February 21, 2009

Moving Forward (on showshoes)

This past week we've seen some pretty interesting developments regarding the future of Burleigh! For starters we met with Tom, a forester out of Rumney who will be working with us to develop a forestry management plan for the mountain. The plan will take into account:

  • Recreation
  • Selective harvesting
  • Education
  • Wildlife habitat development
  • Preserving peace and quiet
I'm very pleased with his point of view about engaging our students and teachers and doing some of the boundary maintenance and timber surveying. Many thanks to Kirk for his great work finding Tom.

After that we had a great brainstorming snowshoe on Burleigh that Russ and Bekka were able to attend. We started thinking about both short term and long term ideas for using Burleigh. Here is a short list of the things we came up with:

  • Firewood based community service project
  • Field study for International Baccalaureat science courses to increase 'contact hours'
  • Afternoon co-curricular activity for students around sustainability
  • Mapping project for new course proposed for 09-10, "Projects in Sustainability"
  • More opportunities to get students and community members to the mountain
  • Paul's Eagle Scout project around the fire ring, wood shed and signage
We also had a great hike in which we explored the eastern side of the Burleigh property and found some sign of rabbit, deer, moose and a mysterious animal I'm calling the Leaping Tree Hare.

Here's what happened - Russ will often keep a running dialog with others as he hikes (and also possibly with himself) about the things he is observing in nature. His 'nature nuggets' range from tracks to trees and are always interesting and entertaining. As we were hiking along he pointed out some little branches near the ground that had been stripped of bark. "Rabbit browse," he proclaimed. As we were nodding we noticed that the same nibbled bark strips went up the tree three, four, ten, twenty feet up the tree! Russ was stumped, but I wasn't, it's clearly the rare and elusive Burleigh Mountain Leaping Tree Hare, and not the first unusual species to be spotted on the mountain.

As we were wrapping up our hike we started talking about some sort of project that would capture the imagination of both students and faculty. Something that would get folks fired up about Burleigh that could be done in a relatively short period of time. We decided to work on the old lift shack that is located about half way up the mountain.

Here's the vision - we need your help still to fill in the details: Tear this old shack down, pull out the Chevy engine and rebuild it on the same footprint (same approximate size) as a retreat, hermitage, shelter and destination. An oasis as it were, hidden away on a mountain top.

We figure we can do this in about two semesters with students from community service projects and faculty help. Check out the view the place would have - I had to bushwack over a few yards to get the picture to the left, but with a small amount of clearing we can get this view for the Oasis.

So there is a lot of energy right now, pretty exciting - stay tuned for more developments both short term and long term.

In addition to the folks who went out for a hike last week there has been kind of a growing group of folks who are interested and excited in contributing. For me this has been perhaps the most exciting part of this whole thing. Many thanks to CJ, Darren, Sandy, Paul, Bob and many others who are excited to do some great work.

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