Monday, March 31, 2014

Putting more field in Track and Field

By Marina Stuart and Cian Fields
Connecticut College

 Every March, the Track and Field team at Connecticut College does two community service days. In recent years they have been at local farms or recycling plants, any place that could put fifty odd people to work. This year, they worked at two preserves owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. 
The idea was started when the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE) at Connecticut College teamed up with Avalonia for the second year, to give the new sophomores of GNCE projects to help them understand land conservancy and stewardship. One of the projects was to find ways and strategies to expand Avalonia’s member base and especially to reach out to younger people in the community.
After discussing details of times and places and numbers, the track and field team and Avalonia decided that there would be two work days: one at Paffard Woods Preserve and one at Dodge Paddock. Each day had the same main goals: remove brush and invasive plants and do any other work that needed to be done on the site.
Students from the Connecticut College Track and Field team work to clear the walls of the Paffard Woods Preserve.

The first work day was Tuesday March 18th, and 25 members of the team and one coach made their way over from Conn to the Paffard Woods Preserve along North Main street in Stonington. The team was met by Beth, Binti, and Anne from Avaloinia, and after distributing tools we set out. The main point of Tuesday’s work day was to clear the stone wall that lines the preserve along road. Parts of it had been cleared earlier, but huge sections were covered with multi flora rose bush, poison ivy, bittersweet and other vines.

There is a wall!

Everyone divided into small groups of four or five people and spaced out along the wall. We worked hard for about two hours, clearing off the majority of vines and plants from the rock wall. Even though it was cold and cloudy, the team members still enjoyed themselves. One member said that this work was much more rewarding than the community service projects done in the past, because we could actually see the fruits of our labors and pulling off weeds was fun and cathartic.
Twenty-five team members helped clear the wall at Paffard Woods.

On Thursday, which turned out to be a little warmer and sunnier, a new group of athletes traveled into Stonington to Dodge Paddock. With the waves crashing, everyone set to work clearing off the large, historic, stone wall in the back of Dodge. There were huge stalks of oriental bittersweet and multi flora rose everywhere but the team set to work with their clippers and loppers, pulling down vines from the rock wall. Some of the stalks of Ailanthus trees were so thick at the bottom we had to take a hand saw to them!
The north wall of Dodge Paddock after the Track and Field team cleared it.

We also removed large rocks and branches from the ground to clear the way for a mower. We set to work removing stumps, which was great fun for all of us and very rewarding in the end . There is nothing like the feeling of yanking out a stump and seeing all the roots that go with it, dangling in your hand. After the wall was cleared we set to work trimming back the multi-flora rose and also removing debris and vines from the lone tree that stands in the corner of the meadow. After another two hour period Dodge was cleared out, and we think the Borough of Stonington was a little surprised at all the logs and braches we carried out and piled up in the parking lot. Overall the work days were hugely successful and hopefully the start of a new partnership between the Connecticut College track and field team and Avalonia!
The north wall, looking toward the water.

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