The trees were chosen for their ability to tolerate climate change. The footbridges were anchored by cables to withstand floods. The guest of honor? Her staying power was proven a long time ago.
SCA Founding President Liz Putnam returned to Vassar College last week with members of the SCA Hudson River Valley Corps in tow to lead 200 Vassar students in a massive service project marking the 9/11 National Day of Remembrance.
Over three days, volunteers planted more than 1,000 native oak, dogwood and sycamore trees, cleared an acre’s worth of invasive bittersweet, and restored hiking trails at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, one of the largest remaining public places in Poughkeepsie, NY.
SCA Founder Liz Titus Putnam finishes planting one of many trees at Vassar’s Preserve on 9/11.
“To accomplish all this on 9/11, it makes me just weep. It makes my heart overflow,” Liz stated, her voice breaking with emotion. “It’s almost like this is hallowed ground, which our Earth is.”
Vassar is where Liz authored her seminal 1955 senior thesis, proposing a “Student Conservation Corps” to assist in the upkeep of national parks, which were then struggling to keep up with a post-war boom in popularity. Two years later, Liz and colleague Martha Hayne led the first SCA volunteers into Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks.
Temperatures climbed into the 90s as the projects started last week but after learning and seeing what Liz had accomplished, Vassar junior Tre Artis was undeterred. “It’s quite inspiring,” he told public radio’s WAMC. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future to know that if there’s something I want to do, a change that I want to make, that I can make it.”
The reforestation project was the brainchild of another Vassar student, 21-year old Carrie Perkins. The 530-acre Vassar preserve is a living laboratory, and the newly-planted trees will be monitored over the next decade to see how they fare against climate change as well as a growing deer population.
The 1,000 saplings were provided by the “Trees for Tribs” (as in tributaries) program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which engages volunteers in creating streamside buffers through tree planting. The trees will also help absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and yield seeds for future projects.
In addition to commemorating 9/11, the service event celebrated 20 years of partnership between SCA and AmeriCorps, the primary supporter of the Hudson River Valley Corps as well as many other SCA programs.
Building the boardwalk at the Vassar Preserve. Project Leader Matt Kennedy in green shirt at right.
The completed boardwalk wends its way through the wetlands to drier ground at the Vassar Preserve.