Groton Conservation Corps: The Fight Against Invasives

By  Michael Ma ‘15

For the first time ever in Groton history, a full afternoon commitment for environmental service was created as the Groton Conservation Corps. The team, led by Mr. Black, currently consists of seven students. Its main objective is to provide stewardship for the woodlands and wetlands owned by the school.

Groton School owns about 400 acres of land, but the areas that students use only occupy about half of the land. The rest of the area is fields, woodlands, and wetlands that surround the Circle. “I’m concerned that the school’s open space is degraded and ignored,” said Mr. Black. “It’s the school’s responsibility to be stewards for its land”.

The group is primarily working around the Lake Romeyn woodland, which is a critical wildlife habitat surrounding the lake. “Some students don’t even know where Lake Romeyn is,” said Peter Nam ’15. The team’s goals include the protection of state listed species, the restoration of wildlife habitats, and the maintenance of trails.

The main project that the team has already completed is the restoration of a crucial turtle nesting site on a peninsula adjacent to Lake Romeyn. Before the project started, the peninsula was heavily infested with buckthorns, an invasive species that thrives in this predator-free environment. Not only do they outcompete and outnumber many of the native species, but they also mar the beautiful view of the lake.

The team uses tools such as weed wrenches, pulaskis, and axes to eliminate the buckthorns manually. Because buckthorns have unbelievably strong and intricate root systems, often more than one person is needed to pull the plant out. “It’s definitely hard work to remove it all, but it’s really rewarding seeing the huge pile of pulled buckthorn we’ve accumulated over the past few weeks,” said Maddy Bossi ‘13. The team was able to transform the peninsula to a beautiful scenic area.

Currently the Conservation Corps is clearing an old sledding hill next to Lake Romey. They hope that in the winter if the snow is sufficient and the lake freezes completely, people will be able to come and use the area, which has not been used extensively, especially by students, for decades. It was once a very popular place.

The Corps have also gone on numerous excursions to explore important habitats. During the second week, the group went to the Rocky Hill wildlife sanctuary, which had just opened to public next to Shaw’s in Groton. The group saw ponds and lakes formed by beavers, including an important nesting habitat to herons. A week after, the team went for a canoe trip up the Nashua River to explore a tributary called the Dead River, which has an unique slow-moving river habitat. They also went to Garden in the Woods, which is a 45-acre property of New England Wild Flower Society showing many native plants and different habitats.

Future plans include further maintenance of the trail system of Lake Romeyn woodlands. Mr. Black hopes that the team will be able to clear the entrance to make it more welcoming and get rid of more invasive species further away from the wetlands. It is hard and dirty work, but everyone in the Corps enjoys working with nature.

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