4,500 Seedlings Planted, 87 Signs Made, and 24 Cubic Feet of Trash Cleared

Spring workdays by the numbers

Sophie Oehler | May 18, 2023
A woman in a blue shirt holding hiking poles hikes towards a man looking out on a mountain vista.

We’ve had another exciting few weeks of volunteer workdays here at The Forest Society! From sign making to tree planting, here all the great work our volunteers (totaling nearly 150 people so far this spring) have helped us achieve recently:

Sign Making at the Conservation Center (April 27)  

A man wearing red headphones maneuvers a router over a piece of wood.
Laurel Swope-Brush
In order to prepare our trail facilities for this year’s hiking season, volunteers gathered at the Conservation Center Workshop to make trailhead and property signs. During the two-day workshop, nine volunteers contributed to making 87 signs, with help from four staff members.  

These signs will be posted at various Forest Society properties to direct hikers from the beginning and intersections of trails, to mark parking lots and to identify easements.  

Two men talk over a table of signs painted brown.
Laurel Swope-Brush
Volunteers used stencils to trace each individual letter before using a router to carve out the lettering for each sign. The signs were then painted brown with yellow lettering to make them easily visable and readable for visitors! 

Though this was a challenging workshop with a lot of work needing to get done, the two days spent working with volunteers were staff favorites.  

“Seeing how well our volunteers work together was awesome,” says SPNHF Stewardship Projects Manager, Dylan Summers, “They’ve been doing it a long time and they clearly have a good system.” 

Summers also enjoyed the workshop because it was an eye-opening experience into the work it takes to maintain trail facilities.  

“I know how much work goes into signs, but I hadn’t been part of the making process,” he says, “I enjoyed getting more insight into the process of actually making the signs.” 


Lost River Clean Up Day (May 2)  

It was raining cats and dogs when volunteers and Forest Society staff gathered at Lost River Gorge in Woodstock for a day of trail clean up. The wind whipped through the gorge, turning an already chilly day into an Arctic experience.  

Six staff members headed up the day of work, with 22 volunteers helping perform maintenance on the ecology trail, take down hazardous trees in the parking lot, and take care of general grounds clean up around the buildings. One group, led by Laurel Swope-Brush, the Land Steward and Volunteer Coordinator, took care of breaking down the last of the ice and snow still occupying some of the caves.  

With the tourist season just starting to kick off, the grueling work accomplished by staff and volunteers was a huge help in preparing this popular attraction for visitors. If you go to Lost River this summer and happen to crawl through the Sun Altar cave or walk along the ecology trail, just imagine our volunteers and staff in the exact same place, carrying ice picks and branch clippers, drenched head to toe.  

Mt Major Earth Day DIY Clean Up (April 22)

This year, Earth Day fell on a grey and overcast Saturday. A gusty wind blew for much of the day and the threat of rain loomed over the mountains. The parking lot of Mt Major, however, was chock full of hikers excited to get out into the outdoors and celebrate Mother Nature.  

This clean up day worked a little different than most of our others. While we did have some volunteers that had signed up to join us for the day, most of the volunteer work accomplished at Mt Major was done by regular hikers who had come to enjoy the views at the mountain and agreed to help us beautify the trails.  

We had over 90 documented helpers join us in this cleanup day, and many more volunteers that preferred not to register in the parking lot. We filled our a quarter of our Forest Society truck bed, which we calculated to being almost 24 cubic feet of trash! That’s about the volume of an average refrigerator! 

We also had some additional trail maintenance happening, performed by Forest Society staff and volunteers as well as members of the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition (BRCC). Our Forest Society team installed two trail counters on both the Main Trail and the Boulder Trail to monitor how many visitors we get each day to the mountain. This will help us get a better understanding of the amount of traffic we get on the mountain so we can make plans for further trail and facility maintenance and outreach opportunities for the mountain. 

The BRCC team worked further up the trails, repairing and improving the water bars on the Main Trail. This will decrease the amount of erosion happening on our most popular trail and give rain and flood water a place to go that isn’t down the trail and into the parking lot.  

