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

Today marks the end of the third week of our first Summer Steward Internship session for the 2019 season. The interns have consistently performed great work these past few weeks, and we are excited to finish strong next week. 

Coming off a long weekend, I wanted to choose a challenging, but rewarding, task to set the pace for the week. We started Monday at Browne Wildlife Sanctuary along Valley Rd. Since our interns had not yet visited this property, we spent some of our time walking through the trails and discussing a bit of the history of the land. At Browne, we wanted to work on two projects. First, a large portion of the Preserve had been overtaken by Burning Bush. The interns recognize Burning Bush as an invasive species that dominates the understory and can stunt native habitat growth. Our interns hand-pulled hundreds of Burning Bush from the Preserve to promote the growth of other native shrubs and trees.

These efforts will hopefully maintain the native ecosystem that exists in New Canaan and at the Browne WIldlife Sanctuary. Secondly, we wanted to remove dead cedars from the Preserve and repurpose them for future stewardship projects. Aaron, the executive director of the Land Trust, explained to the interns that cedars are an early successional species. Cedars thrive in open spaces with high sun exposure. Once trees with large canopies overtop them, they receive too little light and begin to die off. Browne Preserve has many dead cedars throughout the property, and part of our program is to utilize these materials to create better conditions for all our properties. Our task was to stack cedar logs at the Browne Preserve trail head so our interns, boy scouts, and girl scouts can easily access them for stewardship projects. 

Cedar wood is highly resistant to rotting, which makes it the perfect material to build with at some of our wetter properties. We plan to use these logs to build raised walkways at Colhoun. By doing this, more people can visit the Colhoun property along Davenport Ridge Rd. and enjoy the 21 acres of woodlands and meadow.

On Tuesday, we returned to Waveny Park and worked on some tasks that we started earlier in the session. We spent the morning removing phragmites from the Meadow. When we started, the phragmites were a dominant species that outcompeted the wildflowers for resources.

Presently, we have removed ~75% of phragmites in the Meadow. While we may never reach 100%, our job is to try and combat invasive species to the best of our ability. The work we have performed this summer is largely aimed to control the growth of invasive species each growing season. Our hope is that the work we do this year will make next year’s intern’s jobs a bit easier. In the afternoon, half of our interns removed Chinese Mugwort from the trail borders and the other half cleared more vines from the stone wall along Lapham Rd. 

On Wednesday, we attended our second field trip of the session. We left from New Canaan to spend the day in Stamford, CT. We started our morning at Fairgate Farm, which is a volunteer-driven urban farm designed to educate the community on food equity and the benefits of local produce. At NCLT, we emphasize the importance of land conservation and preservation. We had the pleasure of speaking with Pete Novajosky, Farm Manager, and Heidi Andersen, Outreach Coordinator, about the assortment of local produce available at the farm. Pete and Heidi are committed to promoting sustainable gardening methods and our interns learned a lot about food conservation from them and their summer interns. We were able to help out by harvesting and bundling garlic, preventing weed growth within the zucchini patch, and stabilizing the tomatillos using stakes and twine.

The best part about this experience was that the interns got to learn about agriculture and also give back to the community. We ate a quick lunch and then joined Amy Leonard and Jess Castoro of SoundWaters for a lesson on water conservation. SoundWaters is a school that protects Long Island Sound through research and education. They graciously took our interns out on their boat to collect samples of phytoplankton, fish, crabs, and mollusks. From the collection process on the boat, we returned to their classroom to learn how to analyze our findings. We started by testing the salinity, temperature, pH, and nitrate levels of the water.

Amy emphasized that land practices can directly affect these readings, because runoff from land introduces harmful substances to Long Island Sound and can disrupt the water’s chemical balance. Our interns then looked at phytoplankton under a microscope and were able to discern several groups. This exercise showcased the diversity of life within Long Island Sound, and was also a great opportunity for our interns to get familiar with using a microscope, which may benefit them academically.

