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Land Stewardship: Seeing the Bigger Picture on a Hot, Humid Day

by Matthew Brewer, 2017 Maine Coast Heritage Trust Intern

As part of my internship at Frenchman Bay Conservancy, I plan, coordinate, and occasionally lead weekly volunteer trail work days. This summer we had a recurring group of younger volunteers from a nearby summer camp. On a particularly hot, humid, and foggy day brushing trails on the top of Baker Hill, the campers made it clear that they weren’t enjoying volunteering at the moment. As we continued brushing, raking, and clearing overgrown trails, one of the campers asked me, very candidly: “So what made you want to do all this yard work anyways?”

“The camper’s question forced me to ask myself, Why am I doing this?”

Now, this question caught me off guard for some reason. I wasn’t doing measly yard work! This was trail stewardship! A much more honorable and worthwhile task than pruning grandma’s rose bushes or putting out the sprinklers so the lawn is greener than a golf course—at least in my mind. But the camper’s question forced me to ask myself, Why am I doing this?

As I thought of an answer I realized that this was the perfect teaching moment, a chance to share my passion for conservation with another person. I engaged the campers in a conversation about the scope of the work that Frenchman Bay Conservancy does to ensure open access to trails and waterways. What the camper called “yard work” added up to so much more than that. We talked about the organization’s larger landscape-scale conservation goals, and all they’ve already achieved.

“I engaged the campers in a conversation about the scope of the work that Frenchman Bay Conservancy does to ensure open access to trails and waterways. What the camper called “yard work” added up to so much more than that.”

I am not sure if what I said had any impact at all on these campers, whether or not they realized the importance of the work that they were doing and decided to take it more seriously, or if they continued to think about how miserable they were and how far away 11 o’clock was. Nevertheless, it reminded me of why I was doing what I was and my motivating forces behind it. For that I’m grateful. I have learned a great deal this summer about land trusts and how they operate, which has lent a new perspective to my view of conservation and how people can work to combat environmental issues.

Matthew Brewer is in his second year at The University of Maine majoring in Wildlife Ecology. Matthew worked for Frenchman Bay Conservancy this summer.