Mansfield resident Lynne Warren recalled that she began working at the James Goodwin State Forest in Hampton so she could follow her passion.
While taking classes to become a Master Gardener, she volunteered at the forest to fulfill the community participation requirement of the program.
She enjoyed her time at the forest so much, she continued working with the Goodwin Conservation Education Center at the forest to help educate the public.
Those efforts recently helped make her a 2010 recipient of the state Department of Environmental Protection Green Circle Award, which recognizes people and groups that have helped the state’s efforts in protecting the environment.
Goodwin Forester and Program Director Steve Broderick said the award usually goes to businesses and nonprofits that have “significant accomplishments in conservation or energy savings.”
They made an exception for Warren.
“Lynne is an outstanding person and volunteer and greatly deserves the recognition,” Broderick said.
Warren led the planning and creation of the Friends of Goodwin Forest and is currently the president of that group, Broderick said.
Warren, who also works in the human resource department of a local business, said she has always felt “comfortable in the yard” and began studying to become a Master Gardener a few years ago.
“This is my hobby, this is my passion,” she said. She added that she recommends the Master Gardener program (coordinated through the UConn Extension Service) to anyone else who has a passion for gardening.
When she needed to commit to “outreach hours” as part of the program, she came to Goodwin Forest and quickly realized she wanted to continue working at the Conservation Education Center.
“It turned into something bigger for me because I love it,” she said.
Goodwin Forest is 2,000 acres of land that includes 14 miles of multi-purpose trails, three ponds and a nature museum as well as the Conservation Center.
The land was donated to the state by James L. Goodwin and it is managed jointly by the DEP and The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Inc.
Warren has been helping to design, install and maintain the Richard Haley Native Plant Wild-life Gardens. Broderick said Warren has spent more than 800 hours as a volunteer.
Warren said the focus of the Haley Gardens is to show residents how to use native plants that are “more habitat friendly” in their own gardens.
She said many local homeowners need to be educated about avoiding the use of “questionable species,” such as Burning Bush shrubs, which she said are invasive – they take over a local habitat and replace native plant species.
There are many plant species native to eastern Connecticut, such as ninebark and blueberry plants, that can be just as attractive while providing more benefits, Warren said.
“I think (people) are surprised at the varieties that are out there,” she said.
Warren said native plants that produce berries can also attract birds and other animals naturally and she added she does not need to have bird feeders in her yard.
At the same time, native plants provide more “ease of care” because they are naturally grown in local soils and can handle seasonal water cycles, she added.
Warren said the Haley Gardens allow area homeowners to see native plants in a “garden setting.”
Broderick said Warren’s efforts to start the Friends of the Goodwin Forest has helped the state forest operate while seeing its staff cut.
He said many people volunteer at the forest, but Warren “has stood out” since she started working with the state forest.
Posted Dec. 12, 2010