A Day and a Year in the Life of a Committee Chair

Ken LeeBy Kendrick Lee —

Joining a CCRC is a piece of work, approached by “newbies” in their own way. My wife and I came to Collington nine months ago, and started attending meetings of the so-called Operating committees, those that resembled shadow cabinets for the operating components of our community — buildings, grounds, finance, dining, health.

I had been working since early fall with Grounds, getting a grasp on the extent and condition of Collington’s woodlands heritage — seven copses of trees largely untended for the past 25 years — plus substantial surrounding woodlands through which Collington’s original plan called for over 2 miles of our on-campus hiking trails. The extent was wonderful, but their condition was not. Throughout, our trees had become heavily infested with vines that, of course, over-covered the trees’ natural canopy, blocking their access to sunlight. And some varieties play boa-constrictor, killing trees in part by blocking the flow of nutrients between canopy and roots. The size of the vines — some 5 inches in diameter — indicated that Collington has been concentrating its maintenance work on buildings, dining rooms, cottage up-grades, large HVAC systems, and rebuilding areas where winter caused pipes to burst. In sum, our woodlands heritage has for long been neglected, for more urgent matters that often affect quite large percentages of our residents and staff. Hard to argue with.

So the committee chair founded Weekend Weed Warriors. From early fall until mid-spring, for a couple of hours every Saturday, we took off after the vines. Wild grape. Bittersweet. Poison Ivy. We elected to cut vines to give respite to trees for the coming growing season, and worry about roots another year.

And then, our committee chair moved back to her Philadelphia environs. For reasons best known to her, she asked if I, clearly a newbie, would take over the full Committee as chair pro tem, until fall elections. My enthusiasm was matched, inversely as it happens, by my “knowledge” of plants, flowers, bushes, drainage, landscaping. So this tree-hugger took on a larger and more confronting workload, and needing a lot of help from various members who were actually naturalists. By the end of my temporary chairmanship, I felt I should pass along what I thought I had learned.

Our mission statement charges members to monitor the condition of grounds, trails, lake and pond. The Committee has begun more active monitoring of the condition of the fronts and backs of all unoccupied cottages, with emphasis on those where occupancy is impending, and the plantings areas have deteriorated. Marketing has been of significant assistance on this.

The Committee’s grant application to the Collington Foundation, if funded, will make truly visible changes to the parts of the campus that most people see most often. Most of the electrical boxes that dot the campus, and a good many of the so-called bunker drains, will be shrouded with low-maintenance shrubs and grasses.

Heeding warnings from our Health Center about possible Lyme disease, the Weekend Weed Warriors are on vacation, except for individual volunteers, since there is a healthy supply of ticks in the summer woodlands and high-grass areas where we work. Come fall, we will center on the seven copses of trees within the perimeter road, where people — and visitors — live, walk, drive, and observe.

Collington is now a Certified Wildlife Habitat, courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation. We will also continue maintenance of trails. All these areas provide habitat for small critters. At issue here is the care of our woodlands inheritance, as well as its inhabitants. We have a responsibility here.

Drainage problems resulting from our hilly surroundings are getting attention from the Administration, yet persist. Much has been done behind the 1000’s and 1100’s cottages, but more is needed. There is major run-off from the employees’ parking lot that tends to swamp the trails below the parking area with mud, making passage dicey for those with walkers and power chairs. Drainage here needs Administration attention.

We note the array of dumpsters and construction trailers at the back of the apartment parking lot. We note that this is ugly. We are recommending to the Administration that they put up some serious screening.

We note that the supply of persons concerned about Collington’s grounds is greater than the supply of persons able to get out and work at stuff. A resident offered to maintain some 20-odd Bluebird boxes, but she is essentially alone in an effort that could well use a half-dozen persons. Weed Warriors are down to six regulars. People monitoring the grounds generally are down to about three. Short of the articles of war and the king’s shilling, we have no immediate recommendations for functional recruiting.

An election of a regular chair was held June 11th. The Committee is once again in the hands of extraordinarily competent, dedicated, and knowledgeable naturalists, and I will go back to hugging my trees. It has been a good year, for all concerned.