Connecting with Nature, Together
Amy McIntyre, Bill Stroup, and their two children, Daniel and Nora, have been helping salamanders and frogs cross the road for years. They started volunteering for the Salamander Crossing Brigades in 2014 and have participated every year since.
Amy recalled that when Daniel was two or three years old, he wasn’t particularly interested in trucks or things with wheels; he preferred to play with his collection of small animal figures. It was Daniel who first prompted the family to get involved with the popular citizen science program that helps frogs and salamanders safely across roads during their spring breeding migration. The whole family quickly got on board.
Nora, now in eleventh grade, said:
“What I love about the Salamander Crossing Brigades is how beautiful all the creatures we see are, like the smiling faces of the salamanders. You feel like you’re making some kind of difference by helping them. It just feels really good — sort of magical.”
A Longtime Love of the Outdoors
Bill and Amy both grew up in Michigan and moved to New Hampshire to study at UNH; Bill was getting his PhD in English, Amy her master’s in Counseling. Both of them were “happy to stay in the state we’d fallen in love with,” said Bill. In 2000, the couple moved to Keene, where Bill teaches English at Keene State College and Amy is the Managing Director of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.
One of the ways the couple began exploring their new state was by hiking. They had always felt connected to nature, so when children came into the picture, that bond only grew.
“The connection to nature and place is extremely important in a child’s development,” Amy reflected.
Consequently, they’ve spent many happy hours at Stonewall Farm, hiking Mount Monadnock, and visiting the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. The family likes to be outdoors as much as possible throughout the year, whether at the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve, Goose Pond, Spofford Lake, or Harris Center programs. Bill said,
“The Harris Center has a lot of gifted teachers, like Jenna and Brett. It’s great to learn about nature together with them.”
A Springtime Tradition
The Salamander Crossing Brigades has become a favorite early spring tradition for the family. “Mud season” has taken on a whole new meaning for them. Bill said,
“When we first did it, it made me wonder what we’d been doing every spring before that! It comes at a time when the weather is wet and kind of cold—not the kind of weather that typically draws us outside. But the Salamander Brigades are a delightful way to turn that upside down—to see some creatures and help them cross the road.”
In recent years, the Harris Center has worked closely with the City of Keene to implement temporary road closures at amphibian crossing hotstpots on prime migration nights. The closures provide safe passage for the amphibians while giving families with young children an opportunity to experience a “crossing” without worrying about cars. Bill said:
“I’ve appreciated the Harris Center taking the lead on Keene road closures. I had a proud parent moment when Nora spoke in favor of the closures at a City Council subcommittee meeting. I love the community involvement.”
Amy added, “I’m really glad Daniel encouraged us to do this. It’s amazing to interact with these creatures! We really can’t do that at any other time; they’re pretty reclusive.”
Daniel, now in the eighth grade, summed it up:
“The first night when I saw salamanders was really neat, and I got completely into it. It was the first time I really connected with nature that way, and that’s why I’m still doing it.”
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.