As a way to give back for their time and the tour, we helped out a little on the farm by weeding some melons and clearing off a fence line so that neighbors walking by can see into the beautiful farm and gardens. Our driver Dan even joined us for the activities and had a fun time hacking away at some invasive trees and shrubs.
After our time with GVI, we went downtown to see The Knowlton. If you are not familiar with this space, it is a combination of a bunch of different things – artist spaces, event venues, mural park, and historic building- all on the river in a light industrial area. When we arrived, we were surprised and thrilled to see that there was a new mural going up on one of the walls and, in fact, the artist was even being interviewed by News Channel 12. The interns, Dan, and I got to hear about the background of the mural park and this artist’s personal history by watching a live news interview – it was pretty cool! When the journalist was done, the owner of The Knowlton, Shiran, gave us a tour of the mural park and talked to us about each piece. He gave us the history of the building, which was a former Armstrong (plumbing) manufacturing factory, and the history of Bridgeport in general. None of us, except driver Dan, knew how important Bridgeport had been to manufacturing and the economy in Connecticut. Then Shiran took us on a tour of the inside of old factory to see what is now lots and lots of amazing artist work spaces. The building itself has such amazing textures! It is wonderful to see it preserved and repurposed into something that is growing community and bringing positive attention back to Bridgeport. I hope these two experiences will encourage to interns to be more curious and open minded about parts of our county that don’t always get the best rap, but where really cool things are happening!
In preparation for the tropical storm and looming rain, I wanted to give the waterbars one last clean out on Thursday. We started in the morning at Fowler, where the interns quickly and efficiently cleaned out the waterbars. Because of the heavy rain the night previous, I ended up having to buck a large log that had fallen across the trail. The interns helped me move it and then we went off to work at the Nature Center to continue our work on our funky little log trail to the Dino Swamp. The interns and I wanted to make the trail a little more fun, but it takes time cutting all those stumps! We didn’t get to finish this trail lining project, but perhaps one of the interns will want to take it on as their personal project in the future.
When we ran out of logs to organize at the NCNC, we headed to Watson Symington to clean out the waterbars there and take care of another downed tree. Hopefully lots of clean waterbars will mean that the water from any future rain will stay on the landscape instead of ripping down the trails and eroding the soil.
We started as a group on Friday morning and reflected on how our week had gone, got a chance to write our thank you notes, and talked about the internship program in general. Then Matt had to leave us early so we changed gears and headed to Watson Symington to finish one last big project with Aaron. Next time you’re there, you will notice that our kiosk/information sign has been moved. In its new location, visitors who enter the property from either of the trailheads will now be able to get the chance to see news from us. The rest of the afternoon was spent tidying some of the trails, relining the sides, and pulling burning bush. Even though it was the last day of the program, it was very productive and a great way to wrap up.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our Summer Stewards’ exploits this summer. It has certainly been a meaningful experience for me to be able to give these young folks the jump start on their environmental education and awareness that I never had. I know the internship program is going to continue to grow and get even better going forward, so tune in next year to hear about all the amazing things I know another batch of young New Canaanites is going to accomplish!