The West Windsor Town Forest on Ascutney Mountain continues to be a beehive of activity. Most recently staff from Ibex spent a day eradicating invasive honeysuckle bushes and relocating a section of trail. They were so enthused that when it was time to switch from honeysuckle destruction to trail building people just wanted to keep working on the invasives, even though it was considered harder work.
More volunteer help on the Town Forest came in the form of Dartmouth’s Environmental Studies 50 class. Fourteen students worked for 9 weeks with UVLT and the West Windsor community (including Ascutney Outdoors and Sport Trails of Ascutney Basin (STAB)) to analyze issues around increasing the recreation on the mountain to revitalize the community economically. The final report includes: case studies with other existing recreation resources; an analysis of the benefits from building a small basecamp as a focal point for recreational use, including designs and basic cost estimates; looked at place-based outdoor education for elementary school students, including potential lesson plans; creating communication platforms to promote community-based conservation, recreation and education, which included a video of individuals speaking to why the mountain was so important to them.
UVLT was most closely involved in the students’ assessment of the environmental and user experience impacts of the recreational uses, including developing ways to monitor use levels and invasive species locations. While high tech tools like STRAVA heatmaps and iMapInvasives may be in our future, and developing reliable ways to monitor the recreation use impacts on the Town Forest will be key to successful monitoring of the easement we hold there, the real work of land stewardship is still the dedicated volunteers who lend their muscles and brains to UVLT’s mission. Many thanks to Dartmouth and Ibex for helping us succeed.