How Education and Trail Season Connect

By: Sam Gilvarg

During our Education Season, in addition to my responsibilities as an environmental educator at Heath Elementary School, I was lucky enough to be selected for a Conservation Placement with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).  In this capacity, I was charged with assisting DCR organize information about our proposed future trail projects for final review and permitting by various environmental, conservation, and historical commissions.  Through this experience, I am able to look at many of the projects that we are undertaking with a unique perspective—that which comes from seeing a project to completion from start to finish. 

But why is all of this paperwork necessary?  Before a shovel moves away even a single mound of soil, it is of paramount importance that all of our projects go through a strict vetting process.  This is to ensure that no sensitive natural communities, archeological sites, or endangered species are damaged by our work.  If a potential issue arises, sometimes it can be resolved by doing a project at a designated time (such as when an endangered species is dormant) when minimal damage will be done.  Other times, it is necessary to abandon a project altogether.  Often, we have to operate within strict parameters (such as not removing soil outside of the trail) in order to avoid damaging the environment.   My job was to compile information, make maps, and write reports so that the state agencies in charge of protecting our natural and historical resources could make informed decisions. 

It is amazing to be able to go out on a hitch and participate in the realization of the work that I did during the Education Season.  I get to see tangible results which arose from the hard work that went on in the ‘background’—behind the scenes of the Pulaskis and chainsaws.  This experience has shown me just how many dedicated and passionate people work out of the spotlight to ensure the success of a project.  Without the hard work of organizations like the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, nothing we do now would even be possible.