Over the next week we will honor the Proctor Woodlands through a series of activities, videos, hikes, live classes, and messages from members of the Proctor community. Kicking off with today’s global celebration of Earth Day and culminating on Proctor’s celebration of Earth Day on April 29, this weeklong Woodlands Challenge will celebrate our connection to land, while generating support for a new educational center that will serve as a gateway to Proctor’s 2,500 acres of land.
As we step into this week of celebrating and connecting with the Proctor Woodlands, we acknowledge that we are merely the current stewards of this land. Just as the Abenaki were the original stewards of the mountains, streams, ponds, and foothills of Andover, we now carry that mantle, and do so with considerable intentionality. Developing active land management plans, encouraging public access to trail networks, and allowing hunting in select areas of Proctor’s Woodlands ensures this notion of stewardship, the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to someone’s care, sits at the core of each decision we make around this remarkable resource.
The land Proctor stewards stretches from the top of the Proctor Ski Area across the Blackwater River valley up the southern slopes of Ragged Mountain and beyond to Hopkins Pond and Elbow Pond to the east. The ever-growing network of trails connect the likes of Balanced Rock, the swinging bridge, Proctor Cabin, Mud Pond shelter, while countless old wolf pines and broken down stone walls remind us of the farms that speckled these acres in generations past. The land has served as the ultimate classroom for Proctor students for generations; its biodiversity a perfect laboratory for the natural sciences, its serenity a retreat for the humanities, its terrain a mountain biker's dream.
Trustee, past parent, and former Mountain Classroom instructor Tim Miner P’09 offered these wise words to our community about the powerful centering that only nature can provide:
Most of us spend far more time indoors than out. The problem for me is this: I cannot remember a single indoor moment of my life when I have felt gobsmacked by a realization of my place in the universe. Yes, I have many times sat reading in a comfortable chair and been engaged in intellectual curiosity regarding life as I know it. But here’s the thing: I know with certainty that the same book read around a campfire, on a hilltop, or beside a river would transport me emotionally and spiritually to the far reaches of my known universe - and beyond; an experience I referred to as being gobsmacked.
And those spirit-forming moments have come to me even more powerfully when I was just sitting wrapped in the hugeness and intimacy of solitude - on a hill, in a canyon, or beside a fire. I have collected a boatload of data that suggest that many of us, if not most, have felt that same awesome power in encountering the universe outside the walls we have built to separate us from all that. We humans are inspired and transported to better places - and are healed - by time spent beyond our walls.
Since Proctor’s earliest years, the school has fostered a deep commitment to providing students access to and meaningful engagement with the land. Whether it was Roland Burbank launching the Cabin Club in the early 1930s and Outing Clubs throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Bob Wilson pioneering a woodland management plan and trail construction throughout the 1960s and 1970s, David Pilla serving as the school’s first Woodlands Manager for four decades from the 1980s through the 2010s, or current Woodlands Manager Laura Ostrowsky working alongside science department colleagues Alan McIntyre, Lynne Bartlett, and others to get students into the woodlands, we believe we have an institutional responsibility to teach our students to become stewards of the land they call home.
Over the course of the next week, we hope you will join us in celebrating our ongoing stewardship of the Proctor Woodlands and the exciting upcoming construction of a new educational building that will host two classrooms, wet lab space, and serve as an educational gateway to all that Proctor's Woodlands have to offer. Each day will offer a variety of different engagement opportunities. Hop in when and where you can, support the new Woodlands Center project, and, most importantly, take time to appreciate the gift that is the natural world surrounding you, wherever that may be.