Land Management Volunteers: Making an Impact
By Sam Hoffman, Land Manager
As the heart of fall approaches and our field season winds down, it’s the perfect time to highlight Ridges Sanctuary land management volunteers and their invaluable contributions to our organization.
When I first joined The Ridges as Land Manager in November of 2021, one of the first projects I was assigned was to help plan and facilitate the replacement of our Range Light Boardwalk. This walkway is one of the most traversed parts of the Sanctuary but was showing its age and lacking the accessibility features of our Hidden Brook Boardwalk. I quickly realized how dedicated and talented our volunteers are. When tasked with the project, our Wednesday Crew gathered every week and worked tirelessly to complete the project over a five-month span in 2022, all while keeping the 800-foot-long boardwalk open to visitors. In the end, over 80 volunteers donated roughly 600 hours to rebuild the structure while saving The Ridges over $30,000 in construction costs.
We have since leveraged that effort to continue to replace and improve aged-out boardwalks on our original rustic trails system that traverses the iconic ridge and swale complex. And their work doesn’t stop there. The Wednesday Crew regularly assists staff in all kinds of land management efforts, including but not limited to land and trail maintenance, groundskeeping, facilities repair, and a variety of special projects such as building seasonal decor for the Nature Store and assembling bat, owl, and bluebird house kits for our workshops.
Other important volunteer groups contributing to land preservation and management at The Ridges include the Garden Crew and the Barberry Pirates. The Garden Crew has done a great job of increasing the diversity of the pollinator gardens that provide habitat for many bee and butterfly species while maintaining an aesthetically stunning space around the Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center for visitors to interact with. The establishment of a Native Plant Demonstration Garden was a highlight, with other exciting projects planned in the coming years. The Barberry Pirates are a revived group of volunteers assisting staff with managing invasive species. In 2023, they helped with the removal of Dame’s Rocket, European Marsh Thistle, and Glossy Buckthorn at multiple sites.
Volunteers are an essential part of operations for any nonprofit. Still, I often hear from folks in our community that The Ridges Sanctuary has some of the most committed volunteers in the county. I couldn’t agree more. It is a privilege and an honor to work alongside people who work so hard to continue to accomplish the Ridges’ mission. The Wednesday Crew, along with the rest of our volunteers, are an integral part of The Ridges family and are truly a pleasure to work with. They have shown me by example that we can achieve much more as a collective when passionate individuals work towards a common goal.
Not only do volunteers give to their community, but there are personal benefits to volunteering itself, from forming new friendships to learning new skills. If you have thought about volunteering with The Ridges Sanctuary before but haven’t yet done so, I urge you to contact me for more information on opportunities to contribute.
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (920) 839-2802 ext. 108.