Happy trails

The Trustees of Reservations adapts its sites and programs, carrying on during the pandemic.


Things are hopping for the staff at The Trustees of Reservations. One of the remarkable things about the organization is how much they have been able to keep things going over the past year or so. Here on-Island, you will find their wide selection of sites to visit, each with its own distinct flavor: bit.ly/3vf8Blg. You can visit the locations on your own, or join one of their many programs.

Shannon Hurley, coastal engagement manager, is very pleased with the way things are looking for the upcoming season. “It’s been fantastic for us that even in the midst of the pandemic we were able to provide that ‘space’ for everyone, whether that was meditation, release, relaxation,” Hurley says. “We were able to be here and facilitate that, and it’s only looking up from here.” She said that they are already at about 100 percent capacity for their guided tours, with masks and social distancing applied.

There will be yoga in person, but they are also looking for virtual opportunities as well. Hurley says that as a result of COVID, “we are understanding how important virtual programs are for people who cannot make it out — or are not comfortable making it out. We want to make sure that we are providing a really meaningful experience to everyone, whether they are able to get out onto the properties in person or not.”

The most critical change for The Trustees’ offerings is that everything requires preregistration online, since they have strict capacity limits that weren’t in place previously. The upcoming offerings for the spring can be found at bit.ly/3dJc9qa. Trips to Cape Poge Lighthouse, hands-on programs at the FARM Institute, and Explore the Shore events are just some of what is on tap.

As the Islands education manager at TTR, Molly Peach Mayhew most notably runs the Claire Saltonstall Education Program, in which The Trustees provide place-based education to the majority of Island school students. “During a normal year, we work with all the schools through in-class lessons and field trips to our properties,” Mayhew says. “Due to COVID, we adapted our program offerings by conducting our ‘in-class’ lessons outside on school grounds. We also altered many of our programs to be done virtually via Zoom with the remote learners. Unfortunately, we were not able to run field trips due to transportation and safety concerns in the fall and winter, but we already have field trips booked for May and June to Menemsha Hills and Long Point.” Mayhew said TTR will continue its educational programming with the schools, and interested teachers can reach out to her by emailing mpeach@thetrustes.org.

Mayhew is currently accepting high school interns in the summer environmental training program. Available opportunities include environmental education with an opportunity to get involved with an outdoor education program, providing a chance to instruct on environmental issues and topics to a wide variety of audiences. Another area is stewardship management, which helps to better understand the background involved with keeping conservation properties safe and open to the public. Shorebird management is also an option; working with Trustees’ ecologist and shorebird technicians, interns will have the chance to experience the protocols in the management of rare species. Horticulture interns will work with Mytoi horticulturist and staff to experience the daily maintenance and history of a Japanese-inspired garden. Public interpretation interns will work alongside the engagement manager and tour staff to understand the interpretation of Trustees properties for the public, and in sustainable agriculture there may be the opportunity to learn within a teaching farm. (The link to apply to the intern program is at bit.ly/3asuRAr.)

Lindsay Brown, engagement site manager at the FARM Institute, talked about what was different last year. “Unfortunately, all of our cooking classes, dinners, and indoor programs were canceled. Our FARM camp ran in an extremely limited capacity, with two groups allowed per week, all of which had to sign up together as a ‘quaran-team.’ We also did not allow for programs to happen simultaneously, so tours were only offered on weekends instead of daily, also with only one outside group per tour.”

Even though it was a challenging year, Brown said, they were able to offer the pick-your-own sunflowers event; preregistration was required, and only one group could pick at a time. Still, it was a much-loved event that they were able to host safely.

Of course, Brown added, “as a farm with barnyard animals, chores go on even during a pandemic. We created a schedule to safely rotate staff through responsibilities. We also closed our farm stand and pivoted to a contactless porch pickup for meat and eggs.”

Looking to the future, Brown said, “As of right now, we are currently engaged in an RFP process with the town of Edgartown to remain the educational leaseholder at Katama Farm. If we are awarded the RFP, we hope to ramp up camp offerings, tours, cooking classes, and roll out a weekly pizza night. We’re very excited to be able to welcome families back to the farm.”