Earth Day came early for those who were involved in the SCA and Massabesic Audubon's Earth Day Festival this past Saturday. While families were enjoying activities and presentations, the high school students decided that providing service is how they would recognize such a meaningful day. As children were running around in a recycle relay race facilitated by SCA NH Corps members, SCA Manchester was getting things done in the garden.
The Massabesic Audubon houses a 4-H community garden which in past years has produced over 6,000 pounds of organic produce that is donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank. It's more than just a garden that yields produce; it's also an outdoor classroom for youth and families alike.
The service day began with some energizing group games and a revitalizing crew stretch circle before going to work in the garden. We prepped the soil by weeding and tilling, turned the compost for distribution, and began the pizza garden by planting some garlic and onion.
As most of you know, this program doesn't just focus on the environment, but more broadly emphasizes leadership development for students. Two of our second year members, Zach Dumont and Weimin Tan, spoke on behalf the program in a presentation to the public which they created.
The Earth Day Festival was a magic day and we'll be continually spreading environmental awareness and engaging youth in stewardship opportunities for many Earth Day's to come.
check out more photos at www.manchesterearthday.com
The great thing about working trails is hiking trails. That’s the reason we do this kind of work, right? After two consecutive Saturdays clearing rails ties that have littered the Rockingham Recreational Trail for years, SCA Manchester decided to come together in a sort of celebration to hike the six mile round trip all the way to Massabesic Lake. The group pondered preparing for hitch season, and Aria laid out the basic principles of Leave No Trace while we walked the arbor corridor.
The first part of the day, the high school members spent some time performing trail assessment of the newly cleared rail trail. Marking hazards, describing tread width and composition, noting ownership and management of the trail itself. All of these skills cultivate the next generation of conservation leaders and workers. The members determined that the rail trail is a flat, multi-purpose recreational trail that is great for both commuters needing access to the city of Manchester and recreators seeking solitude at the beautiful Massabesic Lake. Additionally, even after performing a multitude of collective hours rehabbing the trail, the members concluded that resident yard waste, tree hazards, and garbage are still concerns that plague the Rockingham trail.
Along the way, members were tested by environmental ethics questions by co-leader Chelsea Kibbe. Students were challenged with questions thoughtful questions: “Do you need electricity to have fun?” and “Do humans have an obligation to solve environmental issues?” Members thoughtfully answered these questions and debated their reasonings developing their environmental education skills.
After the three mile long hike to Massabesic Lake in the warm spring sun, members were challenged with “Survival.” Groups of students had to use their previous developed reasoning skills to assess which items might help them survive a catastrophe in the wilderness. These moments can promote consensus between the group and it can also drive wedges between those who disagree. Both of these are experiences worth nothing when working in groups. However, in the end, agreeing to disagree and recognizing our differences when developing solutions is what SCA Manchester seeks to promote.
As the group walked back, discussing the upcoming Earth Day event at the Massabesic Audubon Center, the group dreamed about one day being able to use the trail to commute to future Earth Day events. And all this would be made possible by the 2012 SCA Manchester community crew program.
Braving a blustery morning and donning only a few hand tools and some bottles of water, SCA Manchester returned to Rockingham Rail Trail to continue removing rail-ties from the city owned portion of trail. We were joined by two volunteers who generously donated and their fork-laden tractors.
As two students were interviewed on the public access channel the rest enjoyed sipping coffee and wading through the many choices of donated Dunkin’ Donuts, arranged by Real Pinard.
After our stretch circle and safety discussions it was time to begin the day. Unlike our previous visit we dragged the ties from the disarray on the sides of the trail to form many small piles as we went, to be picked up en masse by the volunteers and their equipment. The area the Crew Leaders had expected to be covered over the entire day was quickly finished in less than two hours.
We continued making small piles down the trail, continuing to make small stacks the entire way.
On our way back to the vans for lunch we were impressed to find that we had just cleared a section of trail that, even with the incentive of food at the other end, took five minutes to walk.
Two hundred rail ties. We had beaten our record from the previous Saturday by forty ties and it was only lunch.
A few more donuts and some sack lunches, and then back to the rail ties.
We continued pushing farther and farther down the trail, removing the creosote-laden ties from adjacent wetlands, dragging the heavy lumber up the embankment.
By days end we had handled roughly six hundred rail ties, laid out and ready to be removed. We walked back to our vans past our work. Ironically, the trail was looking more like we were constructing a railroad than removing one, all of the ties laid out along the trail, stretching just around the bend.
Most of those ties are gone now. This section of what was the B&M Railroad’s Plymouth Branch looks much differently than it did when constructed in 1862. There are still traces of a rich history for those who enjoy the trail, but the rail ties strewn about the edges of the trail are gone now, and the creosote soaked ties are no longer in the wetland.
One of SCA Manchester's overarching pillars that is instilled in their members is teamwork. Without it, they cannot operate; with it, they can get things done. On March 17th, fifteen SCA Manchester high school members and the four leaders fully realized the teamwork that is needed to make an impact on and transform the huge rail trail project that is the Rockingham Recreational Trail in Manchester. Stretching for three miles from Manchester to Massabesic Lake, the abandoned railroad turned public recreational trail is plagued by hundreds upon hundreds of creosote soaked rail ties scattered on its margins. Because of this, the trail resembles more an unofficial alleyway rather than a proper scenic route to Massabesic Lake. Luckily for us, the ties are now safe to be disposed of.
The SCA Manchester members banded together and upon arrival glanced down the corridor at the hundreds of ties that needed to be moved that day. Some ties, reaching more than 12 foot long and well over several hundred pounds each, required whole work teams of 8 and 9 to be carried to the end of the trail. This kind of dangerous work requires careful consideration of tools, excellent communication, and, of course, team work. Altogether, the crew carefully stacked 168 rail ties.
As with any city trail project, the crew was greeted by community members and trail users expressing their gratitude of the service and hard work provided by the high school members. One special guest, Real Pinard, a retired city alderman and resident adjacent to the trail, shook the hands of the leaders of the program and told the crews some of the history of the old railroad when President Truman had visited the area.
Since it is such a large project, the crew has decided to spend another day at the trail on March 31st.
Imagine if you will a rocky stretch of coastline looking out into the Gulf of Maine. What do you see? Blue skies? Seagulls? Crabs? Sea shells? Something you probably do not picture in your mind is the amount of trash that washes up on shore during winter storms. Odiorne State Park manages two and a half miles of New Hampshire’s eighteen miles of coast. The SCA Manchester crew walked the coast pulling out lobster traps and bagging trash. Pulling things like rope, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.
This event was a huge success thanks to the Seacoast Science Center who graciously allowed us to work in exchange for entrance to the center and provided a program from their naturalists. By the end of the day there were 9 bags of trash, and a pile of lobster traps off the beach and a few nuggets of knowledge were bestowed upon the members. Be on the lookout for where SCA Manchester goes next!