A Summer of Stewardship
I’m Gia Francis, a rising junior at the University of Maine at Fort Kent studying Forestry and Conservation Law Enforcement. I come to Machias from Rome, Maine.
Prior to the start of my summer at the Downeast Coastal Conservancy working as a Rockefeller Conservation Intern, I really didn’t know what stewardship was. Sure, I had heard the word before, but I had no clue what defined a steward’s role at a land trust. After 5 weeks of work, visiting countless preserves and easements, I now have a very direct understanding of what it is that a steward does on a day-to-day basis.
Tasks fluctuate and no day is the same as the last. I’ve had the opportunity to monitor properties and write up reports, clear out new trails, put up signs, work with volunteers, run a few errands here and there, and maintain trails. I have spent much of my time outside, exploring the beautiful Downeast Maine landscape, enjoying a few handfuls of wild blueberries, chatting with trail goers, and getting to know our preserves. I have also been able to attend and help out with a few outreach programs such as an introduction to canoeing and a children’s beach exploring event. The variety of work has kept me on my toes. I look forward to each day and wonder where it will take me.
On my first day with the DCC, I did some light on-boarding paperwork and then Ryan, the stewardship director, Cam, the stewardship assistant, and I went straight out into the field at Beaver Dam Stream for some trail work. I received a very warm welcome from a large, relentless swarm of mosquitos. I would advise anyone who visits to not forget their bug spray. I speak from personal experience. Nonetheless, I went ahead and lopped back the trail as Ryan and Cam did some chainsaw work removing a few blowdowns. This kind of work has continued through the summer, and I have spent a lot of time maintaining trails utilizing a variety of different tools such as loppers, weedwhackers, a mower, and even a chainsaw.
I have also had the opportunity to monitor some of our fee properties and easements. We go out in the field and comb through the woods looking for any alterations to the natural landscape. I have done this by foot and, more excitingly, by drone. I was amazed at how fast we could observe a property and how clear the images were. It has really been a game changer efficiency wise. In a single day we can monitor upwards of 5 properties, most of which are hard to reach by foot and would normally take several hours.Getting to know and work with crews of volunteers has also been exciting. Each person comes from a different walk of life, bringing their own experience and knowledge to the table. Everyone is eager to lend their time and energy to help with DCC’s projects, whether that be brushing out freshly cut trails, meticulously installing bog bridging, or taking a boat ride out to a couple of islands to pick up litter from the beautiful shores to ensure a picturesque view. These volunteers have taught me a lot and I am grateful to work with them.
It’s hard to believe that my summer with the DCC is more than halfway through. I have enjoyed my time so much that it honestly does not feel like work. I want to thank Cathy, Cam, Ryan, and all our wonderful volunteers for making this summer so memorable so far.
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