Spring came late to much of the country this year, including Vermont and its only national park: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. With a unique focus on conservation history and land stewardship, Marsh-Billings plays host to numerous SCA interns each year.
Katie Kull (above left) traveled here from North Carolina last fall. Specializing in natural resources, since then she’s monitored game cameras, eradicated invasive species, and conducted workshops on working woodlands, animal tracking, wildfire response, and more. While she enjoyed the all the outreach, Katie confesses one of her favorite activities is watching the many different critters that call New England home.
“It’s exciting to see fisher cats, porcupines, and animals we don’t see in North Carolina,” Katie states. “I turned a deer video into a GIF. It looks like a parade of hundreds of them!”
With the arrival of warmer weather, Katie’s attention has now turned to field surveys: salamanders, bobolinks, and a whole new season of exotic plants. “My supervisor is big into birds, so I’m learning a ton about ornithology,” she says. “I also have a lot of interest in forest ecology and it’s really cool to see the forest management and sustainability going on here.”
Marsh Billings rightfully touts its wooded trails, along which one can amble in the shade of sugar maples and 400-year-old hemlocks, across covered bridges, and alongside stone walls. It’s a tailor-made landscape for SCA trails partnership intern Anne Monk (right, with interpretive ranger Kelly Sczomak). “I started in mid-October, working on trail assessments and maintenance in the park and with adjoining landowners. Winters here are conducive to planning,” she says diplomatically.
A few years ago, after graduating with a degree in anthropology, Anne took a job as an interpretive ranger at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site outside Boston. That’s where the Louisiana native says she “caught the bug” and looked into SCA to gain further park experience.
“I’m really getting familiar with the natural side of things here,” Anne says. “The staff has been really great about allowing us to jump into other opportunities. I’m cross-referencing the card catalog for the Billings family record, helping a bit in the mansion, and providing weekly bird reports with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.”
Recently, Katie and Anne attended the National Outdoor Recreation Conference, sponsored by the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP), in Burlington, VT. “Since the RTCA (Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program) Vermont and New Hampshire field offices are based here, our supervisors suggested we attend to get different perspectives from across the nation,” Anne notes.
“When I first saw SORP, I thought ‘that’s a little abstract,’” Katie adds, “but in the first twenty minutes, it really came together. It’s a great network of park managers and others focused on adaptive use and a lot of fields I hadn’t considered before.”
Two years ago, SORP gave SCA Founder Liz Putnam its annual Leadership Award. This year, SCA sponsored a youth career panel and gave a presentation on marshalling volunteers. Other speakers included Vermont Governor Phil Scott and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
“I lived in North Carolina for twenty years and never met a governor the whole time,” Katie states. “It impressed me, that Vermont kind of thing. I was delighted to see these elected officials and people from Colorado State Parks and Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and elsewhere. We’re really making an impact. It’s important to see all this fantastic work going on.”
“You just gave me chills!” Anne declares with widening eyes. “But outdoor recreation really does cement a feeling of community.”