Conservation Journals: Alex, Gloria, and Qiyah

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.

August 29, 2019, Alex (Squam Lakes Assocation)

It’s almost the end of August, and that fact is astonishing to me. The ten-month AmeriCorps term came to an end a couple of days ago on the 25thof August (which incidentally was my birthday), and as a tribute, we recently had a “Celebration of Service” event. The nature of the event was self-explanatory, to celebrate all of the time and effort that we’ve put in as AmeriCorps, and all of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps members and their site managers were invited. Before an afternoon of barbequed foods and games, there was a ceremony held in the great room of the Squam Lakes Association. I was asked to give a small speech about my time here and how the program has benefitted me, and therefore I was doing a lot of reflection on my time here. That day has come and gone, however, and although I no longer have a speech to prepare for, I am still doing a great deal of reflection.

You may be wondering why you’re reading a journal that I’ve written several days after the end of my AmeriCorps term. In my reflection I’ve come to understand how much being here has meant to me, and how although it must eventually come to an end (at least in the capacity of AmeriCorps), I am not quite ready yet. I am having too much fun, and I care about the people, mountains, and lakes here too much to leave. It’s for these reason that I’ve signed up to extend my service here for a couple more months into October. 

The Lakes Region Conservation Corps program has a number of different goals. One of the main goals is to develop conservationists and environmental stewards, and this is done through hands-on experience. Being here has given me the opportunity to experience so many new things. Maintaining trails, scuba diving, leading educational programs for the public, leading volunteers, serving as a camp counselor, routing trail signs, program development, loon banding; the list goes on and on. These experiences have not only been fun and fulfilling, but they’re relevant in terms of professional development in the environmental and conservation fields. I know that the skills and experiences I’ve gained here will play a role in being hired when applying to jobs in the future. 

Another goal of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps is to build a network of conservation professionals. I’ve developed connections on both a professional and personal level here that are stronger than I ever could have imagined. I know that these connections I’ve made will stay with me well into the future and some for the rest of my life. 

As I said in my speech at the celebration of service event, this is exactly where I needed to be. I’ve learned so much, met so many new people, and gotten to immerse myself in a truly beautiful place. My experience here has been an eye-opening one, and the opportunity to serve this beautiful area with such an incredible group of people has truly been a gift. I am forever grateful for all of those who’ve made this experience possible for me. 

Alex is a Midwestern native who enjoys rock-climbing, guitar-strumming, and culinary delights such as pea roll-ups (Alex's recipe: warm peas rolled up in a tortilla). 

August 28, 2019, Gloria (Lake Winnipesaukee Association)

WOW! Can you believe the summer is almost over? Because I sure can’t! My time with the Lake Winnipesaukee Association has flown by so fast. Alison and I have been working on numerous projects for the LWA, and the project I’ll be talking about is our stormwater site assessments.

In partnership with SOAK NH through DES, Alison and I advertised free stormwater runoff site assessments for homeowners in the Lake Winnipesaukee watershed. We got the word out that we were doing this by announcing it at meetings, contacting road associations, through social media posts, and by placing our stormwater display in various public areas such as libraries and town halls. So far, we have completed about 25 individual assessments and 2 assessments for homeowner communities. Basically, when Alison and I get to the person’s house, we first ask them if there are any stormwater runoff issues that they have noticed. If there are, they show them to us, and then we walk around the property together looking for any other signs of runoff or erosion. Alison and I take pictures and create a write-up for the homeowner that includes details of the problem areas we saw along with attachments for do-it-yourself ways to fix the problems. A lot of the properties we’ve visited have been in pretty good shape, but there have been a few interesting cases.

I love doing the site assessments for several reasons. First of all, we get out into the community and we get to help people, and hopefully help the lake, too. But something I always enjoy about the visits is getting to know the people we are meeting with. One of the questions I ask most often is, “How long have you been living here?” and that usually leads to a discussion about the history of the people and the land. We’ve met with so many people whose families have lived on the same property for generations upon generations. A few people we’ve met grew up coming to their grandparent’s camp for vacation and now own the camp themselves. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories these people have, but sometimes they’re not always happy. Many of the people who have been on the lake for most of their life talk of the changes that have occurred on the lake. Some people reminisce about how the lake and the community were back before there were wake boats and lots of people. These stories reminded me of a documentary called “The Human Element” (you should totally watch it) in which it is shown through beautiful cinematography how humans interact with the earth, air, water, and fire elements. Hearing stories about humans and change might make you wonder why, back in the day, we as humans decided to attempt to control nature? But, we did, and here we are, so now what do we do about it? There’s some environmental existentialism for you! But I digress…

Another reason I love doing these property assessments so much is I find that it’s very easy to become depressed and lose faith in humanity when it comes to environmentalism. But here is a group of people, willing to have us come out and assess their properties, because they care. These people have, as the saying goes, “restored my faith in humanity”. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the sad and sometimes fear-provoking stories in the news about the state of our Earth (these stories are important to recognize!), but don’t give up, don’t lose hope. Find those people who care, bond together, get loud, and let’s get things done. 

P.S. Sometimes we get to meet the homeowner’s pets, like this kitty!

Gloria is a recent graduate of Gettysburg College and has a passion for wildlife photography.  

August 27, 2019, Qiyah (Squam Lakes Association)

The word caretaker brings to mind someone who gives emotional or physical support to someone, usually a child. In the capacity of the Squam Lakes Association (SLA), being a caretaker means providing this assistance to our three campsite areas: Moon and Bowman islands and Wister point in Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest. Although my fellow AmeriCorps members and I visit these sites throughout the week, the weekends are special as we get to camp out for the entire time. Friday afternoon I was loading up bundles of firewood on the pontoon to be delivered out to the docks by the campsites. Saturday afternoon found me walking through the Chamberlain Reynolds swamp walk drenched in bug spray and sweat, battling the vines threatening to engulf the boardwalk. Sunday afternoon was spent cleaning the composting toilets, securing swim lines at the two beaches, and checking the sturdiness of our many structures. Being the weekend caretaker means covering a wide variety of duties that ensure the function and wellbeing of the area and its many visitors. Out of all these tasks my favorite is usually the last of the day: checking in campers.

Reservations for campsites tend to fill up fast with people often staking their claim months in advance. Every time I walk into a campsite is a surprise. Campers range in origins from throughout New England and beyond. The groups are families, friends, or combinations of the two. Some have made camping on Squam Lake a yearly tradition. There are the experienced pros making the trip every month or so and the novices excited for the new experiences to come. Getting a chance to talk to these people is such a highlight and learning experience. It’s such a loving feeling to be invited to a feast of smores and swapping background stories with welcoming strangers.

There’s something utterly wholesome about camping, the way it brings people together as we huddle around the fire telling stories. Or maybe it brings the joy of solitude and contemplation as we walk the trails and marvel at nature around us. It’s my firm belief that camping is for everyone, even those tentatively afraid of the outdoors. And although the real world still exists, patiently waiting at the edges, camping provides the space to let us explore what we need to recharge and center ourselves. Caretaker may be the official title we at the SLA wear, but really it’s all of our duty to emotionally and physically support these places in the same way that they help us.

Qiyah is an avid baker, dance-extraordinaire, and all-around positive presence at the SLA.  

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