Hotchkiss students team with Sharon Land Trust on conifer grove restoration

Oscar Lock, a Hotchkiss senior, got pointers and encouragement from Tim Hunter, stewardship director of The Sharon Land Trust, while sawing buckthorn.

John Coston

Hotchkiss students team with Sharon Land Trust on conifer grove restoration

It was a ramble through bramble on Wednesday, April 17 as a handful of Hotchkiss students armed with loppers attacked a thicket of buckthorn and bittersweet at the Sharon Land Trust’s Hamlin Preserve.

The students learned about the destructive impact of invasives as they trudged — often bent over — across wet ground on the semblance of a trail, led by Tom Zetterstrom, a North Canaan tree preservationist and member of the Sharon Land Trust.

The return of students on this working walkthrough was part of Hotchkiss’s Fairfield Farm Ecosystem and Adventure Team, a program that incorporates environmental stewardship in the learning experience.

The Hamlin Preserve is a 210-acre property with 2.5 miles of trails, and the Hamlin conifer grove restoration is a large-scale landscape forest preservation project.

Tom Zetterstrom, a tree preservationist, stopped to make the point to Hotchkiss School students that invasives have the power to dominate.John Coston

The group entered at the end of Stone House Road and proceeded into an invasive thicket that has already taken its toll on cedars and pines. Zetterstrom stopped the group for several lecture moments and demonstrations of the proper way to cut bittersweet.

Tim Hunter, stewardship director of the Trust, pulled out a folding handsaw that student Oscar Lock, a senior, used to sever a buckthorn at ground level.

Shaye Lee, a sophomore, took a turn with the saw on some privet.

As the group huddled under a close canopy of invasive vegetation that was overtaking everything in sight, Zetterstrom explained that invasive-laden patch was once productive farmland.

As the two-hour stroll-and-lop ended, the group assembled in a hay field on the property to observe a healthy American elm at the edge of the open field that has been saved by the Trust’s efforts.

Pointing to Red Mountain in the short distance, Zetterstrom told the students: “When you come back for your reunions — maybe in 50 years — you can say I helped save those trees.”

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