Last week I had the chance to join Carrie Deegan, Land Steward Program specialist, and Jason Teaster, Conservation Center property manager, as they led the annual Sign Building Workshop here at the Forest Society’s headquarters. During this two-day workshop, volunteers helped stencil, sand, cut, and stain over 70 signs that will be used to replace older versions at the more than 175 forest reservations owned by the Forest Society.
As a communications intern, I was excited to go out in the field and meet some of our amazing volunteers. Most of the people at this workshop were land stewards who were happy to help build signs that they could put on the properties they steward. Land Stewards hold a unique and important role in the Forest Society as they annually contribute more than 5,000 hours of work through trail maintenance, recreation management, education and participating in workdays like this. Each one of the 160 land stewards makes a two- to three-year commitment to monitoring a Forest Society reservation within 20 miles of his or her home. I met volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Some were young New Hampshire natives who visit their properties after a full-time workday, while others were retirees who find the stewardship program to be a new adventure. They shared stories of things they had found on the trails, work they had recently done, and how their commitment to these tracts of land had inspired a new appreciation for their local community. While each had found his or her own way to the Forest Society’s Land Steward Program, all shared a deep belief in the Forest Society’s initiatives and a desire to see land conservation continue in their respective areas.
Throughout the two-day workshop, I learned a lot. I learned how to hold a sander, the 12-step process of creating a trail sign, and the multiple stories of people who contribute to the Forest Society in such a fundamental way.