The Skirack, Inc family at the Intervale Center and Conservation Nursery. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
The Skirack, Inc family at the Intervale Center and Conservation Nursery. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
The groups split up into volunteer activities. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
The groups split up into volunteer activities. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

The Skirack, Inc family recently came together for our First Annual Company-Wide Community Service Day; including Skirack and our two other store locations: Patagonia Burlington (est. 2011) on College Street, and Vermont Trailwear (est. 2017) in Waterbury Center. All three locations closed their doors for the day - allowing everyone to take a step back, give back, and have some fun. What a great way to celebrate Skirack’s first 50 years together and give the Intervale Center some love!

Within Skirack’s 50th year committee established earlier this year, several ideas came up as to what a staff “field day” would look like. Do we just volunteer? Do we just play all day? What’s important to us as a company? We recently updated our updated mission statement: “to inspire our community to pursue a lifetime of outdoor activity and environmental stewardship.” In this, the answer became clear; to harness a symbiotic relationship with playing in the outdoors while caring for the environment. The service day also fell on a day during Global Climate Week, which further solidified the importance of our mission.

With Skirack, Inc’s long-standing relationship, past Patagonia Burlington service days, and close proximity to our locations in Burlington, it didn’t take long for us to decide on the Intervale Center and Conservation Nursery as our destination. We are very fortunate to have both organizations in our community and are able to partner with them as much as we do. So much so that Skirack and Patagonia Burlington have assisted the Intervale Center and Conservation Nursery in successfully applying for Patagonia’s environmental grant program. The grants, in conjunction with Skirack, Inc's local donations have amounted to $50,000 thus far.

The trail building group works together to clear brush, branches, roots, and barbed wire. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
The trail building group works together to clear brush, branches, roots, and barbed wire. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

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The morning of our Company-Wide Community Service Day started off with a bang - about a third of the staff met at Skirack at 7:30 in the morning and biked to the Intervale Center. We stayed together on the ride and arrived just in time for a breakfast of bagels, coffee, and a warm welcome by co-owner John George-Wheeler and the Intervale’s Sara Armstrong-Donega.

With our large group size, we split into three groups and spent the morning volunteering: planting trees, trail building, or gleaning and clearing the vegetable gardens. When the volunteer options were announced, I immediately signed up for trail building, the area that interested me the most. As an avid hiker and mountain biker, I use the trails year round and very frequently. I am constantly amazed by the work and quality of the trails in Vermont and feel very fortunate that the majority are free for public use. I hate to admit that I have never volunteered to work on the trails before. Our community service day was the perfect opportunity to “get my feet wet” and inspire me to seek out other volunteer opportunities afterward.

The goal of trail building was to re-route the current trail away from the Winooski River in order to prevent further erosion and re-connect it with another trail. There were several tasks to focus on and tools to select from; we used hand saws to cut large branches, cleared brush with rakes, and removed roots and barbed wire in the ground using pruning shears.

Gabby and Noah glean raised beds of jalapeno peppers. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Gabby and Noah glean raised beds of jalapeno peppers. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

There was not a lot of it, but trash was noticeable and a pile was created to pack out. This sparked a conversation about what was under our feet a few decades ago - mainly farmland up until 1944 when a municipal dump opened and operated through the 1970s*. As you wander through the vast 700 acre property, you will see remnants with several old junk car frames or rusted out empty barrels, taken over by trees and weeds. It’s hard to imagine this area as a junkyard, but makes you appreciate how far the land has come since 1986 and the 20 years of hard work by the Intervale and members of our community.

After a few hours of working together, what started off looking like a jungle became a clear trail! It was so rewarding to complete our task with something others can enjoy. The final touches of trail building included packing the dirt down using shovels, hammering in round trail guide signs on some trees and a final measurement - giving us a distance of over 600 feet. Within a few minutes of finishing, we even had our first trail visitor who was walking their German Shepard.

Checking in with the other two groups we learned that 41 trees were planted and 400 serviced by tamping down the grasses around them and removing any vines. The trees line the Winooski River to build up the Riparian Buffer - which helps prevent erosion and maintains water quality. Our gleaning group successfully harvested 370 lbs of watermelons and 850 lbs of apples! “Gleaning” is the process of harvesting leftover fruits and vegetables from farms that cannot be sold and would otherwise rot. Anything that was gleaned by our group, went to the Winooski Food Shelf.

Ned from Vermont Trailwear and Duncan from the Intervale Center work on planting trees along the Riparian Buffer. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.
Ned from Vermont Trailwear and Duncan from the Intervale Center work on planting trees along the Riparian Buffer. Photo Credit: Zach Walbridge.

At 12:30, we gathered for lunch, played lawn sports and soccer, and relaxed in the sun. About 15 of us went on a group bike ride (plus one trail runner) and were able to try out our new trail - what a great way to end our day!

The next day, I wasn’t the only one who came to work feeling tired, but a good kind of tired, like how you feel after a day of skiing powder. I noticed my colleagues grinning most of the day and looking relaxed. We joked about our sore legs and swapped funny stories of our volunteer activity, bragging to each other about what our groups accomplished.


For information on volunteers opportunities visit the Intervale Center and Conservation Nursery websites

* Reference, Intervale Center History