A Yearly Review
The Connecticut Trail Census (CTTC) is a volunteer-based program that brings transparent trail use data to the community and state through a network of infrared trail counters statewide and through implementation of trail-based user surveys. CTTC was created four years ago, and the data generated each year is instrumental in helping with land-use decisions.
Responses to the 2020 CT Trail Census Evaluation Survey show that over 75% of respondents indicate they have used or plan to use the CTTC program and associated data to communicate trail use data for decision makers or the public, reference trail use data to make trail decisions, use trail use data to leverage resources, integrate trail use data into long term planning efforts, or identify patterns of use or trends on their trails.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased trail use starting in March of 2020 as more people than ever are using trails due to decreased options. Several reports comparing monthly 2019 to 2020 use data were completed for March through June 2020. Preliminary data analysis completed for Laura Brown’s presentation as a component of the 2020 Northeast MultiModal Summit document increased use in our data counts across 16 automated counter locations on trails throughout Connecticut.
The comprehensive 2020 Trail Use Count Report, summarizing trail counter and survey data was released in March 2021. In response to the increase in new trail users, the CTTC, in partnership with the People Active on Trails for Health & Sustainability (PATHS) team, produced four trails 101 videos to help new and experienced trail users understand how to plan and prepare for a hike, read trail blazes, and review trail etiquette.
The On the Trail and Walk with Me Podcast Series, produced by UConn undergraduate student Neva Taylor raises up the voices of a wide range of people from many different outdoors disciplines. A UConn Today article compelled UConn President Thomas Katsouleous to write a personal letter in appreciation for this work. In the new year the Podcast continues to highlight voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and continues informational on the trail episodes. Laura Brown of UConn Extension and Don Rakow of Cornell compiled an extensive Anti-Racism in the Outdoors resource guide that includes readings, podcasts, and articles. The list is updated monthly with new information.
The new Connecticut Trail Finder website is under development as a partnership between UConn Extension, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation. Projected to be released in time for National Trails Day on June 5, 2021, the Trail Finder tool enables community members to view trails, get essential information like maps and parking information, and submit trip comments and photos. Users will be able to track trail experiences, noting trails that they have completed, their favorites, or ones they want to visit. This resource is meant to centrally locate everything that one would need to know in order to enjoy the trails.
We also wanted to acknowledge the changes in our staff over the past six months. Charles Tracy, our Trail Census Coordinator, transferred into full retirement in late August. Kimberly Bradley transferred into Charlie’s role in late September and has been gracefully catching up and moving forward ever since. Ryan Faulkner, our graduate student intern who helped with launching the online/QR Code survey, left us at the end of October to finish his graduate degree for a Masters in Geography in pursuit of a career as a Transportation Planner. Neva Taylor, our undergraduate student intern from the summer who launched our podcast series, stayed on with us through the fall to continue her podcasts and work as a communications and social media coordinator. We want to thank all our staff this year for helping us get through these crazy times.
Article by Kimberly Bradley and Neva Taylor
Connecting Students to Communities
Riverfront climate resilience. Low impact development practices to reduce stormwater runoff. Brownfields redevelopment grant proposals. Forest resilience planning. The impact of sea level rise on marinas. What do all these things have in common? They are all the focus of projects conducted for Connecticut communities by undergraduates enrolled in the Environment Corps, a new educational model gaining momentum at UConn.
in this ambitious project that combines undergraduate classroom instruction, service learning, and Extension outreach to the benefit of both the students and the communities of Connecticut. The UConn Environment Corps (“E-Corps”), funded by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, is designed to get students real world experience in tackling some of today’s most thorny environmental problems as they conduct projects in partnership with town and cities across the state. The project involves an impressive coalition within UConn that includes four schools/colleges, five academic departments, four University centers, and the Provost’s Office.
E-Corps is an outgrowth of the success of the Climate Corps, a three-year pilot project that began in 2016 and is focused on the local impacts of, and responses to, climate change. The Climate Corps is taught by a team of two Extension educators, Juliana Barrett from the Connecticut Sea Grant College Program and Bruce Hyde from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). With the Climate Corps, Juliana, Bruce and the extended project team pioneered the E-Corps approach, that combines a semester of interactive classroom work with a second semester of independent study where student teams work on projects designed to assist Connecticut communities.
The Climate Corps was joined by the Brownfield Corps in 2018, developed and taught by Maria Chrysochoou and Nefeli Bompoti of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). The Brownfields Corps is a key part of the new Connecticut Brownfields Initiative, also led by CEE. Then, with the spring semester of 2020 came the debut of the Stormwater Corps, taught by Extension educators Mike Dietz, Dave Dickson and Chet Arnold from CLEAR. The success of all three courses depends heavily on the relationships built between these faculty members and the communities of Connecticut, enabling the development of student projects that bring real value to the towns and cities partnering with UConn.
The NSF grant has resulted in the expansion of the original team to include other players at UConn. Experts from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) now assist the course instructors on teaching techniques, and researchers from the Neag School of Education are conducting studies on the impact of the E-Corps model on students, faculty, communities, and the University itself. With 244 students and 53 community projects to date, there is already evidence that the project is having impact. In the case of students, the impact may be broader than the team originally conceived. E-Corps was originally designed to target students majoring in Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Engineering, but has already attracted students from 15 other majors, including both STEM (e.g., Biological Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering) and non-STEM (e.g., Economics, English, Political Science, Urban and Community Studies) fields.
