This article about the AmeriCorps stewardship assistant position first appeared in the Winter 2020 Long Trail News under the headline “Reflections from the Field: Bushwhacking the Long Trail Corridor” and was written by Anthony Erwin, VHCB AmeriCorps Stewardship Assistant.
AmeriCorps service comes in all forms. I was fortunate to spend six months as a stewardship assistant for the Green Mountain Club, monitoring and improving boundary lines of GMC and state land hosting the Long Trail in northern Vermont.
Boundary marking consists of repainting surveyor-blazed trees, hanging flagging tape, and posting signs, so anyone can recognize and follow the line. I also watched for evidence of important wildlife, and for encroachments such as maple sugaring, clearing of ski glades, and logging. After each field visit I completed a report for the club’s official property file, which tracks the status of the property lines.
Most GMC boundary marking is done by a dedicated volunteer corps of corridor monitors, each of whom adopts a tract of land or a stretch of boundary line. But before this summer 60 miles of boundary had not been monitored for many years, and current conditions were unknown. I walked those boundaries, documented their condition, and improved their integrity.
I bushwhacked through the woods with three important tools: a property survey map, a compass and a GPS receiver. I used the survey map and compass to follow the bearings of each boundary line, and I used the GPS to record important features like blazed trees and property corners. This documented the condition of each boundary, and supplied data for GMC’s electronic geographic information system.
Properly maintaining boundary lines ensures that neighbors and the public know what land is protected, and it should decrease the likelihood of future encroachment.
The importance of this work was clear on a property called Black Falls, part of Jay State Forest. I came across an area where an adjacent property had been recently logged—right up to the property line. Thankfully, the boundary had been well marked, and no logging had occurred on the protected land. But I could easily see how an encroachment could have occurred if the boundaries hadn’t been well defined.
On my job I was able to participate in a great adventure. Navigating mountainsides and bushwhacking through the backcountry of Vermont was truly a wild—and fun—experience. Many might not find working through thick spruce-fir stands and fending off swarms of black flies enjoyable, but I’ll recall my memories fondly.
The Green Mountains are important land, both ecologically and recreationally. I’m glad I was able to do my part in protecting them.
The stewardship assistant role is an AmeriCorps volunteer role and supported by VCHB AmeriCorps. Green Mountain Club and VHCB AmeriCorps have partnered for more than 20 years. To learn more, visit vhcb.org or americorps.gov.