Stewardship in Action: Barren Meadow Garbage Blitz

26 Nov 2019

By Joanna Skomorowski, Land Stewardship Assistant

Barren Meadow Conservation Lands, before and after the clean-up effort.

A common problem on many of our newly-acquired properties is a reflection of a once-common practice: that of driving out to the woods to drop off your old possessions.  Dump sites, both new and old, dot the woods roads throughout Nova Scotia.  Some are from long ago, when it was common for those who didn’t have their own junk pile (as many homes used to) or who didn’t wish to pay tipping fees at the local dump to find the nearest woods road and drop their old microwaves, tarpaper and panes of glass over the bank.  Others are, unfortunately, more recent.  The legacy of human use on a property- like mines, farms or forestry- may also lead to materials being left behind.  Both types of dump exist on one of the Nature Trust’s Barren Meadow properties, south of Colpton, NS.  The property was acquired by the Nature Trust in 2019 as part of our Lasting Landscapes campaign, and is home to Blanding’s Turtles and Eastern Ribbonsnake and a meandering river lined with Sweet Gale. This particular parcel also once played host to a small slate quarry.  The quarry hasn’t been used in years, but left behind from the days when it was active were an old couch, sliding doors with casters, panes of glass, Styrofoam and lengths of tubing.  On Friday November 22, Nature Trust staff and an energetic group of volunteers were eager to see as much of the old rubbish removed as possible.

Dedicated volunteers helping with the clean-up effort at the Barren Meadow Conservation Lands.

That eagerness was very necessary, because removing the detritus required a fair amount of human energy.  Without road access and with a deep brook to cross, every item we removed needed to be carried or wheelbarrowed half a kilometer to reach the truck prepared to haul it away.  The only reason this was even remotely possible was because of our workforce for the day; a resolute group of volunteers, including the new volunteer Property Guardian.  All were eager to see the land returned to a cleaner, more natural state than it was currently in, and they tackled the job cheerfully.

Like a line of determined ants, we plodded back and forth along the woods road, toting long-abandoned items from the old slate quarry and smelling the air, scented with the wild smell of the Sweet-fern bruised by our passage.  Having reached the bottom of the slope, there was a new challenge: Barren Meadow Brook.

Barren Meadow Brook

Over a meter deep in the middle, it was crossable by a beaver dam (not to be confused with the beavers’ lodge – we do not advocate walking on top of or near beaver lodges because those are the homes where the beavers actually live) at the downstream edge, but only if one was light and careful on one’s feet.  Crossing the dam while carrying a large pane of glass, say, was a little more challenging.  Having crossed it earlier in the summer on a monitoring visit, I packed my chest waders so that I could plough directly through the stream, instead of repeating the trek across the wall of sticks and mud.  The waders came in handy when I realized that the large chunks of Styrofoam that we were carrying out could be used to float some of the heavier items across the brook.  With determination (and some damp feet), the debris was carried and floated across the brook to where it could be loaded and hauled away by road.

Stewardship in action very often involves tasks that are simple to list: Remove invasive species.  Clean up a dump.  Plant new trees.  Protect threatened species.  But put into practice, the work can be repetitive and demanding.  That’s why we’re always so grateful when a team of volunteers shows up in sturdy boots and hunter orange, ready to clean up a rough-looking site.  It’s what makes our stewardship work possible.  Thanks to the help of our volunteers, we cleared out everything we could carry that Friday at Barren Meadow, leaving behind a few larger things to be removed later.  The work completed will allow the old road and quarry site at the Barren Meadow Conservation Lands to be slowly reclaimed by nature.  What’s our next stewardship project at Barren Meadow?  Finding a way to remove the bus that was a little too large for the volunteers to carry out that day…

Land Stewardship Assistant, Joanna Skomorowski, assessing the condition of the next item of on the clean-up list – the bus.

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