One goal of the overall project is to extend the reach of the E-Corps model by making it adaptable to other disciplines at UConn, and eventually to peers at other universities. Much of this will depend upon the team’s ability to fashion a faculty and student support system at UConn that can ensure the sustainability of the model beyond the end of the grant. So, stay tuned!
Article by Chet Arnold
Committed to a Sustainable Future
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transformative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programming moved to virtual environments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.
One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food insecurity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.
UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food insecurity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.
Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.
The human, environmental, and agricultural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.
Read the report at s.uconn.edu/extensionhighlights.
UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.
Connecting Generations for Conservation
The Cheshire Land Trust’s largest conservation property, Ives Farm, is a working 164-acre farm along the Quinnipiac River that includes picturesque public hiking trails through 80 acres of woodlands with mature stands of oak, mixed hardwoods, and old field cedars. In recent years, the trails became overgrown, impassable in spots and largely unused.
A Cheshire Land Trust volunteer sought to restore the trails and enlisted the help of a Lyman Hall High School student to get it done. Together they organized trail stewardship days to clear and clean the trails, used smartphones and a 360-degree camera to map them, and created an interactive website to educate the public about the trails and encourage their use. The property is now one of the land trust’s most popular for recreational use and education about the value of conservation.
This is just one of over 64 local conservation projects that have been undertaken throughout the state by intergenerational (adult plus teen) teams in the Conservation Training Partnerships (CTP) Program, a multi-departmental and multi-college effort at UConn that is funded by the National Science Foundation. Extension educators from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research’s (CLEAR) Geospatial Training Program collaborate with faculty from the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and the Neag School of Education to create a unique intergenerational learning experience with innovative technology and conservation science to enhance community engagement in environmental issues.
Through the CTP, enthusiastic teens and knowledgeable local conservation leaders team up to form intergenerational teams, attend a two day workshop to build their skills, and then apply these skills to address local environmental issues. Many of the tools that the teams learn to use in the course of the workshop are free and accessible smartphone applications that marry mapping and ecological field data collection, the operation of which are taught by Extension’s Cary Chadwick and Dave Dickson.
The teams then plan and implement a local conservation project, with the guidance and help of project faculty from NRE, Extension and Neag. Issues addressed include water quality, recreational access, invasive species identification and removal, and biodiversity.
Within these broad categories, local projects have spanned a wide range including stream sampling, green infrastructure, grazing management plans, interpretive nature trails, wildlife monitoring, and more.
The program is truly one with multiple benefits. Local organizations and leaders get help in completing long-delayed “someday” projects, both participants learn about smartphone mapping tools and other technologies, and youth become more engaged in conservation science and action. “It is so inspiring to see local conservation leaders share their passion for the environment with the next generation of leaders and to see teens share their enthusiasm and technological skills to solve local challenges,” says Geospatial Extension Educator Chadwick.
John Volin, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, NRE Professor and the Principal Investigator of the project, says, “It’s gratifying to think about all the local conservation projects we’ve jump-started throughout the state.”
Article by David Dickson
Extension is a part of UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR). We have over 100 years of experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Our educational specialists are ready to work with you and your community.
Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics aligned to the CAHNR strategic initiatives:
• Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
• Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
• Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate
• Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state (see map). The “by the Numbers 2019” highlights some of our key impacts from these initiatives.
UConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time.
We are still delivering the science-based information you need. We are ready to answer your questions. Consult with us by email or on the phone. All of our educators are working and ready to serve you. Ask us a question online.
We are developing virtual programs to offset canceled in-person learning opportunities. Our educators are writing and updating fact sheets and other information. You have access to educational materials on our YouTube channel. We are growing our suite of online resources every day to meet the needs of our communities and stakeholders.
Resources for all audiences includes:
- Food safety and cooking
- Hand washing and sanitizers
- Infection prevention
- Financial advice
- Listings of open farms/farmers’ markets and school emergency meal distribution
Parents and families with children out of school can use the resources from our UConn 4-H program to provide new educational activities for youth. Activities available will keep youth engaged and learning and are appropriate for a variety of age groups.
A list of resources has been collected for Connecticut businesses. It is a clearinghouse of resources, and not an official site. Business owners can connect to the state resources we provide for official and legal advice.
Agricultural producers are still working on farms, in greenhouses and along the coast in Long Island Sound during the COVID-19 outbreak. Extension educators have developed resources for specific agricultural sectors, including fruit and vegetable farms, aquaculture, and nursery and landscape professionals. Links to important updates from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture also are available.
Our Extension educators are updating and adding resources regularly. Please visit http://bit.ly/COVID-19-Extension.
We are also ready to answer your other questions, including:
- How do I get my water tested?
- What is wrong with my plant?
- Can I eat healthy on a budget?
- How does my son/daughter join 4-H?
UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:
- Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
- Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
- Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
- Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
We are here. We are ready to serve you.
Congratulations Vicki Wallace! Vicki, one of our Extension educators, was honored with the Dr. William H. Daniel Award at the STMA – Sports Turf Managers Association 2020 Conference. This prestigious award recognizes educators who have made significant contribution to the sports turf industry through research, teaching, or extension outreach.