The original one hundred acres has grown to nearly 5,800 acres of protected land. None of this would be possible without the help of thousands of people over the last ten decades who all loved Steep Rock and I am honored to be an integral part of stewarding the land that we all love. – Merlin Ennis, Trails and Preserves Manager
It has been a year since I joined the Steep Rock Team as the Trails and Preserve Manager. As I took time to think about my first year at Steep Rock, I realized just how great it has been. It has been a year of learning, growth, trial and error, and a year in which climate change has truly started playing out in real time. But most importantly, it has been a year of protecting what I love.
Building, maintaining, and improving trails, managing habitats and invasive species, and everything else included in land management of Steep Rock’s properties has been a profoundly rewarding experience. Protecting what I love here at Steep Rock is a joint effort and Steep Rock would not be what it is without the members of our community. The hundreds of donors who support Steep Rock financially, the dozens of dedicated volunteers who help maintain and improve trails, grow food for those in need in Judea Garden, help in community science initiatives, and/or serve on committees and the board truly make Steep Rock the amazing place that it is today. It is obvious to me that everyone who is connected with Steep Rock loves Steep Rock. Simply said, there is something truly special about this place that makes it worth protecting.
I have always been acutely aware of the importance of natural spaces. Even before I joined the Steep Rock team, natural spaces have been an important part of my life. I grew up on two acres of land that was developed when my great grandfather sold his 220-acre dairy farm. The farm was subdivided into 185 properties and my grandparents decided to build a house for themselves on one of the properties. My house also abuts four hundred acres of mature forest with a system of trails open to the public for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, known as Ethel Walker Woods. I spent much of my childhood out in those woods playing in streams, hiking, and exploring. When I was 6 or 7, Ethel Walker School, who owned the parcel of land, was looking to sell. Suddenly the woods that the people in my town enjoyed were under threat of development. Luckily, members of our community started a grassroots movement called “Keep the Woods” which worked tirelessly with the town, the state, the Trust for Public Land, and other organizations to purchase and preserve the woods. The Ethel Walker Woods are now protected indefinitely as open space. I am grateful to this day I can continue to enjoy this natural space that I grew up exploring. Contrasting examples of development and protection gave me the passion to protect what I love as an adult.
With these early connections to land preservation pursuing a degree in Environmental Science was therefore a natural progression. I wanted to make a positive impact on our planet. A series of classes and internships throughout my time at college narrowed my focus and I found my niche. Stewarding and protecting the land that I love here in Connecticut. I am grateful that my yearlong job search led me to Steep Rock. When I first read the job description it felt like the position was specially created for me. Now, after a full year of working for Steep Rock, those feeling holds true. I am incredibly grateful for the foresight of Ehrick Rossiter who had the foresight and generosity to protect what he loved. For the last 99 years his vision has grown and spread throughout Washington, Connecticut, and beyond. The original one hundred acres has grown to nearly 5,800 acres of protected land. Basic trails are being upgraded to an ever-expanding network of sustainable trails and improved infrastructure. Steep Rock has been recognized throughout the state as being a leader in the world of land trusts. None of this would be possible without the help of thousands of people over the last ten decades who all loved Steep Rock and I am honored to be an integral part of stewarding the land that we all love.