Monday, December 2, 2019

Communicating the value

By Beth Sullivan
Avalonia is a land trust. It conserves, preserves, and protects land and natural habitats. The other half of our mission is about communicating the value of these resources that once protected, will remain protected forever.
The Avalonia team works to communicate and educate in many different ways. This blog is one. We use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to convey our message. One of the best ways to really learn is by getting close to the subject, getting out and hiking, getting on your knees and looking closely, or joining a guided hike with a leader who can help teach.
Dealing with stronger storms and higher sea levels will be a topic of study for many.

Hoffman Evergreen Preserve hike

This past Friday, Black Friday, we challenged the turkey-filled to avoid the malls, and get out and hike. I have written extensively about the Hoffman forest restoration project. So, on Friday, stewards Jim Friedlander and Rick Newton, who are closely involved with the effort, joined by Phil Sheffield, a hike leader, and Sandy Alexander, our communications wiz, took about 50 people, kids and dogs as well, on a hike through the Hoffman Evergreen Preserve. Many hours of effort had already gone into getting the area more user-friendly: new blazes were painted on trees to be more visible and reduce confusion, and miles of trails were cleared by hand to remove large and small debris for safety and easier walking. With recent winds and rains, trees continue to fall, so chainsaw teams had gone out to remove even more blowdowns. Hikers had an opportunity to see the project and understand the planning behind it, as well as hear our hopes and plans for the future. Getting people to understand the issues, and become engaged with a project, allows them to feel like a true part of our conservation efforts. We will be calling on some of these same folks over the next months to help us with work parties.
Led by Jim F., hikers of all ages enjoyed the walk a Hoffman Preserve.

The pond a Hoffman Preserve remains full to the brim.

Some of the projects spreading our message

Some of us work with individual students to give input on projects or take on groups, from Cub Scouts to College students, to assist with educational efforts.
Cub Scouts planted seedling trees on The Woodlot Sanctuary. It is my hope that some of them will thrive so the kids can return years from now and locate them.
Maggie DeFosse is studying environmental policy and doing her final college internship with Avalonia. She remembers many years ago when I was doing classes in her elementary school and now has come full circle. We are working together.
This past week I met with a student from the Williams College Marine Program, to discuss coastal resiliency. He knows Avalonia has a number of coastal properties, including islands, and wonders about our plans for resiliency. He has studied our efforts at Dodge Paddock. He is concerned that there isn’t a state-wide plan to work together with towns and land conservancies and other agencies to address the looming sea-level rise crisis. He had some great thoughts, but in this case he will literally have to fight multiple city halls because each municipality in CT has its own rules and zoning plans.
I am working on scheduling a hike with a 13 year old, Gabriel, who is going to do a school project that will be educational, scientific, and oriented for community education. He has been inspired by hiking with naturalist Bruce Fellman. I will help him explore Knox Preserve, with a focus on how wildlife can prepare to adapt and survive the winter ahead. Once he gets the introduction, he will create his own educational hike and lead a group of his peers on a tour of the preserve to teach them what he has learned. Now, if the weather would cooperate, maybe we can get out next Sunday.
The program with Connecticut College's Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment, will begin in February. It will be yet another opportunity to educate smart young people about what we do as an organization and to learn from them as well.
These are the future stewards and policy makers for our world. Some will stay close to home, some will range far. All will, hopefully, see that their time with Avalonia helped shape their ideals and goals for the future we all share.
At Knox Preserve, we will discuss adaptations to survive the winter.

Connecticut College students are willing to get their feet wet.

Cub Scouts plant tree seedling. A hope for the future.

A fox den at Knox Preserve.


Photographs of Hoffman Preserve are by Phil Sheffield and Sandy Alexander. All other photographs by Beth Sullivan.