June 24, 2019

Laying a new foundation at Mud Pond Conservation Area

Observer photos by Jess Wisloski  Jeffrey Davis, 16, carries lumber into the woods followed by site helper Derek Proulx.

Observer photos by Jess Wisloski
Jeffrey Davis, 16, carries lumber into the woods followed by site helper Derek Proulx.

Jess Wisloski

Observer staff

AmeriCorps volunteers in an alternative high school completion program helped Williston establish a new path at the Mud Pond Conservation Area last week— while setting down a stronger basis for their own futures, as well.

The half-dozen or so helpers came from YouthBuild, a program for 16 to 24-year-olds that allows students that left traditional high school to complete their graduation requirements and get a regular diploma over the course of a year. They converged at the town-owned hiking trail Friday to help replace a 150-foot section of wooden raised walkway.

The work is just one portion of the construction needed on the trail’s decaying walkways, but Melinda Scott, the town’s conservation planner, said it was a valuable boost to her efforts in restoring the trail.

The trail work underway; Daniel Kelly.

The trail work underway; Daniel Kelly.

“We just don’t have a huge budget, so we really need to harness volunteers to do a lot of work on our trails,” said Scott. She reached out to the Winooski Valley Park District for help on the trail restoration project, and in turn, Tim Larned, the deputy director there, called on YouthBuild’s assistance. “We’re not going to get the whole thing done today but if we can get these two sections done, I’ll be pretty happy. These guys are really cranking away here,” she said on the trail June 17.

 A UVM intern for the town, rips up rotting boards.

A UVM intern for the town, rips up rotting boards.

Young men in the program and AmeriCorps organizers walked back and forth along a portion of the trail, carrying loads of 2x4s to the work site, about a third of a mile in the woods.

One volunteer, Andrew Marshall, 21, constantly crouched at the site, prying off rotting boards, hammering errant nails in and laying new planks. “I like this stuff, you know, being outside, painting,” and trail work, which he said had recently included maintenance of the Sunny Brook Hollow trails in Colchester as well. Marshall’s just three months into the year-long service program, but said it suits him. “You actually get your high school diploma instead of a GED… It’s actually pretty nice. You get to do some real work, and stuff, finish it up and get it done with. It gives you a good option, a good opportunity,” he said. Above all, “It beats being in class all day.”

Scott said at least one more volunteer day of work will be needed to complete the Mud Pond trail, “and we would love people to volunteer to help out,” she said. Potential volunteers can contact Scott to join a weekend work day planned for Saturday, July 9 by emailing mscott@willistonvt.org or calling 878-6704 ext. 4.

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