Frank and Richard Denton – Family Stewardship

During this time of staying isolated, we are featuring a father and son whose volunteer work takes them out and about, separately and together, to do the seemingly most common and normal, but very much needed tasks and projects that keep our preserves alive and well.

Frank Denton and his son, Richard, and family, all live in Ledyard near Barrett Preserve. When Frank and his wife Charlene moved to town, it was a convenient place to meet Richard, his wife Bonnie, and son Henry to go for a walk. A few years ago, Frank noticed that the grass along the Barrett paths was getting long.  He learned that the person in the neighborhood who usually did the mowing had moved away. Frank contacted Karen Askins, Ledyard Town Committee Chair, and volunteered to take on the job. For the past 3 years he has mowed the grass along the access paths of Barrett, using a small mower that is kept in the shed on the property. “It takes around 45 minutes. Actually, I mow a few extra paths in the field because I remember how my grandson enjoyed playing hide and seek when he was younger.” 

Richard attends the Ledyard Avalonia town committee meetings. He’s the “keeper of the keys” for the meeting room, so he stays, listens, observes. “Being involved in the town gives me more specific information about what needs doing in the region. That way I can find new ways to be involved in the preserves.” 

Sometimes Richard and Frank work together, trimming and pulling invasives, especially Japanese Barberry. In the case of the Japanese Barberry, Frank used a shovel and dug out some “satisfying piles of the stuff.” These are not small specimens – in the end, there were 20 three-foot piles. “I see it as part of my exercise regimen,” he says. “We didn’t want to use chemicals, so digging it out seemed the best approach. We’re waiting to see whether it will come back, and if it does, we’ll work with the town committee to decide what’s next.”  

Many Avalonia volunteers help in leading and coordinating specific events on the preserves. Richard led a hike on the Pine Swamp preserve, sponsored by the Ledyard Public Library. “I wasn’t terribly familiar with Pine Swamp, so I was hesitant to raise my hand for this,” he said, “but I used the Avalonia website to learn about Pine Swamp. I was able to answer questions and help participants find their own answers along the way.” Hikers ranged from 10 to 80 years old. 

Richard seems to be rightly proud of his father Frank’s work on the preserves. “Also, it keeps my dad off the streets,” he joked. “We are a bit low on skills,” he said, “but we can handle anything simple and obvious – seeing what needs to be done, then doing it.”  

“I don’t have a dog” Frank said, “but getting out onto Avalonia’s preserves has great health advantages for dog owners. We all need to avoid the sedentary life. So, just pretend you’re walking the dog – get out there. Appreciate the space, which is open to all. I’m grateful to Avalonia for making these preserves available to us, and I hope others will step up and help maintain them.”

Henry, now 15, has been involved as well. He has been hiking with the family since he could walk and has even been spotted on some trail maintenance days. 

Mowing paths, trimming, leading hikes, walking and observing, pulling invasives – volunteering for Avalonia is important, no matter how simple and obvious it seems. Richard and Frank are prime examples of how our volunteers make critical contributions to the land and the environment. “If you see something that isn’t right, something that needs to be done,” Richard said, “contact Avalonia. There is information on the website for how to do this, and how to get involved.”

The Denton family demonstrates how people can get involved in volunteering, together and separately. And they exemplify the importance of simply showing up, observing, and getting to work. Such volunteers are the bedrock of Avalonia’s mission and work.