Youth Unplug for a Summer of Service

By Outreach and Education Manager, Rachel Calderara

Another July has come and gone, and with it, another Green Team program has ended, but not before 26 amazing teens put in over 700 hours of volunteer work on the protected lands of Southeastern Massachusetts.

Green Team 1 crew members get their hands dirty at Bay End Farm.

What is Green Team?

2019 marks the fifth year of Green Team, a keystone program in Wildlands’ Youth Unplugged Initiative. Green Team is an interactive opportunity for teens to engage in environmental learning through volunteerism. After applying to the program in the spring, each applicant goes through a thorough interview process in hopes of being offered a spot on the team. Only those who have proven their interest and motivation to work hard in the outdoors with their peers are accepted onto Green Team. This year, we accepted 13 middle school-aged crew members into the 1 week Green Team 1 program, and another 13 high school-aged crew members into the 2 week Green Team 2 program.

What does Green Team do?

Each day, the Green Team travels to various sites across the region to work on relevant, hands-on environmental projects with professionals in the field. This year was one for the books with more crew members, more hours, and more projects than ever before!

Green Team 1 Projects:

  • Trail clearing at Mass Audubon’s Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (Wareham)

  • Invasive species removal in the pastures at Soule Homestead (Middleborough)

  • Organic vegetable farming at Bay End Farm (Bourne)

  • Restoring the community garden pathways at Wildlands Trust’s headquarters (Plymouth)

Green Team 2 Projects:

  • Farm animal husbandry at Soule Homestead (Middleborough)

  • Organic farming and greenhouse restoration at Round the Bend Farm (South Dartmouth)

  • Trail maintenance at Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Muddy Pond Preserve (Kingston)

  • Picnic table and bench building for trails at Wildlands Trust’s Emery Preserve (Plymouth)

  • Blueberry harvesting and pruning at Cornish Fields Farm (Plymouth)

  • Garlic harvesting and processing at Bay End Farm (Bourne)

The service days are sprinkled with educational activities like tick safety talks, birding walks, farm tours, meditation, yoga and more. On the final night of Green Team 2, we take the team on an overnight campout where they enjoy dinner, a night hike, and a campfire.

Green Team 2 after harvesting garlic at Bay End Farm.

What’s next for Youth Unplugged?

Three weeks of Green Team are a whirlwind for staff and crew members alike, leaving us all thoroughly exhausted yet still wishing for more time together. These ambitious teens will not rest and we are left feeling like there is more we can do to keep encouraging their interest in the outdoors. This nagging feeling, along with numerous requests from the crew for continued volunteer opportunities, prompted us to pilot a new program we’re calling Service Learning Saturdays. Once a month, all Green Team alumni are invited to our Plymouth headquarters to work on projects ranging from invasive species removal to gardening and more. During the first Service Learning Saturday on August 24, four crew members helped us pull out overgrown invasive vegetation at both the barn foundation and the old oak tree.

The teens we have the pleasure of working with are intelligent, kind, caring young people who give us hope for the future. We thank them for another wonderful year of Green Team, and look forward to Service Learning Saturdays this fall!

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Looking Back on a Year at Wildlands

By Hayley Leonard, TerraCorps Community Engagement Coordinator

Hayley (second from the right, back row) and the 2019 Green Team I group.

For the past year, I’ve been serving in an AmeriCorps position at Wildlands Trust as the Community Engagement Coordinator. My AmeriCorps program is called TerraCorps and was created with the mission of preparing and mobilizing emerging leaders to help communities gain access to and conserve land. The program works by partnering with community-based land-focused groups across Massachusetts, who then interview and offer positions to applicants of the TerraCorps program. Members serve in one of four, 11-month full-time positions; Community Engagement Coordinator, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Regional Collaboration Coordinator, and Youth Engagement Coordinator. This past year there were 36 TerraCorps members serving in communities across the state.

Hayley leading a program at Emery West Preserve, Plymouth.

During my year at Wildlands Trust, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide array of projects. One that I had a lot of fun with was co-developing a volunteer hike leader program alongside the Outreach and Education Manager. The program was designed to train volunteers on how to safely and effectively lead and sweep hikes while representing Wildlands Trust. We held our one-day training in March, and as a result, now have 8 volunteers leading hikes for Wildlands Trust. 

