Conservation Journal Heather and Alyssa

The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) is an AmeriCorps service program that develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. LRCC members are the driving force behind the Squam Lakes Association’s conservation efforts. The program provides hands-on conservation work experience and numerous certifications over a broad range of areas, which ensures that LRCC members are capable of independently approaching a variety of tasks in the environmental conservation field. Members remove invasive species from the Squam watershed, manage and act as caretakers at our backcountry campsites, maintain the SLA’s 50+ miles of trails, educate the public on local and regional conservation initiatives, spearhead reports on conservation efforts, lead SLA volunteer crews and ensure the daily functioning of the Squam Lakes Association’s programs. Click here to learn more about the LRCC program.

June 20, 2019

Alyssa (Lakes Region Conservation Trust)

Two penguins are in the middle of a desert.
They’re sitting in a canoe, just paddling away, as hard as they can, and not going anywhere.
Sand is flying, and they just keep on paddling.
Eventually, one penguin looks to the other and says “where’s the paddle?”
The other replies, “sure does.”

Uh… what?

It’s a riddle, and if you don’t get it, I’m not sure I can help you. I’ve been living in a cabin with nothing but joke books and my three co-service members; we’re all a little “off.”

But I can’t complain. Just take a look at how beautiful our property is! Can’t get more quintessential “New England” than that.

Our house is a former homestead nestled in the foothills of the White Mountain National Forest, and we’re the luckiest Americorps members in all the land. Can you step out your door and hike a mountain or walk to a waterfall? We sure can. It’s also the perfect haven to retreat to after a long day of trail work, invasive species removal, or trail hosting on one of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust’s popular properties.

Last week, we learned how to build and maintain trails, a skill that will come in handy over the course of our 5-month Americorps service. The Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT), our host organization, was founded in 1979 to conserve the natural heritage of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. They have conserved over 150 properties, totaling over 27,000 acres, all of which protect critical wildlife habitat and diverse ecosystems, while also providing abundant opportunities for people of all ages to connect with the natural world in a way that allows for future generations to enjoy. Our duty as Conservation Land Stewards is to help explain LRCT’s mission to the community and to keep our land and trails accessible and preserved.

We mostly uphold these goals by working behind-the-scenes to help maintain each LRCT property. Castle in the Clouds is the largest area owned by LRCT, and one of the most popular in the Lakes Region. We gathered there on a rainy morning last week with trail expert Lew (Snowhawk, LLC) to learn the technical aspects of erosion control and other of trail design. As we walked the wide, former carriage trails around the Oakridge Trail, we took note of structural grade and slope issues; New Hampshire is especially prone to erosion as foot traffic and water carry earth downslope. Outcropped granite is a result of centuries of human activity on the land; poorly conducted recreational activities only perpetuate the issue.

We stopped to address a particularly steep section of trail with obvious stream marks and exposed bedrock. Four hours of gathering boulders, digging trenches, and strategically layering them at an acute angle eventually led to the creation of an 18-ft waterbar. Also known as a “enforced grade dip,” these waterbars consist of shingled rocks (or perhaps a single straight log) that redirect water from its downward trajectory, instead forcing it off the edge of the path where it can’t erode the trail further. The key is to make the structure as unobtrusive as possible; by the time we were finished with construction, the waterbar looked like a glorified bump in the road. Perfect! It will still allow hikers and wheeled vehicles to safely pass through the middle of the trail, while still providing a strong water diversion.

Unfortunately, with our newly acquired “trail maintenance” lens, we’ll never be able to enjoy a hike without critical eyes. Luckily, the peaceful White Mountain trails behind our cabin provides an escape from responsibility; they are on National Forest land, not LRCT property. We can hike guilt-free, and just roll our eyes muttering “someone should really clear out that water bar…” as we clear our heads in the mountain air.

 HA! Who am I kidding? We can never leave our work behind. We’re Conservation Land Stewards; penguins of the forest, happily here to wear down our paddles in the fight to preserve ALL land to the best of our ability.

Alyssa is from Seattle and recently graduated her Master's in Environmental Studies from Antioch University.  You can read more about Alyssa here!

June 19, 2019 

Heather (Squam Lakes Association)

I was born and raised in Texas and have never experienced a place quite like New Hampshire. Most of my camping and hiking experience is limited to the desert landscapes of the Southwest. Thus, the thought of packing up and moving to New England was intimidating to say the least. However, I knew my fear of leaving Texas was a sign that this would be an opportunity for me to grow by exploring another region. Thankfully, I haven’t been disappointed!

Let me begin by saying that Texas will always have a spot in my heart with its rolling, bluebonnet-filled hills and flat landscapes that allow you to see for miles with picturesque sunsets engulfing the sky. However, New Hampshire is a gem of its own with gargantuan mountains piercing through the clouds and forests densely packed with brilliant, green foliage.

One of the first characteristics that caught my attention was the clarity of the lakes. You can actually see straight to the bottom! This is something I rarely see in Texas. I love watching the submerged plants sway with the current as fish swim along, searching for insects off of SLA’s docks. I have even spotted a couple schools of fry wandering along the shoreline now that warmer weather has initiated the spawning season. It is no wonder why New Hampshirites take great pride in their lakes and work ferociously to protect the watersheds.

Within my first two weeks of serving for SLA, I attended the Lakes Congress, an event hosted by NH Lakes, with my fellow Lakes Region Conservation Corps members. Weeks before we began serving as Cosnervation Corps members, we were asked to select from a list of speakers and topics to attend during the event. With little knowledge of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to hear speakers from different industries covering a variety of topics ranging from research on cyanobacteria to working with local governments. My past experiences with similar events have always been research-focused conferences. It’s refreshing and comforting to see so many passionate individuals with different backgrounds come together to exchange their wisdom and promote a common mission—conserving the natural beauty of the lakes.

So far the majority of my days have consisted of earning numerous certifications and completing a jam-packed training schedule. As the summer begins to kick into gear, I’m excited to use what I’ve learned and begin interacting with this conservation-minded community.

Just in case y’all were wondering, I have been told that I do in fact have a slight Texas twang.

Heather is a graduate of the University of Texas with a major in Biology.  You can read more about Heather here.


Join our Conservation Corps members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.