2018 Summer Naturalist Report

Stowe Elementary School first grade students studying animal homes in the school yard.

Figure 1. Summer Naturalist Program volunteer and program participation numbers by year.

Photos from 2018!

Photos from 2018!

While the weather may not have broken yet, the season is winding down for the 2018 Summer Naturalist Program. Now in its 6th year, the Summer Naturalist Program has gained a good reputation in town and works with many of the same partners year after year. Our goal this summer was to refine current programming and expand our partner base both with volunteer programs and outdoor education.

I am happy to report that we engaged 545 individuals with our educational programming this summer! This exceeded our target of 400 participants for the season and shows that the programs offered by SLT are a valuable and appreciated asset to the community. Promotion and outreach for programming this summer began in mid-March, which allowed Elisabeth plenty of time to work with school groups before they left on summer vacation.

Program topics ranged from guided “un-nature” walks with preschoolers to a lesson on orienteering and compass reading with teens. Programs were designed to be fun and educational, and to introduce the idea of being a steward of the land. The compass lesson with teens was followed up by having them assist with an easement monitoring visit on the same property. The “un-nature” walk with preschoolers got them thinking about how objects we wouldn’t naturally find in nature end up there. 

New this summer, was a value added project with the Stowe Elementary School fourth grade art classes. The students painted trail marker plaques with local plants and animals to mark the trail up Sunset Rock. The teen summer camp from Stowe Parks and Rec. worked with Elisabeth later in the summer to hang the trail markers along the trail! Stowe Parks and Rec. afterschool programs also benefited from a few days of fun outdoor activities with Elisabeth in the spring.

Through SLT’s hotel partnership with Trapp Family Lodge we were lucky enough to lead three nature walks for 45 guests around the beautiful von Trapp property. These were some of the most well attended events of the summer – and were filled with curious, eager visitors to Stowe, both young and old.

The format of the open house days at the Mill Trail changed this year. Rather than being open every Saturday, Elisabeth scheduled three different activities on three weekends of the course of the summer and advertised these online. The Water Based Scavenger Hunt and the Tree ID Walk did very well and had a good turnout. Most people who came to these two events were not very familiar with SLT, and at least one family became members as a result of their experience. 

We were very happy to work with 6 volunteer groups and 86 volunteers at five of our properties this summer. While we didn’t quite reach our target of 100 volunteers, these groups helped us with a range of work, from pulling invasive Japanese Barberry at Cady Hill and stacking firewood at the Mill Trail cabin, to maintaining the trail corridor at Kirchner Woods. These volunteer hours are vital to keeping our trails and properties well-maintained. 

Vail’s Epic Promise Day team chose again to work with us on a variety of projects including turning the site of the blacksmith shop at the Mill Trail into a picnic area. Annual meeting and the Epic Promise Volunteer day will take place after Elisabeth’s service term has ended, but she has been helping to coordinate these events before she goes.

Stewardship was a major component of Elisabeth’s work this year. Between her background in stewardship and a change in staffing mid-season, Elisabeth took on more stewardship tasks than Summer Naturalists have in the past. She completed the annual easement monitoring visit on 19 properties, and worked with Kristen and land owners to resolve a small number of minor approvals and encroachments.

Compared to previous years, we are on target with participation numbers and volunteer days and have met or exceeded our program goals for the year.