I will be staying with TerraCorps and Wildlands Trust for another year and continue working on programming. Doing a second year will give me the chance to finish some projects that I had started during my first year, like developing tours of some of Wildlands Trust’s most popular preserves. In the next year, I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the communities that Wildlands Trust serves.

Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Vigorito

By Stewardship Manager, Erik Boyer

For the past three years, Brian Vigorito has volunteered at Willow Brook Farm Preserve in Pembroke through Wildlands’ “Adopt-a-Preserve” program. He is a regular at Wildlands’ Trailblazer projects and is one of our Hike Leaders. He is an avid hiker, birder, photographer and self-trained naturalist. Learn more about him and why he volunteers with Wildlands in my conversation with him below:

Brian smiles for the camera during a Trailblazers day at Willow Brook Farm.

How did you first get interested in spending time outdoors?

I always played in the woods as a kid and hiked, but got away from it as I got older. Several years ago, I noticed there was a nature preserve [Willow Brook Farm] five minutes from where I live in Pembroke and started hiking there a few times a week. Around three years ago, I decided that I was interested in helping Wildlands at Willow Brook Farm and reached out to them to become a volunteer. I became interested in birding and photography just the last few years after attending Wildlands’ programming

What is the most unique species of bird you have seen anywhere?

A Great Black Hawk, which I observed last year in Portland, Maine. 

What is the most unique species that you have seen at Willow Brook Farm?

A black burnian warbler. I saw it on the Harry and Mary Todd Trail loop in the shrubland area, which is a great birding spot. After I first started getting into birding, I learned about an app called INaturalist which allows you to upload photos and submit your identification at an area. This is how I started to get into photography.

Photo courtesy of Brian Vigorito.

I recall that you had one particularly odd photo that reminded me of an awkward meeting of distant relatives, what’s the story behind it?

I went out to Shifting Lots Preserve on a cold and windy early spring day and observed a snowy egret and two little blue herons hunkering down on the edge of the marsh trying to stay out of the wind.

What is your favorite part about “Adopt-a-Preserve”?

That I can go five minutes from home to walk Willow Brook Farm and I can do it when I’ve got time, and it’s nice that it’s an open-ended experience.

What is your favorite trail work memory?

I would say building the new trail through the forest of green briar in the middle of the summer. It was impressive to watch Owen Grey mow down a 7-foot wall of briar.

What is your favorite thing to do while out on the property?

Definitely ID’ing organisms. I have identified 189 species at Willow Brook. This includes 94 species of birds, 8 mammals, 4 reptiles, 6 amphibians, 34 insects, and 47 plants.

What is your favorite trail work tool?

It would definitely be hand pruners. I’m a detail oriented person and it’s enjoyable to fine tune the trail behind the power tools.

What is the strangest item of trash you have picked up?

A 10-foot metal pipe during a beach cleanup at White Horse Beach in Plymouth.

What is your favorite spot on the trails at WBF?

The observation overlooking Herring Brook. It’s a great birding location and it gives you the best view of the property.

What’s the best time of year to visit Willow Brook?

The winter, it’s especially a great walk just after a snow fall as you can follow all of the wildlife tracks in the snow.

What is the coolest critter you’ve found out there?

A four-toed salamander under a log.

What is your favorite Wildlands property to visit outside of Willow Brook?

Shifting Lots, it’s my go-to spot for good birding – especially shorebirds!

What would you tell anyone who is thinking about volunteering with Wildlands?

You get to meet a great community of people at projects and other events. Adopt-a-Preserve is great because you can do it at your own pace and on your own time.

Want to Volunteer through Adopt-A-Preserve?

Wildlands’ Volunteer Spotlight Series showcases the interests and experiences of Wildlands’ dedicated volunteers. If you’d like more information on volunteering with Wildlands, please visit our volunteer page or contact us directly.

Wildlands' Commitment to Green Infrastructure

By Community Stewardship Program Coordinator, Conor Michaud

Massachusetts is the 15th most populated state in the nation and as growth trends continue, the communities within the Commonwealth face increasing environmental concerns, intensified by the burgeoning state. Climate change has recently catalyzed some of the most creative solutions to population growth and fading grey infrastructure. As Massachusetts grows, particularly in the Boston metro area, concerns around stormwater runoff, rising temperatures, and compromised air quality in urban landscapes will need to be addressed through innovation and community commitment.

For nearly half a century, Wildlands has been helping to stave off the local effects of climate change through the implementation and conservation of green infrastructure (GI). The Environmental Protection Agency defines GI as “…a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits…green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits.”[1] GI is not a new idea but it has become an essential lens in which urban redevelopment is viewed.

