Through the years that Keystone classes have been held many participants have gone on to do great things for conservation in their towns. One example of this is Keystone Cooperator Freddie Gillespie. Volunteering on the stewardship committee and working as a consultant in her town of Southborough has afforded her the opportunity to influence landscape conservation as well as wildlife habitat development.
One project that Freddie is most proud of is her work with the Breakneck Hill Conservation Area. This 88-acre parcel, boasting a 30-acre apple orchard, was overrun by oriental bittersweet. With the help of an RCP grant through the NRCS she and other volunteers, as well as the stewardship committee, were able to clear much of the land overrun with the invasive bittersweet. In its place habitat for grassland birds was encouraged, with special focus on the bobolink. The oriental bittersweet sprouts continue to be managed through spot spraying in order to prevent the plant from dominating the landscape again.
Freddie has also brought attention to Southborough’s 50-acre town forest. Surrounded by residential areas, the forest had been a destination for outdoor recreation though little work had been done to maintain trails or inventory species. In 2011 the stewardship committee enrolled the town forest in the Forest Stewardship Program. Since that time there have been trail improvements, a baseline biological inventory, and even an Eagle Scout project to install bat houses. The town forest also hosts many educational events for community members such as mushroom ID and collection walks.
When asked how Keystone has helped her with these projects specifically, Freddie mentioned that Keystone gave her the knowledge to back up the things she already believed. During her time at Keystone she learned how land protection specialists such as foresters could help her with town projects. She also became aware of additional funding sources and was able to connect with others who shared a similar vision for conservation and habitat management that she did. All of these benefits of Keystone are certainly important but one of the most inspiring ways Freddie said the program has benefited her is that “Keystone made me feel empowered!”.