Dear Stewards, Parents, Members of the Board, and Land Trust Supporters:
Our fifth and final week brought as much variety as any week yet. To kick things off we met with Rich Whitehead, an arborist with The Care of Trees, to educate our group about chainsaw safety and to demonstrate proper use and techniques. With a few recent tree falls on the Watson-Symington property, the lesson also proved useful to clearing the trails and making them safe for passage again. The Stewards observed Mr. Whitehead make several strategic cuts before taking down the “widow-maker” yellow birch that had an awkward lean. In explaining his methods, we were able to understand the cause of the tree falling, and analyze one of the cut “cookies” to make a guess at the tree’s age.

We were out of the woods and to the river’s edge for Tuesday’s meeting where five gentlemen from the Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited joined us for an instructional session on the art of fly fishing. We started at the Fivemile River just off Lambert Road but found the low water level (and low hanging tree branches) a bit too much to handle on what was for some the first time with a rod a reel in hand. Moving to the more accommodating Mill Pond Park, several of the group perfected their form and a few even landed fish. We were quite a sight all lined up on the bank of the pond, imagining we were “flinging peanut butter” and keeping time like metronomes to get our casts in sync.

Back to the timber on Wednesday at the Browne Sanctuary on Valley Road. The project for the day involved sighting and constructing deer exclosures around a few select Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) saplings. The stewards judged the landscape, canopy cover, surrounding species, and likelihood for survival before placing rot-resistant red cedar posts (foraged for and cut on site) and wrapping a thin, four-foot high fencing around the poles to protect the tender saplings. Heavy browsing pressure from deer, especially in the winter, prevents the white pines from growing into the forest sub-canopy. Protecting the saplings with these exclusion zones is an effort to regain a balance of species diversity on that property.

Thursday was a day to tie up loose ends and review our efforts over the past five weeks. We added a birdhouse to the post placed weeks before at the Hannan Meadow off Canoe Hill Road, cut back euonymus and barberry and extended the trail on a three acre parcel off of Sleepy Hollow Road that adjoins the firefly sanctuary, and finished the day with a treat at Mead Park to cap off the week.

We all took time this week to reflect on this year’s program, and reading back through these letters it is amazing how much we were able to accomplish in what seems like a short period of time. Our goal of community-based conservation is a group effort that requires continued engagement. I am grateful for the interest and enthusiasm the stewards displayed, along with their willingness to engage and challenge themselves to grow, becoming better stewards and naturalists with a refreshed appreciation for the open space “just down the road”.
Lastly, I owe a big thank you to the parents for shuttling the Stewards to and fro, for their support of the Land Trust and for their trust in me as a leader and guide this summer.
All the best,
Mike Johnson
Executive Director