A basic rain garden schematic. (Source:

Using the GI lens, impermeable surfaces are redesigned to allow for water passage and stormwater filtration. Street trees and rain gardens are some examples of nature-inspired adaptations which not only facilitate storm water management but help to purify the air, cool our cities, and benefit urban agriculture, all while playing an important role in the mental and physical health of city residents.

Conservation of open space is one of the most significant types of GI. Land conservation in proximity to urban areas greatly reduces localized climate effects while providing city residents with essential exposure to the natural world. Since 1973 Wildland has been working to protect Massachusetts’ natural spaces and promote open space as an opportunity to connect with nature. Helping to sustain the health of Southeastern Massachusetts has long been Wildlands’ mission and within the last ten years, Wildlands has been able to bring its expertise to the city of Brockton.

Wildlands acquired the Brockton Audubon Preserve in 2012 and began working with the city to reestablish the adjacent Stone Farm Conservation Area over the last two years. Together, these preserves comprise over 200 acres of protected woodland and wetland habitat, which help to regulate temperatures in surrounding neighborhoods, filter stormwater runoff, and sequester carbon. All of this occurring only 3 miles from the city center.

Like other Gateway Cities, Brockton is in the midst of redeveloping a formerly robust urban landscape to promote economic growth while creating a safe and attractive home for its residents. A city’s vitality, especially in consideration of a growing population, is now critically linked to GI. In an urban landscape where there is often limited space, making land conservation near impossible, other solutions must be thought of.

(Above) Street trees being planted as part of GGCP. By 2020, thousands of newly planted trees will line the streets and fill the yards of Brockton residents.

Over the last two years Wildlands has partnered with Brockton and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to increase the urban tree canopy through the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP). Through this free tree program the partnership will help to decrease the heating and cooling demand on residential properties while raising the real-estate value within these neighborhoods. Numerous other cities across the nation have implemented similar tree programs to effectively reduce the impacts of climate change while empowering their communities through increased property values and the natural beautification of trees.

The GI revolution affects society in a number of ways aside from the environmental and health benefits. The economic impact goes beyond saving on energy costs; the widespread implementation of GI is now beginning to have an effect on the local workforce and the future of the job market. With an increase in the urban tree canopy comes an increased demand for skilled labor and urban foresters. Investing in GI will require an investment in the green technology workforce and the citizens who inhabit these rapidly redeveloping cities. Organizations are already beginning to see this trend and are developing training and internship programs to provide new skills for those interested in joining the field.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MACEC), for example, helps match aspiring clean energy employees with green technology companies within the Commonwealth. Organizations like MACEC are helping to keep the Massachusetts workforce in place by providing potential employees with an opportunity to expand their skill set while working for a cause that will sustain their community. While green job training and environmental education is becoming more prevalent there are some organizations taking the green technology and GI workforce one step further.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is pushing the boundary on innovation and commitment to a sustainable future with the development of the Sustainability Accelerator. The accelerator is designed to fast track green innovations by providing a space for incubation and connecting entrepreneurs with potential funding sources.  Efforts to sustain the GI and green technology revolution are essential to preserving our cities and providing a home for future generations. Equally important, is working with the communities most impacted by climate change to discuss and implement GI and discover opportunities for career advancement and workplace innovation.

Brockton Envirothon team members met with Brockton State Reps. Claire Cronin and Gerry Cassady and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo on May 6, 2019 after Joyce Voorhis (bottom row, middle) received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education.

While groups like TNC and MACEC are working directly with the work force, Wildlands is taking a different approach to the redesign of our urban landscapes, focusing on environmental education and public exposure to natural spaces. The long established partnership with Brockton High School has allowed Wildlands to aid in student’s education and demonstrate the possibilities for environmental and community based work through Envirothon. Community outreach in the Greening the Gateway Cities Program goes beyond helping put trees in the ground; weekly one-on-one canvassing interactions with Brockton residents are opportunities to discuss the importance of GI and ask each resident to take a step forward in helping to protect their environment.

The goal of developing healthy and environmentally conscious communities across Massachusetts is not lofty. Wildlands realizes that these efforts must start from the ground up through land conservation, community outreach, and environmental education. The commitment to the protection of open space in perpetuity is a commitment to the communities within these spaces and a commitment to help build a more healthy and equitable planet.