Local Scouts Get into the Action at Winchester’s Conservation Sites

By Rachel Whitehouse

If you are a regular at Mt. Pisgah, you probably noticed that parts of the property are, well, a lot cleaner. Or, maybe you were in the Brooks Parkhurst Town Forest recently and admired the new footbridges over the stream running from the Hemlock Forest. What’s going on?

Both these projects are the work of Winchester Scouts in Troops 503 and 507, and resulted from a new partnership with the Winchester Conservation Commission to help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts achieve their community and individual goals while caring for Winchester’s outdoor spaces. The new footbridges, for instance, were planned by Nate Finley for his Eagle Scout Project, and completed under his direction by Troop 503 scouts and adult volunteers. 

“Scouts had a great time working at the conservation sites this spring,” said Troop 507 Leader Mann Shoffner. “They could see the difference their efforts made and want to know when we are going back.”

Winchester has more than 110 acres across  seven conservation spaces—Mt Pisgah, Town Forest, Smith Pond, Locke Pond, Sucker Brook, Sachem Swamp and Winning Farm. The Conservation Commission has worked to engage more Winchester residents in the care and oversight of this land. In addition to the scouting program, the Commission in 2021 reestablished a longstanding land stewardship program. There are now about a dozen residents volunteering as land stewards. The added resources are making a difference.

“Our first project with the Scouts was great,” said Bob Kuszewski, a volunteer land steward for Mt. Pisgah. “Not only did they make short work of an old fort and construction debris, but once they saw trees being smothered by vines, they quickly filled an entire trailer with the uprooted invasives.”

Land stewards and scouts will be working together again this fall.

“We have plans to improve signage and continue to make the Town Forest more accessible, while maintaining the trails and monitoring the forest habitat,” said Deborah Johnson, one of the volunteer stewards of the Town Forest. “It’s wonderful to have the scouts involved, and we appreciate the impact they’ve already had on improving access to this wonderful resource.”

“It’s encouraging to see so many volunteers working to actively protect and maintain the natural state of Winchester’s conservation spaces,” said Steve Cohn, conservation commissioner for Mt. Pisgah. “I hope more members of the community will take time to enjoy these natural spaces in Winchester.”

To learn more about Winchester’s Conservation Areas, check out the map. If you spend time in or live close to a conservation area and want to be involved, contact Conservation Commission Administrator Elaine Vreeland (evreeland@winchester.us), and let her know which property you might be interested in supporting.

Rachel Whitehouse is a volunteer conservation land steward.