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Volunteering: A family affair

By Tim McCreight

From left to right: Craig, Ellie, Kara and Nora Douglas (Tim McCreight photo).

What’s the hardest part?” I asked.

“Hardening!” came the instant answers from Nora and Ellie Douglas, ages 14 and 11. Along with their parents, Kara and Craig, they are stewards of the Curtis Farm Preserve. When I asked their favorite part, Ellie was quick to say it was the dogs who come to walk the trail.

As we walked through the woods from Basin Point toward Curtis Cove beach, Craig explained how they harden the trail. Because the trail was quite wet this spring, it was necessary to carry gravel in by hand and pack it down. After that, the Douglas crew makes the fresh stone blend in to the landscape by sprinkling dirt and leaves over the rocks.

“Of course weather and foot traffic quickly take care of that,” Craig said, “and we’ve seen perhaps three times as many people using the trail this summer as last year.” This is true of some of the other HHLT properties as well, as people confined by the pandemic seek solace and fresh air in the outdoors. Asked about the conduct of people on the trail, Kara said generally people are careful to observe physical distancing. “When people see us working on the trail, they often say thanks, and that’s encouraging.” Ellie reminds me that it’s best when people bring their dogs.

Kara Douglas is the owner and principal teacher at FishMoon Yoga and is also on the staff of the Harpswell Anchor newspaper. She is a former science teacher, naturalist and free-lance writer with a deeply rooted love of the outdoors. She is no stranger to building and maintaining trails, having spent time with AmeriCorps and the Maine Conservation Corps. By working on the trail with her children, she is sharing this appreciation with her daughters, while at the same time teaching the importance of community service.

Craig’s training as a civil engineer is evident in the excellent condition of the Curtis Farm trail. Craig works for the Brunswick-Topsham Water District and in addition to designing drinking water systems, the FishMoon Yoga website credits him as “builder, IT-guy and general fixer.” Despite their busy professional lives—or maybe because of them—they place a high value on their work on the preserve, dedicating three or four hours of family time to it every weekend.

The wet ground and strong winds this spring resulted in significant blowdowns at Curtis Farm. Roots pulled out of the ground by falling trees shifted bog bridges, and that required resettling or moving many massive slabs of wood. The most herculean of these jobs was building a bridge with a sweeping curve, a job made elegant by carefully selecting slabs with a natural curve.

The Douglas family aren’t the only stewards for Curtis Farm Preserve. Tom Carr, Jeff Stann, Lynne Juster, Becky Gallery and Robin Ladkin also contribute significantly to keeping the trail in great condition.
HHLT maintains 17 preserves and 11 trails, a task made possible only through the commitment of many volunteers. The need is great, and clearly there is a role for families. And of course, dogs are welcome…

October 2020