Overall, this was such a rewarding way to spend Earth Day and we want to extend huge thank you’s to everyone who participated, whether they had planned to or not.

Christmas Tree Planting at The Rocks (May 3-4) 

A woman in a green raincoat walks away from the camera down a gravel road lined with fields of Christmas trees
Sophie Oehler

For the first year ever, Mainstay Technologies joined us on their corporate retreat for two days of planting Christmas trees at The Rocks in Bethlehem. Usually, our volunteer workdays are formed by asking our members, social media followers, and existing volunteers to join us for a day of work. This time, though, our volunteers came to us!  

Mainstay Technologies are our tech support company. When staff have problems with our computers, printers, projectors, etc., the wonderful staff at Mainstay are our first call. They’ve gotten us out of some pretty sticky situations in the past, and they did it once again by spending two days with us working in the fields at everyone’s favorite Christmas tree farm.  

A group of people gather around an ATV while others plant tree seedlings in a row
Sophie Oehler
Volunteers and staff learned the proper way to plant a seedling Christmas tree from The Rocks’ Christmas Tree Farm Manager, Cameron Larnerd, and then split into two groups to plant trees in separate sections of the fields. Luckily, all the holes had been augured previously so all volunteers had to do was place the seedling in the hole, fill in the dirt so that the roots were covered and protected, and then tamp the dirt down with their feet.  

Between the two days, a total of 22 Mainstay volunteers came to help plant 4,500 Christmas trees! On the second day, planting was done so efficiently that there was time for pizza lunch, and to help Cameron pick up dead brush from one section of the fields.  

A pair of hands wearing yellow rubber gloves plant a Christmas tree seedling
Sophie Oehler

We’re so thankful that Mainstay chose to spend their corporate retreat with us getting muddy in the fields at The Rocks. Planting trees is an extremely time-consuming task, and we would not have accomplished it in time if it hadn’t been for our awesome volunteers. We hope to see them back next year for another couple of days in the field!  

Grafton Pond Clean Up (May 11)  

We were lucky enough to be joined by a second corporate group, this time clearing trash away from the parking lot and shorelines of Grafton Pond. For almost 10 years, we've hosted a corporate retreat event with Hypotherm Associates at this forest reservation. This long-lasting partnership is a great testament to this group’s hard work and great comradery.  

Each year, Hypotherm joins the Forest Society to walk the parking lot and trails of the pond and pick up trash before piling into a boat to cruise the shorelines for litter. Most times, groups will also get out to explore the many islands in the center of the pond to look for any picnic debris left behind.  

This continues to be one of our most popular volunteer events... each year we partner with Hypotherm, the event fills up within 24 hours.

This workday makes a huge difference at Grafton Pond. We’ve noticed a significant decrease in litter over the years, which can only mean visitors are recognizing the great work being done by volunteers, and choosing to remove their waste rather than leaving it behind.  

Thanks again!

In closing, we want to extend a last thank you and congratulations to all the volunteers who have helped us out this month.  

“I feel like the last couple of weeks have been entirely exhausting and many staff have participated but 10 million more volunteers have,” says Volunteer and Land Steward Coordinator, Laurel Swope-Brush, “there is no way we could do any of the work that we do without that support.” 

A group of people poses around an ATV smiling towards the camera
The Mainstay volunteer group in the fields at The Rocks (Sophie Oehler)

For anyone considering joining our volunteer program, we highly encourage you check out our volunteer information page. We are always looking for new, friendly faces to help us leave the world a little more beautiful than we found it.  

On the fence? Take it from Dylan Summers, our Stewardship Project Manager.  

“There’s a ton of work that goes into making sure our public lands are accessible for use by the public. It’s not just taking a piece of land and saying, 'well it’s conserved now!'  Volunteering gives you an opportunity to see the amount of work that goes into land conservation, to experience what it's like to make sure that these lands are accessible to people. It’s an opportunity to give back and participate in making sure others can use and experience public lands.”