by Phil Brown, Director of Land Management
In last month’s E-field, we updated you on the Ponemah Bog boardwalk elevation project, which had considerable challenges ahead. I’m proud to report that on October 6, NH Audubon volunteers completed the immense undertaking which began during the summer. Leading the way was NH Audubon’s Volunteer of the Year, Jack Gleason, who orchestrated many of the details of the project and ‘showed up to work’ every day until the project was complete. Several weeks ago, Jack realized the need to step up the pace of the project, as we were concerned about some of the lumber disappearing from the parking area with each passing day (as well as the onset of colder weather and eventual snow). Jack used his connections with Amherst resident and then-Superintendent of Hillsborough County Corrections Department, Jim O’Mara, who authorized a work gang to help NH Audubon complete this project. For three full days, this hard-working, supervised group of 10 worked alongside NH Audubon volunteers and staff to haul lumber and pound nails to complete the remainder of the boardwalk. Thanks to their hard work, what we estimated would take about five days was accomplished in just three. And, they were able to save the organization an estimated $3,000 in costs.
In speaking with Work Project Supervisor, we learned that the Department’s Community Service Program has saved towns hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for very little cost to the state. Some of their projects include painting schools, town buildings, basic construction, and roadside cleanup. However, this state-run program has been cut significantly in past years and now faces challenges in the State House that threaten to cut its funding completely. These consequences would spell high costs to towns and non-profit organizations like NH Audubon in future years. And, it would mean the loss of this critical rehabilitation program for prisoners, which not only provides excellent and cheap services to the outside world, but also a vital way of connecting soon-to-be released prisoners back to the real world through providing them with skills, training, and, most importantly, a routine.
Volunteer, Jack Gleason, described his experiences working alongside one particular individual, who told him that he can’t wait to get out of prison so he could come back to Ponemah Bog to sit and reflect – and to volunteer. The importance of this program cannot be underestimated.
The Work Project Supervisor described vividly the effect of the potential loss of funding as ‘taking a bee and putting it in a jar, shaking it and letting it go’. If you care about the future of this program, please let your state representatives know.
A big thanks to all the volunteers who accomplished this long-lasting project, including the Hillsborough County Corrections Department and the Nashaway Chapter of NH Audubon members who were so instrumental in donating their time, equipment, and labor. Get out and enjoy the Bog!
Join Phil Brown for a fall ‘Bog Walk’ on the new boardwalk on Friday, November 4 at 8 am. See Afield for more details.