In this edition of In The Spotlight, Travis Lyle, Land Steward, and one of the Conservancy’s newest team members, answers questions about a day on the job, where we might find him on the weekend, and more.
Where did your passion to work to save nature begin?
I feel like I’ve spent most of my life outside – from working many years in the construction field and landscaping, to hiking, camping and relaxing by the firepit on my free time. Growing up in Wrightsville, the river and the surrounding landscape have an influence on you. I’ve always felt drawn to help my little corner of the earth and really didn’t know quite how to make much of an impact until I started volunteering with the Lancaster Conservancy a few years ago pulling storm debris from one of my longtime favorite hiking spots, Otter Creek.
In one or two sentences could you sum up what you do for the Conservancy?
As a Land Steward, I am responsible for routine maintenance like mowing, brushing, cutting downed trees off of trails, hazard tree felling, some boundary marking, sign and kiosk installing, trash clean up, new trails and projects implementation, planting, erosion control measures and general trail improvements. I help to maintain our parking areas, facilities, hand tools and equipment, as well as monitor our protected acres for signs of illegal uses like trash dumping and poaching. Like everyone here at the Conservancy, I stay very busy and wear many hats throughout the week to keep us moving forward in our mission any way I can.
What is your favorite part of your job day to day?
My favorite part of the job is that after hiking five miles through a preserve with my chainsaw and gear to cut downed trees off of trails to open them up again, I am stopped and thanked multiple times by passing visitors who tell me how much they appreciate what I do to keep the trail open and what we do as an organization to protect these spaces for everyone. It happens all the time and it never gets old.
Which is your favorite preserve, and why?
Hellam Hills is my favorite if I have to pick just one. It is my local hometown ridge that I grew up with and to know that it is not only protected now but that I get to help steward this land and the river that it is connected to is an awesome feeling. Plus it has a great variety of tree species, some small creeks, and an amazing overlook.
Can you tell us a brief story about a funny or crazy thing you’ve ever come across while caring for our preserves?
While caring for our preserves I have come across turtles, frogs and toads, a variety of snakes, birds, butterflies, deer, foxes, flying squirrels, and many unique specimens of different plant and tree species. I’ve been chased by ground dwelling bees after accidentally disturbing their nests, multiple times. I’ve met visitors young and old from all walks of life. In all the miles I cover on the trails, I never know what I’ll encounter from day to day – and I love it.
As far as environmental issues, either locally or globally, what concerns you the most? What gives you hope?
The development of our last few remaining natural green spaces from forest to residential and commercial areas is my main concern. We need these areas now for recreation and reconnection to nature and the filtering of toxins they provide for our air and water. More importantly, the future generations are counting on us in the present to protect these areas for them before they are gone. What gives me hope is the work we do acquiring and stewarding these lands with help from all of our partners in the community.
It’s your day off – what will we find you doing?
Right now, it is sledding and playing in the snow with my daughter. Most of my time is usually spent with family – going camping, working on our house, and practicing martial arts. I do also find myself enjoying time off just hiking through our preserves and in general spending time outdoors.