Fall 2015 PlushBeds Green Scholarship recipient:
Savannah L. Haines
University of Maine
How One Person can Make a Difference for the Environment
I have been an active member of Girl Scouts for 13 years. During that time, I learned more about myself and more about my surroundings. Whether or not it was scout-related, I was always covered head to toe in dirt and grass. As I progressed through my scouting ranks, I was able to earn both my Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards. Both of these awards required a service project, which I chose to do outdoors. I have always loved the outdoors and I wanted to help others love it too. Theseprojects were to help get people to enjoy the outdoors in a way that was safe for them and our environment.
For my Silver Award project, I designed and created non-burnable signs to mark the trails on the Cherry and Webb Beach to help limit human traffic through the sand dunes. Although many people do not realize it, our beaches in Westport are deteriorating. Every hurricane and every storm causes the beaches to corrode and be swallowed up by the ocean. When people mistreated the dunes, by lighting fires and creating new trails, they were aiding in the dunes' destruction. By advocating for wise use of our trail system, I helped to preserve the beach's ecosystem while still allowing for use. When people read the signs, they stop and consider the request to stay off the dunes. This realization of their negative environmental impact causes them to be more respectful of their surroundings. These signs not only helped to keep people on the marked paths and off the dune grass, but also reduced the number of fires set in the dunes.
For my Gold Award project, I designed a pedestrian stepping stone crossing across the Angeline Brook that was safe for hikers to use and that did not impede the natural fish crossing. I chose to do this project because the current trail system that crossed the brook was dangerous and caused many people to stop visiting the local conservation area. When I first visited the property on a hike in January, a handful of people fell into the brook while trying to cross. By installing a crossing, I was able to allow other people to use the property safely regardless of the season. More people could now use that trail and more people could now visit that property.
Although I have grown out of scouting, I am still active in the outdoors. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Maine studying Forestry and Environmental Horticulture. Prior to my college education, I attended Bristol County Agricultural High School where I graduated with a concentration in Arboriculture. During my high school studies, I became fascinated with trees and tree biology.
Over the summer, I worked at the Stewardship and Public Outreach as an Intern for the Westport Land Conservation Trust. Working in this position, I got to learn more about land conservation and resource management in my area. I gained a lot of experience while working in the field and working with the public. On a regular day, you could find me miles deep in the woods maintaining trails on any of our numerous conserved properties around town. On these excursions, I would often run into hikers who would always stop me and commend me on my work. At the time, weed-whacking didn't seem like a huge deal. Looking back on it now, I am starting to realize the impact it really was. By maintaining the trail systems, I was allowing other people to enjoy the outdoors. Without me, they did not have access to the surrounding environment. Many of the people I spoke with were not from Westport, but instead from larger cities such as Fall River and New Bedford.
Along with trail maintenance, I got to work more directly with the public by leading Plant Identification Walks and manning the Land Trust's Information Booth at the local farmer's market. On these walks, I am able to teach people more about our local environment. We talk about native and introduced species, invasive species, as well as, bug and pathogen activity and management. Teaching others helps them to appreciate our environment. When people leave my walks, they leave with a smile. Some people on the walks know very little about plant identification and some people know much more than I do. Regardless of their knowledge, everyone has a good time. By getting people outside on our trail systems, they can see firsthand what we are preserving and why. When they are able to learn and enjoy themselves outdoors, they are more inclined to help preserve and conserve our local natural resources and landscapes.
At the Farmer's Market, I am the Westport Land Conservation Trust's cheerleader. I get to talk to everyone who enters the market and inform them on all the great strides we are making in land preservation. I get to help answer questions and help them understand why we do what we do. This summer I worked a lot at the Herb Hadfield Conservation Area. At this 100 acre property, which is open to the public, we made a 6 acre patch clear cut. This clear cut is our location of our Meadow Restoration Project. The meadow habitat is an endangered habitat in Massachusetts. Consequently, the species that call that meadow home are also endangered. Many towns' people were upset and confused about our project goals. At the Farmer's Market, I got to talk to the public and address their concerns. I got to inform them about the species that will benefit from this project and how they contribute to the ecosystem. By talking to concerned citizens, I got to help get support for the project and the Land Trust.
At the end of the day, no one person can change the world. Working together and sharing knowledge is the key to helping our environment. By getting the public involved, we are able to make huge strides in environmental conservation and preservation.