Several New England District recreation sites held celebrations of volunteerism with National Public Lands Day events in September.
The dams at West Hill, Buffumville Lake, Hodges Village and Black Rock all held celebrations. “National Public Lands Day is an event that is held annually in September,” said Steven Stockton, P.E., Director of Civil Works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Its purpose is to showcase the nation’s public lands and emphasize the importance of protecting natural resources through responsible use and volunteerism.”
The park rangers at West Hill Dam held their celebration on Sept. 19. The rangers welcomed 115 volunteers to work on projects to improve the areas around the dam.
Park Ranger Viola Bramel headed out with 30 Boy Scouts and leaders to the grassland area and cleared about four acres of small encroaching, non-native red pine, white pine, cottonwood and oak trees. “The Scouts are always thrilled to have their sharp badge requirement and really get to cut something,” said Bramel. “The field succession was encroaching, threatening this vital habitats area.”
A Cub Scout Pack divided in half with one working with Buffumville Park Ranger Jamie Kordack to clear a critical pollinator habitat at the Military Monument Beach. While they were at the beach, they also sealed the safety fence and glider as well as laid wood chips beneath all the structures.
The other half of the Cub Scout Pack joined West Hill dam Project Manager Joe Zanca and Park Ranger Andrew Labonte to aerate the playground fall protection system and to dress the playground with manufacture-recommended annual top dress required levels of wood material.
A Northbridge, Massachusetts Senior Girl Scout Troop joined Ranger Mark Larson and cleared brush and waterbars the entire five miles of the Woodland Trail System and sealed all the trail benches with sealant. “Senior Girl Scout Troop 11127 have been together since they were Brownies,” said Bramel. “They are all high school seniors now. They came to our NPLD as they have their entire Scout journey to help us out one last time, as it will be their last as an official Girl Scout troop.”
A Cadet Girl Scout Troop from Mendon, Massachusetts, improved the pollinator garden at the long beach area, removed dead vegetation, planted new pollinator attractor/sustaining plant species, mulched the entire garden, sealed all the wooden logs and two bench gliders, as well as mulched and prepared eight flowering dogwood trees. Like the Senior Girl Scout Troop, the Cadets are no strangers to West Hill Dam. “They’ve been volunteering at our NPLD events since they were juniors,” said Bramel. “They completed their Silver Award at West Hill.”
All 115 volunteers gathered at the West Hill Dam shelter after a hard morning’s work for a warm snack made by other volunteers.
Buffumville Lake and Hodges Village Dam held their celebration on Sept. 24. One hundred thirty seven people, to include Scouts and families, came out to volunteer their services.
At Hodges Village, volunteers performed trail clearing, trash pickup and blazing at the East Side Trail. The Observation Blind got some rehab work that included scrubbing and sanding railings, repairing a panel and painting. “Volunteers installed fly pads, added stone dust and sleeves and installed two baskets at the Hodges Village Dam Disc Golf Course,” said Buffumville Park Ranger Jamie Kordack.
Volunteers also performed bench work at the Hodges Village parking lot. They raked out the tilled patch, removed rocks, planted winter rye seed and removed exotic Bittersweet along the railroad bed at the wildlife food plot. Eagle Scout Tobias Nash and his crew completed his floating walkway project at Hodges Village.
At Buffumville’s South West Side Trail volunteers performed planking and other repair work from Putnam Road, Potter Village Road to the South End bridges. Other work in and around Buffumville Lake included causeway pull-off/fishing platform work, removing a tire out of the woods, rehabilitating a table and painting the pirate ship, privacy fence and railings.
Three Girl Scout volunteers from Thomaston Troop 64058, two Scout Leaders as well as Environmental Protection Specialist Marissa Wright, joined forces to enhance and winterize the native butterfly garden and walking path at the Black Rock Dam in Thomaston, Connecticut. “The Scouts worked diligently as they pulled weeds, deadheaded plants and mulched the garden for winter,” said Wright. “The girls had a blast and are now in their fifth year in a row of maintaining the native butterfly garden.”
Many Scout troops also camped at West Hill, Buffumville and Hodges Village during National Public Lands Day weekend.
Stockton announced in a memorandum that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would participate in a free-fee day held on Sept. 26 in partnership with its sister federal lands management agencies. In addition to waving the fee to all its recreational areas, the Corps of Engineers issued a free-fee coupon to all volunteers who participated in a Corps-sponsored NPLD event. The coupon could be used on any day of the volunteer’s choice and is valid for one year.