Conservation Journal John and Hollyn

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.

July 3, 2019 John (Squam Lakes Association)

This past weekend, I served as the SLA’s caretaker on Moon and Bowman Islands. The islands are situated in the center of Squam Lake and lie about 200 yards apart from one another. Both have been conserved through conservation easements, and are owned by the Squam Lakes Association (purchased Moon in 1978, Bowman in 1994), so they will remain as they are today into the future. Both have at least a mile or so of hiking trails laced over them, and save for a few docks, tent platforms, privies(bathrooms) and one cabin each, they look very much the same as they did many years ago. 

The caretaker serves dual roles on the islands. A primary role is to interact with the public and to greet and check in campers who have reserved a campsite on one of the islands. The caretaker also monitors and maintains the hiking trails and privies of both islands. I have been a full-time caretaker for a trails club in the past, so I felt I was well-prepared for this weekend on the islands. However, I had forgotten about the nuances and varied character of our ever-present, humble and gracious friend in the out-of-doors, the lowly privy. I will do my best to speak in general terms from this point on so the reader may maintain their composure.

From my time caretaking and having generally rambled over thousands of miles of hiking trails over the last five years, I have come to know that all privies have their own personality. Some are grand and palatial, others are “cozy” and efficient, but they all serve the same purpose. You are always glad to see one, and they (almost) never complain when you come traipsing into the campsite at dusk. As a maintainer of privies, one sees a different side of things. The underside, specifically. 

The Squam Lakes Association utilizes a couple different types of privies. One variety is a relatively simple moldering toilet, which consists of a receptacle hanging beneath the throne, which must be emptied periodically by the caretaker, into another receptacle, in which the material will slowly decompose into clean organic matter. This is an oversimplification, but that is probably best in describing a machine of this variety. The process of moving the material from one receptacle to another provides a unique experience for the caretaker, when encountering a specific privy for the first time. As mentioned before, each privy has its own character; each built by a different hand and crafted with a different audience in mind, each privy completes their service in a different fashion. 

This was my first time maintaining most of these privies so there was, I felt, a steep learning curve. Upon greeting each structure, the caretaker dons latex gloves and enters through the door to spend a few minutes tidying up inside. In midsummer, the experience amounts to a visit to the sauna, as the tiny metal-roofed boxes bake in the sun all day long. After the cleaning, the caretaker leaves the throne to work with the privy’s receptacle en plein air. Still notably perspiring from the “tidying up”, the caretaker kneels or lays down to reach beneath the receptacle, unclasp a drain, lower the receptacle, detach it from pulleys, then hoist, drag or yank it out into the daylight. The caretaker then moves the material from the receptacle to its resting place, then hooks it all back together, carefully disposes of the latex gloves and follows up with a healthy bout of bodily sanitizing. The experience is almost always wholly uncomfortable.

However horrifying the experience can be, I always have a great deal of gratitude upon completing the task of maintaining a privy. However frustrating, it is always humbling. I have seen what can happen to a place where human activity occurs without the proper facilities - an idyllic place can quickly become intolerable. I’m doing this because I want to protect the woods and the waters for the people who need them. As a caretaker, you complete this task constantly, and are always rewarded by the knowledge that you are directly protecting the land and the water. It is hard to put words to the breadth of gratitude I have for service like this. I know if I can get down on my hands and knees and hoist a bucket of poop out from under a privy without complaint, then I can face whatever life throws at me. Shoveling poop is something almost no one wants to do, but those that do it, get it. Sorry -- I knew I couldn’t write this whole thing without using the word ‘poop’.

July 1, 2019- Hollyn (NH LAKES)

Pictured on your screen is Julia and I’s first ever, independently run, Watershed Warrior event! We are so ready to teach children about how lakes are made, the water cycle, the dangers of pollution, the food web, and how to identify invasive species. Once those kids have gone through those stations, they will be thereby dubbed Watershed Warriors, with a snazzy certificate to show off.

Our Watershed Warrior event is one of many educational tools we have at our disposal to teach New Hampshire-ites about keeping their lakes clean and healthy. Another outreach program that NH LAKES, our organization, has is the Lake Host program. The Lake Host program encourages volunteers to get trained in aquatic invasive species identification. After a training session coordinated by NH LAKES and NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), the Lake Host is stationed at a boat ramp. Once at the boat ramp, boats are looked over by Lake Hosts for invasive species while boaters are educated on how these plants and animals are spread.

Our newest program, that we are currently perfecting for the public, is the LakeSmart Program. Through this program we evaluate lakefront properties and inform the homeowner about lake-friendly practices they can incorporate into their homes. If we determine that their properties are LakeSmart, meaning that their level of runoff and other pollutions are controlled and minimal, they will receive the LakeSmart award. Maine has been evaluating lakefront properties for a few years now and their records have shown an increase in lake friendly practices. We hope to tweak the LakeSmart program to our New Hampshire home owners!

Julia and I are excited about these programs because our supervisors continuously encourage us to provide advice and suggestions about how to better these programs. We truly feel that our input matters and is taken seriously. It is a great feeling! But anyway, my trusty partner in crime and I are enjoying the sunshine, making bracelets with kids, and are talking about what we want our personal projects to be for the summer. Stay tuned!

Hollyn is a graduate of the George Washington University where she received her BA in International Affairs/Sustainability.  You can read more about Hollyn here.

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