As interns working at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park under the auspices of the Student Conservation Association, we are more apt to identify with our host site than our coordinating organization. Many of us saw the SCA as little more than an invisible force that led us to the National Park Service, and as the purveyor of our blue polo shirts. I will admit that my long term career goal is to work as a uniformed ranger, not an SCA intern; I see my time as an intern as a midpoint, a stepping stone to something greater.
One day changed all of that. On July 24, the interns of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP and Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site descended on the SCA compound in Charlestown, New Hampshire. We met the staff with whom we had conversed only through emails, including advisors who sought to discover and help us realize our long term goals. We toured the impressive campus, complete with historic buildings, hiking trails, LEED Certified facilities and a commanding view of the Connecticut River. It was an awesome experience to meet the dedicated staff who put thousands of youth, including us, into the conservation field every year.
As we toured the cache where our SCA swag and gear for hundreds of work crews comes from, and as we enjoyed a lunch with staff, the incredible origins of the SCA were revealed. In 1955, Elizabeth Putnam, then a senior at Vassar College, penned a thesis introducing the idea of a Student Conservation Corps, a program that would introduce students to the National Parks, and alleviate the stress on parks being 'loved to death' in the boom of post-WWII leisure culture. Just two years later, dozens of students got to work at the Grand Tetons, and Olympic National Park. Today, there are programs and opportunities for students in nearly every aspect of conservation and in every state, extending beyond National Parks to include urban areas, National Forests, marine sanctuaries, and state parks. No less than ten percent of Park Rangers in the Service today are former SCA interns.
Even as an SCA alumnus I took the organization for granted, with little regard for its powerful story. As an interpreter I could not help but draw parallels between the mission of our unique park with Liz and the SCA. Prophetic people with names like Marsh, Billings, and Rockefeller were instrumental in the saving of America's natural and cultural treasures, and of fostering what many now call 'America's best idea.' As they saw themselves as stewards of the land and of a conservation ethic, Liz Putnam saw America's youth as stewards of the Park Service itself. I consider myself humbled by the great ideas for which my efforts are directed, and proud to represent both the National Park Service and the Student Conservation Association.
- Luke Boyd
Reflections from a Resource Management Intern
So far this summer has been a very educational experience. I've had the opportunity through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the National Park Service (NPS) to work with true professionals in the fields of conservation and land management. More specifically, being able to work at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park has allowed me to connect with the unique cultural and natural history of the park and the surrounding area, which includes almost two centuries of conservation and land restoration efforts put forth by the names in the park's title.
Being able to fulfill the role of Natural Resource Management Intern has given me ample time to enjoy the quaint beauty of the Vermont woodlands as I work. My work itself has consisted of identifying various invasive species that are prominent in the park, the surrounding area, and much of New England. Some common names include dames rocket, honeysuckle, Japanese and common barberry, buckthorn, autumn olive, and garlic mustard. Much of my work includes pulling out species whose locations have already been identified, which I either do by hand or with a weed wrench, and then proceed to bag or simply hang in a tree. Yet much of my work requires finding new locations of identified species, which requires a strong attention to detail and a focus that is often challenged by the serenity of the forest.
Through the combined time of spending full days working alone with full days working with other crew members and conservation teams, as well as experienced park staff, my professional character and work ethic has greatly been strengthened. I am very grateful for the opportunity that the SCA and NPS has given me and I look forward to applying the skills and knowledge I have gained through this experience to my future undergraduate studies and professional career opportunities.
- Sam Jamison
Natural Resource Management Intern
SCA Trail Crew
So there we were. Eight complete strangers, sitting in a circle at Manchester Airport in New Hampshire, about to embark on a whirlwind thirty-day adventure. Packs on our backs (and daypacks on our fronts), we loaded into the cars and drove to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, our home for the next month.
Our campsite at the King Farm Overlook was gorgeous, with sunset views across from Mt. Tom to Mt. Ascutney in the distance. We cooked up delicious meals together, like latkes, peanut noodles, home-baked bread, and sweet-potato burritos. We took the time to learn about the local flora and fauna, from Black-eyed Susans to Wood Thrushes, Red Efts to towering Hemlock trees. Some nights we were graced by visitors, like the Mountains and Rivers Forever Camp or other SCA interns on a berry-picking stroll.
But on to the crux of our time here - the trail work. The majority of our time was spent on the One Less Traveled Trail, where we dug a 360 foot trench to install a curtain drain, which would help keep water off of a muddy section of trail. After we completed the trench, we filled it right back up again with stone and pvc pipe. Holes in the turn of the pipe will catch groundwater that percolates up, then the water will drain downhill to a culvert we installed. Then we went over the trail again, creating a final grade using gravel. We revegetated the sides of the trail and voila! Project complete!
We also spent time brushing back vegetation on the Maple Trail and other trails near Propser Road entrance of the park. We cleaned out about 15 waterbars, installed and repaired four culverts, cleared the drainage on Upper Meadow Road, and transplanted a whole bunch of ferns. Hard work, long days, and no showers, but that's trail work for ya.
Our experience in the park would not have been half as good if it weren't for the wonderful people who work here. Kim, the park horticulturalist, guided us through most of our projects and brought us truckload after truckload of gravel and stone. Steve never failed to fill our water jugs, and we got tours of the grounds and mansion from Joe and John. We also enjoyed getting to know the other SCA interns, Kat and Rob in the MRF Camp, all of the interpretive rangers, and of course the maintenance staff.
As we clean our tools and pack up camp, we have so many good memories to reflect on from our time here. We hail from New York, Washington, Virginia, California and Colorado, but Woodstock, Vermont will always have a place in our hearts.
- Lindsay Babbitt
Reflecting on My First Month at the Park
During my first few weeks here I have had the opportunity to learn from many talented people of various expertise including foresters, botanists, teachers, interpretive rangers and other park staff. It is apparent that the park staff is passionate and enthusiastic about their work. Probably because the work they do makes a real difference in the community.
I have spent several days during the past couple of weeks completing an assessment of the condition of all of the walking trails in the park. I know that this information will be important in planning trail work and trail crews, but sometimes it seems too enjoyable to be work! Some other rewarding experiences have included a service day with the eighth grade class and invasive plant removal with the other interns. I look forward to the trail projects that are planned for the next year in which I will be able to apply my natural resource background and also gain more public outreach experience.
Now that I am at the end of my first month at the park I feel very much at home. My job has allowed me to become familiar with the park and also to get to know some of the community. In the woods I have discovered a beautiful, lush, green landscape that is as inviting as my own backyard in Virginia. In the community of Woodstock and the surrounding communities the people are laid back and welcoming. Also welcoming are the mountains that cradle the quaint, quiet little towns and the rivers that connect them. I will definitely be doing much more exploring both in and out of the park over the next weeks and months. By the end of the year I expect I will know the park like the back of my hand. We shall see.