LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Former John Jay High School student Rose McMicheal, an intern at Lewisboro Land Trust, recalls her experience helping to plant a garden at the Leon Levy Preserve in South Salem.
On May 5, we left the beige walls of John Jay High School to begin our six-week adventure with the Lewisboro Land Trust and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
Along with Maddie Lewis, Sydney Schaus and Dan Schwartz, my daily outfit became long pants, high socks and hiking boots. In addition, bug spray, work gloves and loppers were a must. Guided by experienced volunteers each day, we worked hard to improve and beautify the reservations and preserves of Lewisboro. Each Monday, we labored long days, rain or shine, planting a native garden at the Leon Levy Preserve. Five-hundred ferns later, we created a beautiful welcome for future visitors.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, we hiked into the depths of the Leon Levy Preserve. We created two new trails, allowing us to leave a lasting footprint. We also spent six days digging up treasures (mostly nails and glass) from a decaying "chemist lab" that once existed on this land in the early twentieth century. Sitting cross-legged in the dirt, unsurfacing the earth with a trowel was often the highlight of my week.
Wednesdays, we worked at Teatown Lake Reservation. Most days, we removed barberry bushes, wrestling with pickaxes, prickers and strong gripping roots. Other days, we hiked to vast meadows and discovered an ancient pickup truck, rusting in the shadows of tall trees.
Fridays brought us back to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation or Mountain Lakes in North Salem. We explored miles and miles of trails that I had never stepped foot on. For easy identification, we were each given two neon shirts and at least three cool hats, but our real gift was the experience.
We made a difference in our community and local environment, while learning so much from the veteran volunteers who guided us. These volunteers motivated us with personal stories and funny jokes, as well as genuine care and hard work.
Throughout the six weeks, the volunteers made this internship the best, as we developed friendships and true admiration. This internship was an enriching end of our high school experience, thanks to the opportunity given by the Senior Independent Experience program at John Jay. I’m so glad that we left those high school beige walls to make new trails that will be enjoyed forever more.