Volunteers in Focus: Steven Murphy

Steven Murphy, a 21-year-old University of New Hampshire senior, is majoring in environmental conservation and sustainability and will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2019. Steven recently moved with his family from upstate New York to Stonington, Connecticut. Soon after he arrived, he volunteered this past summer to help Avalonia with a stewardship project. He accepted one major task: to clear invasives from a badly overgrown trail on the Knox Family Farm Preserve in Stonington.

What was your goal by volunteering for Avalonia?
I wanted to get involved with my new community and do something outside for the summer. I also wanted to do something related to my field of study. I know volunteering helps build my references for the future.

How did you discover Avalonia?
I participated in the HIKE Stonington challenge, so I found Avalonia by going to your website and finding all the trail maps you have posted. I’ve hiked on a lot of your preserves, they are awesome.

We assigned you a real challenge; this trail was badly overgrown. You were very willing, but were you ready for this?
Yes, but I did not realize how overgrown and how long the trail was. It went on forever. I was determined to see it through and just stayed on it over a few days.

Knox Family Farm Preserve trail, before and after

How many hours did it take?
About 20 hours.

Any surprises?
It was incredible how quickly the invasives took over the trail. At times, it was hard to see the path. I had to use loppers, clippers, a weed wacker and a mower to cut everything back. The trail, about a quarter of a mile long, took several passes with different tools to trim it all back.

How does it feel to complete a volunteer project?
It feels good to accomplish something. I also enjoy working hard and being outdoors. It’s good to know that my volunteer involvement will add to my résumé when I apply for a job after graduation.

Will you come back next summer for another project?
Yes! I had fun and met some great people.

What tips would you give to someone who was thinking about volunteering for Avalonia, especially other students?
Do it because you believe in the organization and their cause. Do it to support your community and our quality of life here in southeastern Connecticut. This was a great learning experience and I certainly understand invasives better than I did before! It puts my study on the environment into perspective. It’s a great way for students to fulfill their volunteer goals too.

Thank you, Stephen. Good luck this year in school. You made a difference for Avalonia. Just let us know when you need that letter of recommendation!
For sure. I’ll see you next summer!