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From Trash To Treasure: North Country High School Students Clean Clyde Pond Campsites

Charlotte Albright
Students from North Country Academy kayak across Clyde Pond to refurbish campsites on an island.

Two campsites on Clyde Pond in Newport are ready for the summer, thanks to cleanup crews from an alternative education program at North Country High School. It's called North Country Academy; these students don’t thrive in traditional academic settings, but over the past few months they’ve enjoyed kayaking to a rustic worksite.

The sun breaks through clouds early in the morning as eight teenagers drag kayaks to the shoreline of Clyde Pond. Only a short drive from Interstate 91, this is a surprisingly pristine spot on the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail. But the trail’s regional field coordinator Jack Powell says it used to be a hideous party pit.

“There was a lot of trash around. There [were] dead animals, car seats, luggage – I think we got 25 tires we pulled from around the area. The whole site was a mess,” Powell recalls.

Christian Poulin, almost 15, says he hopes future campers will see all this work and stop trashing the place. “Because it just shows people that we care, and that we’re not doing this just for our benefit, we’re doing it for other people,” he explains.

The student cleanup crew is also restoring a second campsite on an island in the middle of the pond.

“Get yourself a life jacket and stuff like that,” Andrew Bouchard calls out.

He’s the special education teacher leading this project with support from the Vermont Community Foundation, and Great Bay Hydro, which owns the land.

Credit Charlotte Albright / VPR
North Country Academy students prepare to kayak to their work site on an island in Clyde Pond. They have removed 800 pounds of trash, including tires, car seats, and a recliner as they clean up campsites for their community.

Bouchard paddles a canoe, surrounded by his students in brightly colored kayaks. Across the water, there are a few final jobs to do.

"Yeah I was going to have maybe a couple of them work on that little trail thing,” he says, as he drags his canoe onshore.

A few workers build a rustic, cedar privacy fence for a new composting privy. Others gather wood for a fire. Still others write in their nature journals.

Ryan Lahue picks up a pencil and starts his poem. “The smell of the pine reminds me of home, as a little kid running around in the woods feeling freedom to the open woods where we all gather, many trees that stand tall and still,” he reads from a black and white composition book.  

This is a pencil-and-paper kind of place. No cell phones in sight.

Observing quietly from a stand of trees, Andrew Bouchard hopes his students are making lifetime memories in these woods.

Credit Charlotte Albright / VPR
Teenagers and teachers who have been rebuilding campsites on Clyde Pond, on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, pose for a group photo after finishing their chores on an island. After removing garbage and debris, they made a composting privy, a stone fire pit, a trail and signs for campers.

“To be able to point to something for the rest of their lives and be like, ‘Oh over there, when I was in high school we did this campsite thing,’” he says.

He likes the way they’ve become stewards of the nearly hidden place they have greatly improved.

Credit Charlotte Albright / VPR
Students from North Country Academy take a cold dip in Clyde Pond after finishing chores at an island campsite they named "Hidden Leaf."

Kids finish their work and a few hardy souls jump in the frigid water, then scramble up the muddy bank to a blazing fire for s’mores.

That’s where they get heartfelt thanks from Jack Powell, on behalf of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

“This place looks so much better. The privy looks awesome. The sign and box look great. Compared to what this place was, you guys have done an amazing job and I hope you are enjoying the reward right now,” he tells them before he takes a group photo.

The only down side some of the campsite workers see to finishing their final chores is that they have to head back across the pond to school for study hall.  

But they say they’ll be back to have fun this summer.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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