Sarah Hammond Submitted photo

Sarah Hammond graduated from the University of Maine in May with a degree in ecology and environmental sciences and headed straight for the woods as part of the Maine Conservation Corps.

We asked about long days, chain saws and what not to do next time you go into the woods.

Name: Sarah Hammond

Age: 22

Lives: Auburn

Sounds like you’re someone who spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid? When not in school or competing in some sort of sport, our family would do our best and go spend our down time doing some sort of outdoor activity. It ranged from camping to skiing, and just about everything in between, such as hiking, geocaching, kayaking and swimming. After dinner in the summer, we’d always find ourselves in our backyard throwing a Frisbee around or playing pass with a tennis ball, just enjoying being outside.

After graduation, what inspired you to apply to the Maine Conservation Corps? Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a graduate in a pandemic. I saw an email for the application to be an environmental steward and thought it would be a great opportunity to serve in a meaningful way during a tumultuous time.

Do you get to pick your assignments? Kind of! I lived with a co-worker at our host site, Lily Bay State Park, and we’d meet with our host site supervisor every week to go over our goals of the week and designate areas of trail that needed attention. Our daily work involved trail maintenance on the Lily Bay Trail System, a two-mile coastal path that connects the two camping areas to the public beach. We would walk the trails and make sure they were clear of fallen trees, remove roots that could be tripping hazards and even out the tread to mitigate the impact from erosion of water flow.

What other projects did you spend the summer working on? In addition to our daily work at Lily Bay, we were also able to do routine trail maintenance at Mt. Kineo State Park and Peaks-Kenney State Park. While inventorying the Mt. Kineo trails, we noticed that the bog bridges were completely rotten and in need of replacing. We hosted a service project on Mt. Kineo in honor of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, a national tradition of volunteering upheld through AmeriCorps. We were able to replace the rotten bridges on the North Trail and complete other trail improvements as well, such as felling hazardous trees and clearing the trail corridor. This was done with the help of other environmental stewards who were serving at host sites across the state. We also spent some time in Sebago Lake State Park working on an increased accessibility trail with other environmental stewards, which involved digging up the old trail, replacing it with gravel and tamping to flatten and harden. (All CDC safety recommendations were followed at each event.)

It sounds exhausting! Were you pretty beat at night? Oh yes. I developed a bedtime yoga routine early in the term and that became a critical part in being limber and ready for the next day of work!

You also got your chainsaw certification while you were at it? Yes! Early in our term, we attended a chainsaw safety course where we learned the basics of the safe use of the machine. This included how to care for it responsibly, meaning how to sharpen it, how to replace a broken chain and how to perform the necessary maintenance after each use. I watched my dad use a chainsaw all my life but never had the guts to use one myself. Until now! I learned the most recent safe way of cutting in the industry and now I’m sure I’ll be helping him out as needed.

Most unusual thing you saw in the woods this summer: This isn’t unusual per say, but there were many times where we’d be surprised by some sort of wildlife while out working on the trails. Humongous frogs would sit on rocks and I just thought it was a blob of mud, baby moles would crawl out from holes to enjoy the fresh cut grass, salamanders would slither out from underneath rocks to join us for our water breaks, and deer would gaze at us like we had five heads when carrying around equipment.

What’s next for your career? Hopefully another seasonal job to gain experience in the field! I’m hoping to land a job with the U.S. Forest Service in a national forest somewhere out West, but I’ll be applying to all sorts of jobs here in Maine, too. My goal for the next few years is to round out my skill set as a young professional and to soak up all the life experiences I can, to further my career and self-fulfillment.

The next time we go in the woods in 2021, what are two to three things we should bring, do or not do? Three big things to do are: 1) bring a bag to carry out your trash, 2) be prepared for changes in the weather, and 3) let others know your plan in case anything goes wrong! Following along with that is being mindful of the Leave No Trace Principles and always aim to leave an area better than you found it. And most of all, being inclusive to all fellow outdoor users and spreading the restorative power that can be gained by spending time in the outdoors.


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