This post originally appeared in the Greater Lovell Land Trust Newsletter.
It was about this time last year that I was touring all of the GLLT properties with Kevin Harding as he worked to pass on his deep, place-based knowledge to me. He showed me the smooth-barked beech trees with the five-toed claw marks from repeated bear climbs and taught me place names like Otter Rocks and Moose Pond Bog. We toured familiar sites at the top of Whiting Hill and made new discoveries where a fisher clawed into the base of a stump at the Kezar River Reserve. And what he didn’t have time to share, he included in a GPS inventory of Heald and Bradley Pond, which summer intern Parker Veitch took on as a project to eventually upload it to the website. My main goal this year was to work with Tom and the docents to maintain the integrity of the program that Kevin built with such care and skill. After this first year, there are several metrics by which I measure our success in this endeavor.
To start, we offered a full schedule and attendance at all of our programs was high, with an average of 37 attendees at the evening presentations and 12 participants in our guided walks. David Brown drew a crowd, as always, and shared his stories about the Brownfield Bog. Bonny Boatman offered three of her very popular programs. Attendees at both of her talks on the ruby throated humming bird learned that this little animal doesn’t walk, can fly backwards, and is nick-named “the rain bird” (you’ll have to do some research to find out why). She also presented on the bald eagle in a second children’s program at the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library. Lynda Thayer and Nancy Hart shared moose stories and stunning photographs, especially of the moose named “Twigs” because he appeared to have deer antlers! I gave a presentation on Nature’s Numbers, and as promised we did not use any calculators. Instead, we learned about fractals, Fibonacci numbers and the golden mean and how these mathematical patterns and numbers help us understand nature. Finally, Susan Sidwell encouraged us all to turn our attention to the plants and pollinators, both for their beauty and importance to the planet. In sum, more than 500 people joined us this summer out on the trail, investigating natural history, and learning about land protection at the annual meeting.
Docents are the heart of the GLLT’s education program. This year, we welcomed two new docents: Carol Gestwicki and Paula Hughes. The docents led walks on Wednesdays and Thursdays at nearly all of the GLLT properties. We started the summer with a special training on natural history interpretation with Dr. Jessica Leahy from the University of Maine, which guided the development of themes and content for the weekly walks. We ended the summer with a docent dinner graciously hosted by Dennis and Ellen Smith where we talked about the program and made plans for next year.
Bob and Susan Winship, Moira Yip, Dennis and Ellen Smith and Mary Adams created and installed a self-guided plant walk at Heald-Bradley leaving from the Flat Hill parking area. Look for the self-guided plant walk at the Kezar River Reserve next year and the permanent self-guided trail at the Wilson Wing Moose Pond Bog Preserve.
I also offered the natural history course again this year. On a beautiful August day, eight of us took to the woods to read the forested landscape at Heald-Bradley Ponds Reserve and search for animal sign at the Kezar River Reserve. Along the way, we discovered stone walls and cellar holes; evidence of glaciers, wind and rain; moose scat and raccoon tracks and much in between.
As much as we tried to keep things the same, we also added a few things this year. The GLLT now has a growing e-mail list-serve where we post upcoming programs, including guided walks, evening presentations and other things we think you might want to know about. If you are interested in joining this list, please send me an e-mail at Bridie.McGreavy@maine.edu. We videotaped the summer lecture series, and our programs will be airing on Lake Region Television this winter. We will have copies available to borrow at the office. Finally, next summer look for two additional programs in the evening natural history series which will be co-sponsored by the Kezar Lake Watershed Association (KLWA) and will focus on lake and watershed-related topics.
I learned this year that the educator position is not a job that one person does alone. The GLLT education program is a community in which docents and participants come together to explore the natural world as a means for encouraging its conservation. I am grateful to have stepped into this community and I look forward to helping it grow in the coming years.