ACROSS THE WATERSHED BLOG

CREDIT: Ari Kaufman
Dec 07

Volunteers Use Thanksgiving Weekend to Give Back to GSWA

Volunteers Clear CMA Entrance

GSWA volunteers clear fallen trees and debris from the entrance to the Conservation Management Area in Harding, NJ. November 25, 2012

Some came to connect with family and give back to the watershed by working together. Some came to catch a break from family after the long Thanksgiving holiday; others because they are longtime members and volunteers, or because they were offered extra credit by savvy Environmental Science high school teachers. Some even came for the coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts! Whatever reason, a lot of volunteers turned out on Sunday, November 25 for an outdoor workday at the Great Swamp Watershed Association’s Conservation Management Area.

Check out photos from our workday event on Flickr!

Once again our volunteers re-created a one-mile trail first laid out in early 2011. It’s been repaired three times now; once after Hurricane Irene flooding devastated it, again after the losses from the 2011 Halloween snowstorm blocked it, and now following Superstorm Sandy.

One of several chainsaw experts who generously donated time to GSWA's Thanksgiving weekend workday.

One of several chainsaw experts who generously donated time to GSWA’s Thanksgiving weekend workday.

More than 30 adults, teenagers, and kids spent a cold Sunday working in crews. Each crew was headed by a chainsaw expert, and included some strong muscles for moving large chain-sawed logs. The rest of each team was composed of support workers who raked trails free of downed sticks, branches, and fallen leaves. Many of the logs the crew cut up were used to edge and delineate our CMA trails, or piled to make giant brush piles which other volunteers will clear away at future workdays.

A few volunteer groups worked to remove felled trees from multiple points along the 7,500-foot deer fence that encloses 28 acres of the CMA. Blow-downs from Sandy breached the seven-year-old fence in several places, and both temporary and permanent fence repairs were required after much of the wood was removed. Some truly giant trees subsumed stretches of fence more than thirty feet long. In these spots, where volunteers could not venutre and the fence remains pinned to the ground, hungry deer now have free reign to decimate all of the protected native vegetation GSWA has been trying to restore. Scores of fresh hoof prints inside our fence perimeter testify to this particular problem.

There were a few other places where our ruined fence could only be pulled up off the ground and onto temporary supports. GSWA will need an emergency infusion of cash to purchase new permanent support posts, and entirely new fencing that is not riddled with large, deer-sized holes.

Staff member Laura Kelm, volunteer Karen Witt, and board member Lisa Stevens

Staff member Laura Kelm, volunteer Karen Witt, and board member Lisa Stevens pose for a photo before joining a CMA work crew on November 25, 2012

Many of our most faithful volunteers showed up to work. There were also many new faces joining us thanks to a last-minute appeal for volunteers distributed by local media outlets. Regulars and first-timers worked side by side, and it was truly humbling for me as GSWA’s land manager to see so many people giving back to an open-space property that serves so many local communities.

Now that much of the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy has been repaired, we hope that you and many others will visit and take a walk along our newly restored and opened trail system. As you stroll along, check out all the fresh sawdust — a clear sign of all the busy beavers who worked so hard Thanksgiving weekend to the benefit of all. Words cannot express how grateful I am for all our committed volunteers!