 Lastly, we were able to look closely at some of the aquatic life we caught while on the boat. Thank you again to Pete Novajosky, Heidi Andersen, Amy Leonard, Jess Castoro, Michael Bagley, and the entire team at both Fairgate Farm and SoundWaters. 

We started Thursday joined by Susan Bergen, one of the members of the NCLT Board of Directors. Susan guided our interns through Jeniam Meadow and helped us identify several wildflowers.

She also spoke to us about the symbiotic relationship between insects and flowers, and she explained the importance of efforts like New Canaan’s Pollinator Pathway. Pollinator Pathway is an initiative designed to create “a pesticide-free corridor of public and private properties that provides native plant habitat and nutrition for pollinators.” You can read more about the Pollinator Pathway on our website or at https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/new-canaan. After walking through the meadow, each intern chose a wildflower and attempted to ID it using a wildflower field guide. Last week we introduced the interns to using field guides, so this was a great opportunity to have them practice their skills.

Following this walk, our interns conducted their first round of WPC visitor surveys. In the summer, WPC surveys its visitors to better understand their perspective of the park. Using these surveys, we can better serve our community and adopt some of their suggestions into our plan. The interns practiced their surveying by mock-surveying each other. It was a fun experience getting to work with everyone and learn from everyone as a team. Once each intern felt confident with the task, they spread throughout Waveny Park to ask guests a few questions about their visit. We are so thankful for all the participants that provided great feedback. Later in the day, we started clearing streambeds in the woodlands of the park.

Clearing streambeds is an important task because it prevents blockages in the drainage system. If the stream is not properly cleared, it may overflow and flood areas of the woodland and trails. We shifted our focus at the end of the day towards making brush piles in wooded areas of Waveny Park. Brush piles provide a habitat for many native insect and rodent populations. By building up shelter for these animals, we can protect their ecosystem and promote a diverse wildlife population within the park. 

We ended our week by watering the new plantings at the Silvermine-Fowler preserve. This spring, our board members added an assortment of new bushes, shrubs, and trees to the property. Watering these plants has been an ongoing project, and we will continuously visit the property to care for these new plantings. After completing this task, we went to the Watson-Symington preserve to add another water bar to a steep section of the trail. As we discussed the first week, water bars are a great tool to avoid erosion and run off on our trails. Because the water bars divert excess rainfall, the trails are more accessible to our community. 

It is hard to believe that next week will be our final week with the session one interns. We have worked on so many projects and are constantly learning more about our environment and land stewardship. I hope to complete more impactful projects with the interns before moving onto our flex week, which runs from 07/22 — 07/26.

Listed below is a tentative schedule for next week:

07/15/2019- 07/19/2019

Monday (07/15)- work on NCLT property 

  • Starting at 9:00 am- Meet at Hicks Meadow (514 Silvermine Rd.)
    • Stonewall restoration with Greg Faillaci 

Tuesday (07/16)– work at Waveny Park property

  • Starting at 9:00 am- Meet at Waveny House
    • Stonewall restoration with Greg Faillaci

Wednesday (07/17)– Field trip

  • Starting at 8:50 am- Meet at 58 Pine Street, New Canaan, CT (NCLT office) 
    • Wolf Conservation Center at 9:30 am 
      • 7 Buck Run, South Salem, NY
      • https://nywolf.org
    • Trailside Nature Museum at ~11:00 am
    • Ward Pound Ridge following Trailside Nature Museum
      • 6 Reservation Rd, Pound Ridge, NY
      • https://parks.westchestergov.com/ward-pound-ridge-reservation

Thursday (07/18)– work at Waveny Park property

  • Starting at 9:00 am-  Meet at Waveny House
    • Conduct visitor surveys throughout a wide selection of trails, work on a trail mapping project, construct brush piles.

Friday (07/19)– work on NCLT property

  • Plan TBD

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