Manuel Correllus State Forest superintendent will pull up stakes

Housing issues played a major role in Ginny Dautreuil’s decision to take an off-Island post. The question now is what is next for the state forest.

Departing Manuel F. Correllus State Forest superintendant Ginny Dautreuil at the Forest Office on Wednesday morning. Photo sam Moore.

Two years after Ginny Dautreuil took the job of Forest and Parks Supervisor at the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest she will take her leave on Friday, Sept. 2. Ms. Dautreuil, 37, and her husband had been renting an apartment in Woods Hole since she took her post.

Speaking with The Times Friday, Ms. Dautreuil said her exit from the Island is “bittersweet,” but that two years of two ferry rides a day was enough.

“I’m really tired of commuting,” she said. “It wasn’t really feasible for the long term.”

Ms. Dautreuil will continue to work for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) as a natural resources analyst assistant at Quabbin Park and Reservoir, in Belchertown, where housing will not be such an issue.

“We tried to crack the housing market here, but it just didn’t work out,” she said. “I tried word of mouth as much as I could, and combed the papers and checked the [MV Housing Rentals] Facebook page and every electronic resource possible.”

Ms. Dautreuil said her husband is currently training to become a real estate appraiser, which requires him to travel to Barnstable and Plymouth counties.

“One of us would have to make the commute, but housing was the biggest factor,” she said. “As much as I hate to leave, it’ll be nice not to have that stress anymore.”

Remarkably, in her two years of taking the 7 am ferry out of Woods Hole, Ms. Dautreuil was never stranded on the Island. “I somehow managed to avoid that,” she said. “Sometimes in the winter when things were looking pretty iffy I worked at the DCR office in Falmouth.”

Ms. Dautreuil was already familiar with this region when she took the position. As a child she spent summers in South Yarmouth, and from the age of 12 until she was in her early twenties, she worked as a seasonal volunteer at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster.

Prior to coming to the Vineyard, Ms. Dautreuil, a native of Newtown, Conn., worked in Texas for five years as a civilian field biologist with the Texas National Guard, focusing on wildlife and fire management. “I got really involved with their fire ecology and fire management program,” she said. Her posting on Martha’s Vineyard was her first supervisory job.

“I really enjoyed working here, getting to know people and getting to know the forest,” she said. “It was really interesting to learn about the history and the ecology of the area. There’s no place like it.”

Ms. Dautreuil’s training in fire management served her well at the state forest. “This forest is a fire-dependent, disturbance-oriented ecosystem,” she said. In a fire-dependent ecosystem, fire plays an essential role in shaping the habitat so native flora and fauna can propagate. “The forest is pretty dry right now, but I can’t really say how dry this summer is compared to others. But I remember my summers as a kid in South Yarmouth, there was quite a bit more rain.”

Another one of Ms. Dautreuil’s fire-related duties is updating the fire conditions that are displayed next to Smokey the Bear at the corner of Barnes and West Tisbury–Edgartown Roads. “I did not take part in Smokey disappearing, but it’s nice to have a new one,” she said, referring to the mysterious disappearance of the previous Smokey the Bear in January. “I had this image of the old Smokey sitting in some car that was getting on the boat.”

Ms. Dautreuil said one of her more memorable moments in the past two years was discovering otter tracks in the middle of the forest.

“Unfortunately I didn’t see the otters; a researcher from UMass was out and took photos of the footprints during my first month on the job,” she said. “It was so odd for a forest that has virtually no standing water. I consulted with Julie Russell from the [Martha’s Vineyard] Land Bank, who confirmed that they were otter prints and that there had been documentation they cross over the Island.”

Overall, Ms. Dautreuil said she didn’t see as much wildlife in the forest as she expected. “The wildlife can be very elusive, which in itself was surprising,” she said. “I see a ton of evidence of deer, but rarely actually see a deer. Although you do see plenty at the weigh station [during hunting season].”

Ms. Dautreuil had big boots to fill when she came to Martha’s Vineyard. Prior to her tenure, John Varkonda had been the administrator at Correllus State Forest for 26 years, until he died unexpectedly on New Year’s Eve, 2013, at age 55. Ms. Dautreuil is only the third person and first woman to hold the post. The first was Manuel F. Correllus, for whom the forest is named.

In an email to The Times, a DCR spokesman on background said, “Currently, the Department of Conservation and Recreation is reviewing the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest Supervisor position, and the search for a replacement is ongoing.”

The state forest was created in 1908 as the Heath Hen Reserve, in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today it is managed for passive recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its 14 miles of bike paths.