My Summer with the Sierra Club 

Olivia Knight 

As the recipient of a grant from the CT Chapter Sierra Club, I spent my summer working as a Grassroots Temporary Organizer on a river trail project in my hometown: New Milford, CT. My UConn degree in environmental studies and a passion for conservation and the environment came together with the opportunity for me to spend ten weeks learning about and bringing attention to New Milford’s beautiful section of the Western New England Greenway.

Much of my work involved various types of campaign outreach, such as: attending town meetings, promoting the trail on social media sites and organizing walking events along different portions of the trail. To become an outings leader, I took online training through the Sierra Club, supplied my Red Cross First Aid certificate and took a hike with my CT Sierra Club mentor leader, Amanda Kenyon, for my final certification. Look for future hikes I will be leading this fall!

In my position as Grassroots Temporary Organizer, I spent some time researching the success of other trails in surrounding towns/states for use as a projection of the success of the New Milford River Trail. The document contains categories such as money and jobs brought to the community by the trail and tallies visitor counts to identify the reasons for trail expansion. One of its intended purposes is to inform residents that our trail will be worth the town’s investment.

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A section of the New Milford River Trail

Throughout my time working with New Milford River Trail Association, I organized a few different walks to get people outside and show them the vast opportunities for sightseeing, exercise and adventure offered by the trail. Our final walk was organized with the New Milford Senior Center. About 15 members walked the trail and then had refreshments at a local restaurant, The Iron Rail. Over small plates, members of the River Trail and the CT Chapter Sierra Club answered questions and encouraged people to share their experience.

Tom O’Brien and Lisa Arasim, both of the New Milford River Trail Association, and Helen Applebaum of the CT Chapter Sierra Club, were present at many events and helped in providing information to the general public, as well as giving me helpful direction throughout my time in this role.

I learned many things over the last few weeks, including the wide variety of ways in which a river trail can transform a town. It can provide an opportunity for exercise, socializing, activity, sightseeing and animal watching. These trails can also bring in huge amounts of money to towns by providing job opportunities, as well as drawing people to local businesses. As New Milford’s River Trail runs directly through our downtown area, I truly believe that it will benefit our downtown businesses in significant ways. I am incredibly thankful for having had the opportunity to work on this project over the last few months and for all the fantastic people who helped me along the way. I am looking forward to watching New Milford’s River Trail grow, and our town prosper!

Olivia Knight, a CT Chapter Sierra Club member, is a graduate of UConn and resides in New Milford.

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Town residents enjoying a walk along the NMRT