By Beth Sullivan
Stewardship for our Avalonia properties can take many forms. If you go to the website and look at the stewardship activity form, there is a long list of activities in a check list, including trail maintenance, invasive control, brush clearing, stone wall clearance and building, bridge making, erecting signs ... the list goes on. Sadly, the most discouraging task deals with litter: road side trash is becoming my pet peeve. What on earth are people thinking that they just choose to toss any manner of materials, papers, plastic, glass metal, out the window. I guess they are NOT thinking, and that is the problem.
|North Main Street, gateway to Stonington, CT|
The Gateway to Stonington
Avalonia owns several properties along North Main Street. The road is dubbed “The Gateway to Stonington” as most traffic coming off the highway and coming into town travels this lovely road. Historic photos depict beautiful stone walls lining the roadway with ancient Maples arching gracefully overhead. This time of year it becomes a leaf peeper's photo-op. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I embarked on a mission. We decided to tackle clearing the walls along the Fennerswood Preserve, beginning at Pequot Trail, and running nearly ¾ of a mile along both sides. Shrubs and brush had grown up on both sides of the wall and vines covered the rocks and ground.
|One area we have worked on.|
As we began our clearing a few things became painfully obvious: there was a massive amount of litter all along the road, hidden within and under the greenery, most of which was poison ivy. And, the walls underneath were disappearing! Over time rocks have gone missing; the stature and integrity of the historic boundaries had been compromised. So our task took on another dimension.
|Only two of the five bags we collected along a short stretch of road.|
|In many places stones have gone missing.|
No good deed deserves police questioning!
In one day I gathered three full black garbage bags of litter. It was an education in waste…and cigarette brands, and beer labels, and fast food varieties. I should have made a list but it was pretty disgusting and some was dangerous. At the end of the day we left the bags by the road side in a pre-arranged agreement with the Town that they would come and pick up. We gathered another two bags a couple of days later. When we got home from several hours of work, I noticed a police car cruising our street. Thinking a neighbor was in trouble, we went out and offered to assist. They were looking for ME! My car had been spotted along North Main Street and some good Samaritan had reported me for leaving garbage along the road!! How ironic. The Police officer had to laugh and voluntarily was going to report back to the concerned citizen, an older gentleman who was aghast that we should be so bold and rude! So the story had an interesting twist. I appreciated the concern.
|Peek over the wall to get a glimpse of a lovely meadow.|
Then there was the issue of the walls themselves. While working we also uncovered many stones that had tumbled off the walls to the base and were covered by vines. We began to think about replacing and restoring those rocks to rebuild those walls to a little of their former glory. Sadly, many have disappeared. Good field stones are valuable. It is not a job we can tackle ourselves. We are hiring someone with skill and machines and a stronger back to come help us do the work in phases. Sometimes stewardship efforts need professionals, or skills that we as volunteers do not have. It doesn’t come cheap either.
|The walls are at their best in Autumn.|
A campaign we can all support
We will embark on a campaign to raise funds for many stewardship efforts. One of the first to be addressed will be the restoration of the walls along North Main Street. Please stop and take a look. Notice changes. Let someone in Avalonia know that you approve and support our efforts to preserve and protect not only the green, open spaces, but the historic walls that surround them.
|Wildlife, large and small, make use of the fields behind the stone walls. Photo by Rick Newton.|
Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.