Friday, August 7, 2009

A Vital Partnership:
Laudholm Trust and the Wells Reserve

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
During the past school year, it was common to see students from the Wells Ogunquit Community School District gathering at the Wells Reserve for after school programs. If Laudholm Trust President Diana Joyner has her way, that trend is likely to continue in the future. Involving the Trust and the Wells Reserve more deeply in the surrounding communities is one of Joyner’s principal goals.
“We need to begin to build a new group of stewards who will be passionate about taking care of the world around us,” Joyner said. “We want to teach young people and young adults what it means to protect the natural resources of coastal Maine, about clean water, vistas, and agricultural uses, abut things that are happening in the estuary, storms and runoff and their impact.”
One of the first steps in doing that was to reach out to the Wells Ogunquit Community School District. Joyner and Suzanne Eder, the Reserve’s Education Director, did that last fall.
“We got together with (Wells Junior High Principal) Chris Chessie and (WOCSD Assistant Superintendent) Ira Waltz,” Joyner said. “They were as excited as I am about the possibilities. Now we have a curricula here in the summer geared from first grade to high school. Chris is the head of science in the entire district. We hosted (the district’s science team) here. Now we have an idea from teachers in each grade for next year.”
The collaboration started with a pilot project for seventh and eighth graders. “We did five different weekly programs,” said Eder. “We looked at things like bird banding, bee keeping, soil and composting. It’s been wonderful Next year we’ll continue it. We’ve also worked with the school on wellness and suggested ways to integrate wellness activities and the Reserve into the curriculum.”
Joyner’s strategy is not limited to the school district, but to the entire surrounding communities. She said the goal is to make Laudholm Farm more visible. “A key strategy of the board is to heighten visibility of Laudholm Farm,” said Joyner. “It’s been a well kept secret for 26 years.”
Part of that visibility is educating the public on the relationship between the Trust and the Wells Reserve, as well as the variety of programs and activities that the Reserve conducts routinely.
“Laudholm Trust was formed first to raise money for maintaining this place and doing programming at the Wells Reserve,” said Joyner. “The Reserve relies on the Trust to raise matching dollars. The Trust is the only one of 27 reserves across the country that is not part of state government. We’re a 501-c-3; the Reserve is a quasi-state agency. We’re the most unique partnership.”
It’s also important to make people aware of the Reserve’s operation and how it benefits the community. “Behind the scenes, the staff at the Reserve is collecting real data about the environment,” Joyner said. “We help the state, town and community planners understand the resources in their community. The Reserve helped Sanford put together a program to understand its resources. We have GIS to create maps to assist in planning for economic development. I’m trying to advocate about the tools we have here.”
Joyner noted that the music festival at Laudholm Farm on Aug. 2 was another example of outreach to younger members of the community. “I realized quickly that I needed to understand better how to communicate with younger people,” she said. “We formed a committee of younger adults. It’s called Next Gen. The music festival was their idea. I’m getting great direction from this group.”
Joyner has barely been on the job for a year but also has plans for expanding the programming offered into the winter months, to benefit people that live in the area year round. There are also a couple of road races coming up. It’s all targeted at getting out the word about Laudholm Farm as a community resource. “For me it’s important to get back to our roots - the Kennebunks, Wells, Ogunquit, York, and the Berwicks,” she said. “And re-engage with them.”
Photo caption: From left to right are Wells Reserve Education Director Suzanne Eder, WOCSD Assistant Superintendent Ira Waltz, Laudholm Trust President Diana Joyner and Wells Junior High School Principal Chris Chessie. Behind them is a portion of the historic barn at Laudholm. (Reg Bennett photo)