Dear supporters of the New Canaan Land Trust,

My name is Sophia Livecchi and I am the NCLT Summer Intern Program Coordinator for Summer 2020. It is with much pleasure to say that we have completed our first week of the Summer Steward Internship Program with an extreme amount of success, leaving me with much hope and excitement for the rest of Session 1! We have an amazing team of five interns that have taken on trail building and maintenance projects eagerly and quickly, as well as absorbing and contributing to lesson plans from myself and guests about the benefits of land conservation and stewardship. 

On Monday, we started our program at the Watson-Symington Preserve, located at 110 Wellesley Drive. Before we began working, we got to know a little bit about each other. For the first session, we are joined by Jake Harasiuk, Michelle Labadie, William Sweet, Peter Vigano, and Ben Walter. All of our interns are either current highschool students or have just graduated high school, and have an evident love for and dedication to the environment. Both Ben and Michelle, are two high school graduates, and are planning on pursuing environmental related fields in college!

 I spent the morning going over program expectations, projects, and important safety lessons such as how to identify poison ivy and watch for ticks, as well as important COVID-19 precautions while working together and outside. After this, we did a lot of invasive species education and review, while maintaining the trails as we walked. By the end of the day, we were able to get to ALL Watson-Symington trails for maintenance! We spent the last half hour of the day reflecting in the Rock Labyrinth, discussing how we felt the first day went. We all shared our expectations and hopes of the program while I took note of everyone’s special educational and physical interests they wanted to see happen. The first day left me very excited for the weeks of working with our interns to come. 

On Tuesday, we met at Still Pond Preserve, and I started the day off in giving a lesson on how to work the water pump, wrap hoses up properly, and water the meadow most efficiently. To my surprise, all of the interns understood how the water pump worked very quickly- this was something that took me a while to understand- which was very impressive. Ben, Will, and Michelle tackled watering the meadow while I showed Jake and Peter what would be our first trail building project. We were going to be building a trail paralleling Cedar Lane, so trail walkers would no longer have to use the road in order to connect to the next trail- they could continue within the preserve to get to the next location. Switching between the waterers and trail builders, the motivation and focus of all interns was immense, and the progress was fast. The waterers finished watering within an hour, and by the time all of us met up with the trail builders, Jake and Peter had already finished lining and mapping out the entire trail! Our group spent the rest of the day completing this trail through raking, pruning back invasive species that got in the way, removing stones when necessary, and picking up trash. We worked quickly and were able to problem solve efficiently. By the end of the day, we had finished the trail! Wrapping up at the end of the day, I did a lesson plan on bird species in Connecticut as well as a journal activity on the intern’s high and low of the day. 

On Wednesday, we planned to tackle building the rest of the Oenoke Lane trail, which Aaron estimated would take at least two days. The interns favorite project has proved to be trail building, and they were ecstatic to take this large project on. Some interns raked, while others lined the trail with logs, pruned branches in the way, and even cut down small trees when needed. Jake and Will got to an area in the trail that had a steep incline, and immediately problem solved with building natural steps into the trail.

After practically completing the trail, Aaron came by in the afternoon to teach the interns fence building for an area around an old well for safety precautions. Jake, Will, and Peter tackled this project, progressing through with determination and resilience when stumbling upon issues, such as digging a fence hole on top of a large roots path. During this time, Ben, Michelle, and I tackled pruning and lining the rest of the trail, as well as clearing out the main trail’s entrance way in order to make the path more visible to the public. This was a large job, as there were many invasive species and small trees that needed to come down. All three of us got very comfortable and successful at using the handsaw by the end of the day. Once the end of the day came around, we realized that we had finished the Oenoke Lane trail in half the time we were expected to. After reflecting with the interns, it was evident to all of us that this was what they loved to do most during this internship; building difficult projects from start to finish that required a lot of problem solving along the way. 

On Thursday, we returned to Still Pond Preserve in order to complete a variety of projects. We did a group walkthrough on most of the Still Pond Preserve trails, completing maintenance projects as we walked. We hand sawed dead trees, pruned back branches that were in the trails way, raked, and weed wacked. After doing a trail maintenance walkthrough, we grabbed the needed materials for building a walkway over a muddy area on the trail and got to work. Every intern got to try using the drill or hammer, and we all collaborated on how to position the logs and wooden boards in the best way possible.

 After this, I gave a lesson plan on brush piles, also known as animal habitats, and how we can make use of invasive species by cutting them down in order to build homes for animals. For the rest of the afternoon, some interns worked on creating brush piles while others watered Fowler Meadow. This was a day packed with various activities and projects that required different skills and problem solving, that every intern was able to handle successfully. 

On Friday, we visited the Firefly Preserve for the first time. Our goal for the day was to prepare these trails for firefly viewing season (Late June, Early July), which is happening right now! We did various projects for trail maintenance such as removing tripping hazards such as big roots or large stones, lining the trails with logs, pruning back branches, and a whole lot of weed wacking.  After removing large stones, we dug soil offtrail to fill in these holes. We were able to finish trail maintenance by 1 pm, so we headed over to the GreenLink trail for lunch. After a long week of hard work, we spent the afternoon relaxing, walking the trails, and reflecting on our first completed week! Every intern gave their feedback, highlights, and changes that they hope to see happen. Overall, our first week was an immense success, both with creating new trails and maintaining existing ones, learning a lot, and becoming closer with one another. I am so excited to continue working with our interns on future projects and strengthening our bonds, both to one another and to the environment. While the next three weeks will go by quickly, I know it will be a memorable experience for both myself and our interns, that will have a hopeful lasting impact on NCLT preserves as well . 

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!