WEST BRATTLEBORO -- Marissa Smith of Guilford was one of a number of Windham Regional Career Center students restoring a section of the Whetstone Brook in West Brattleboro on May 17. The students planted hundreds of native tree and shrub saplings, including red maple, silver maple and nannyberry along a 550-foot stretch of the streambank that was damaged by raging flood waters during Tropical Storm Irene. Marissa’s dedication to land stewardship is one of the reasons that she was honored by the Vermont Land Trust with one of its annual Land Steward Awards.
Marissa is one of eight outstanding students from around the state to be recognized by the land trust. She received a $250 cash award that is not restricted and may be used toward education, equipment or materials.
Marissa is graduating from the Career Center in June. Natural Resources instructor Dennis Hamilton recommended Marissa because of her commitment to the land. She milks cows and cleans calf pens at a dairy farm, helps out with a friend’s 400-tap sugaring operation and hunts with her dad. She is also an excellent student, and has exhibited leadership skills in the Future Farmers of America and Future Business Leaders of America programs. She is also active in the student council, high school yearbook, and sports. Marissa plans to attend the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s arborculture and urban forestry program.
The planting that the students did along Whetstone Brook is a project of the Trees for Streams program sponsored by the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District. The project is occurring on a 12-acre parcel on Route 9 that is owned by the Vermont Land Trust, which has been working to restore the river corridor with a vegetated buffer. The property was donated to the land trust, which is currently leasing it to a farmer.
The parcel was selected as a candidate for this program after being impacted by Tropical Storm Irene. "It’s encouraging to see the hayfield restored and work with local students to re-vegetate sections of the buffers along Whetstone Brook," said Kerry Doyle, VLT’s regional stewardship manager. "This is a vulnerable section of brook and it feels good to have such a positive outcome on this property."
The Land Stewards Award was presented to Marissa by the Vermont Land Trust’s Southeast Regional Director, Joan Weir, at a June 5 school awards ceremony. This is the eighth year that the Vermont Land Trust has given this award to students who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the fields of forestry or agriculture. The intent of the award is to acknowledge outstanding student achievement, encourage future land stewards, and increase the visibility of Vermont’s vocational agriculture and forestry programs which are vital to Vermont’s future.