This summer I was fortunate enough to be a volunteer intern at the Warren Conservation Center. The four organizations working together included Penn Soil RC&D, The Conewango Creek Watershed Association, Warren Conservation District, and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Located in the back of The Warren State Hospital Grounds, I had never really seen their offices before, but after driving through Northwestern Pennsylvania it became easier and easier to see the impact they had. From pushing to get The Conewango Creek voted PA River of The Year to starting to work on a huge geocaching event, I think I started my internship at the perfect time.
Everyone was preparing for the “Hatch Fun 2015 GeoEvent” when I started my internship. This event placed 136 geocaches all throughout the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area. It not only brought people to Warren and encouraged people to get active outside, but it also promoted awareness about the local area, watershed, and history. I got to help out on a lot of it! I was able to get a lot more familiar with my gps and the area while hiking out to place caches. I also quickly learned just how much work goes into projects like these. From keeping track of all the way-points, making the containers, or just submitting the forms online, I really got to experience the entirety of the project. The work I was doing really had a purpose.
I didn't just work on the geocaching project though. I was able to attend the Project Grass Grazing and Fence Building Field Day. Here I was able to learn about different grasses, how to maintain a sustainable grazing system, proper parasite control, and more. Learning a lot about agriculture was great, but it was even better just to learn how important agriculture is and how complex it can be. I was also able to see the Sustainable Cattle Ranching and Regenerative Grazing School in action and really get in-depth about how intricate grazing and cattle management can be.
Another activity I got to participate in was going to a wetlands area to follow-up with a conservation easement placed on the land. There I was able to learn what an easement involves and the yearly work that goes into making sure the landowner is maintaining the property correctly. Later I was able to check out large vineyards and the farmland preservation easements on those properties. I had learned of easements previously, but I was glad to find out how common and beneficial they can be. During all this I was lucky enough to ride through a lot of Northwestern Pennsylvania and not only see the communities around it, but also learn the history surrounding the areas.
Other things I was able to experience in my time there include things like:maintaining healthy soil systems, surveying techniques, proper road building, how to read to little kids, and more! I think the most important thing I learned during my time at The Conservation Center, however, is an appreciation for local communities and the impact small organizations like the ones I was lucky enough to work for can have.