By Stewardship Manager, Erik Boyer
Michael Arsenault, of Marshfield, is Wildlands’ first Adopt-a-Preserve volunteer at Hoyt-Hall Preserve. Adopt-A-Preserve is a training program in which volunteers help Wildlands monitor the most highly visited WT properties through monthly preserve visits and submitting online reports. Mike has volunteered his time over the last few years and enjoys going out to the preserve on a weekly basis. Mike assists us with everything from leading hikes to being our photographer at events. Recently, I sat down with Mike to find out more about why he enjoys working with Wildlands:
How did you first learn about Wildlands Trust?
In the spring of 2016, I caught a glimpse of a group clearing vegetation from a pull-off on Careswell Street in Marshfield. I was curious to what was happening so I pulled in and learned that an area was being cleared for a future trailhead parking lot. I, being a lifelong hiker and outdoor enthusiast, was excited to learn about the soon to be built 2-mile trail loop that would traverse around the perimeter of Long Tom Pond, an area that I had always been curious to explore. At that point I tagged along to help on multiple trail work days, where I assisted with building the trail and constructing bog boards on the wet areas of the trail.
How did you first get introduced to hiking?
I started hiking at an early age when my father would take me for day hikes in the Blue Hills to explore. I was also a member of the Boy Scouts and we would go to Camp Dorchester in the Blue Hills for camping outings.
What is your favorite trail work memory?
One of my favorite memories is at Hoyt-Hall, where a Great Horned Owl watched us redirecting a trail during a Trailblazer project and then subsequently seeing the owl while out on hikes on the property.
What is your favorite spot at Hoyt-Hall?
The portion of the trail that runs [along] the earthen dam that follows the southern portion of the loop and all of the signs of human use of the land that are noticeable during a hike, such as the access road around the old cranberry bog that is now a red maple swamp, the well that water was drawn from for irrigating, and the foundation of a windmill.
What is the best time of year to visit?
The best times of year to visit is the winter after a light snowfall and in the fall as red maples throughout the property change to a brilliant red.
What has kept you involved at Hoyt-Hall?
Being part of the trail establishment and the evolution of the property to one of the most visited Wildlands Trust properties. I feel a deep connection with the land and I am constantly impressed seeing other hikers picking up trash during most of my hikes. I enjoy keeping trails safe and accessible to hikers and helping connect other people to the natural beauty that is around them.
What is your favorite aspect of trail work?
I would say being part of the raking crew as we get to visually make the trail look complete and it’s a good way to be productive and still chat with other volunteers.
What is your favorite Wildlands Trust property to hike on outside of Hoyt-Hall?
Great Neck Preserve in Wareham. It’s close to a 4-mile hike and you get such a variety of views as the trail gives you views of a salt marsh, sheep farm, pond, and forest.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in volunteering with Wildlands through the “Adopt-a-Preserve” program?
My advice to anyone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer with Wildlands Trust is simply to just try it out, no matter your background, any amount of your time that you can give is valuable. I’ve felt a sense of support throughout the years from Trust staff and I feel that I’ve been part of a community with my fellow volunteers.
A fun fact Mike shared with me during my time with him, this past Christmas Mike received the perfect present from his grandchildren that tells it all: A t-shirt with “Hoyt-Hall Trail Guide” blazed on the back. Thank you to Mike for sitting down and speaking with me about his experience volunteering at Widlands Trust. If you’d like to learn more about Wildlands’ Adopt-A-Preserve program, visit our volunteer page: https://wildlandstrust.org/volunteer