On my first day as a Land Steward for Ipswich’s Open Space Program I got thrown right into preparing for an event. Beth, the Stewardship Coordinator in Ipswich, brought me out to the Dow Brook Conservation Area property and showed me the degraded piece of trail that was in desperate need of re-routing. A new piece of trail and boardwalk would need to be constructed, but I would not be working alone on planning this project. Beth explained to me that Essex County Trails Association (ECTA) received an REI grant and had offered to help the Town with constructing this new trail. ECTA’s focus as a foundation is creating and maintaining trails in Essex County; therefore they have a great volunteer base and a lot of tools perfect for making trails. I became very excited to get going on planning the trail building event and collaborate with other organizations in the community.
ECTA and I agreed on the details of the event and each sent out our own announcements for volunteers. ECTA posted the event on their website with a sign-up. I sent emails out to Ipswich’s Open Space Program’s email list. I also posted the announcement on the Town website and in the weekly paper, the Ipswich Chronicle. REI advertised the event in their newsletter. I got some email responses saying people were coming and so did ECTA, but we had no idea that 26 volunteers would show up on the day of the event!
Around 8:30 am on the day of the event the volunteers came rolling in and they looked ready to work. I hustled around trying to get everyone signed in and a pair of work gloves, introducing myself to as many people as possible. ECTA went over the things that needed to be done and then people headed out on the trail with supplies. By the time I made it out to the construction area a clear path had been made. Everyone had a tool in hand and felt like they had a purpose. The people that had construction skills took ownership of building the boardwalk with everyone helping to haul wood out to the construction site. Within 3 hours the trail was pretty much complete except for the boardwalk. I couldn’t believe how quickly the new trail was constructed.
This trail project is a perfect example of how partnerships in the community are effective. Without ECTA this trail project would have been very time consuming for me to plan and we would not have gotten as many volunteers. Without REI providing the funding, our boardwalk would not have been nearly as beautiful. Without the Town of Ipswich and MassLIFT-AmeriCorps cooperating, planning and approving, the trail improvement would not have happened. Without wonderful volunteers in the local community this project would have been a drawn out process and not nearly as fun and meaningful. I hope to collaborate again with ECTA, REI and organizations like them to help get things done in Essex County!