Volunteer Naturalists of Greenbelt Land Trust
The tiny newt blinked at the curious crowd as Don Boucher of Neighborhood Naturalist pointed out his vivid orange belly, explaining how such a brightly colored, slow-moving creature was virtually guaranteed to be toxic to hungry predators. The group of Greenbelt Land Trust Volunteer Naturalists in training was amazed and delighted, sharing stories of other poisonous amphibians and taking notes. During an all-morning hike throughout Bald Hill Farm, they built and shared their knowledge of wildlife, botany, ecology and history.
Bald Hill Farm Volunteer Naturalists, a pilot program of Greenbelt Land Trust, engages a diverse team of volunteers who are eager to participate in continuous learning about this special place and help visitors experience the wonder of the popular natural area. Volunteer naturalists range in age from kids to retirees. They are from many walks of life, including students, seniors, academics, educators and self-taught nature enthusiasts, yet they all share an appreciation and respect of the unique place that is Bald Hill Farm. Ask them about wildlife, ecology, history, trails and Greenbelt Land Trust’s vision for Bald Hill Farm—if they don’t know the answer they will be able to point you in the right direction.
Helping visitors slow down to appreciate nature is a key goal of the Volunteer Naturalists. Says Don Boucher: “Many people use local trails to get some exercise, walk the dog and just to get outside and enjoy the natural ambiance. I think that's great. But I really get in depth when I visit local natural areas. I can't just pass by all the flowers, birds, bugs and animals. For me, going on a powerwalk in a natural area is like walking by all the books on a library shelf and not bothering to pick out any to read. There's an incredible amount of natural diversity to see at the trail closest to where you live.”
Greenbelt Volunteer Naturalists will be on the trails of Bald Hill Farm on many Fridays and weekends throughout this summer—look for their special badges and shirts, and come over to say “hi!"
Don Boucher and Lisa Millbank of Neighborhood Naturalist lead monthly free walks in natural areas throughout the region, publish a newsletter, and offer a wealth of resources for exploring nature locally.