WINDHAM — An avid hunter and fisherman, Windham High School sophomore Aaron LeClair said he jumped when the opportunity arose to work outdoors this summer.
“It sure beats working in retail,” he said Monday morning as he used a rake to spread gravel in front of Gail Souza’s lakeside home.
LeClair is one of several local high school students who have been hired this summer to work with the Lake Conservation Corps, a program sponsored by the New Hampshire Lakes Association aimed at reducing storm-water runoff and improving water quality in Granite State lakes and ponds.
The teens are working closely with supervisor Karalyn Gauvin, a Windham High School science teacher, as well as property owners around Canobie Lake to build drainage ditches, add rain barrels to gutters and stencil labels on existing storm drains.
Program coordinator Robie Parsons, who spoke with members of the Canobie Lake Protection Association during their annual meeting at the Searles Chapel on Saturday, said 80 percent of the water quality problems that can arise in local lakes stems from storm-water runoff.
At Canobie Lake, which serves as the public water source for the town of Salem, maintaining water quality is of particular importance and while property owners have the right to refuse program services, no one at Canobie Lake objected to the organization’s plans.
“As it turns out, storm-water pollution is a way bigger problem than invasive species,” Parsons said.
Officials from the Conservation Corps program approached Canobie Lake residents last fall, where they were warmly welcomed. From there, several properties that have had issues with drainage were identified.
Work on the summer projects began July 15.
At Souza’s home, a new system was designed to prevent rainy-day runoff from pouring down the hill from the street and making its way into the lake.
Once the summer projects are completed, Parsons said, she’ll be working closely with Salem and Windham town officials to make sure storm drains are regularly maintained and residents are kept aware of potential problems.
“Most of the people we hire are high school kids who’ve never done this sort of thing before,” Parsons said, noting that this year’s crew “is very professional.”
“They’re just great kids,” Souza added.
Windham and Salem are among the 14 or so New Hampshire communities receiving services from the Conservation Corps this summer, with project funding coming mostly from a state Department of Environmental Services grant.
Gauvin said the local teens she’s overseeing this summer come from a variety of backgrounds, with some hoping to work in the environmental science field one day and others who are simply happy to have an interesting summer job.
“They’re all having fun and at the same time, they’re preventing sediment from going into the lake,” she said. “It’s been very interesting seeing them learn along the way.”
For junior Awais Hussain, the job was the perfect opportunity to earn money to purchase some new football gear, while recent graduate Matt Carbonello, who will study exercise physiology in college this fall, said he was relieved “to not be working in retail” this summer.
Junior Chris Munroe said he especially enjoys the fact that no two workdays are alike.“It’s something different, and we’re not stuck in the same routine each day,” he said.
Soon-to-be college freshman Andrew Kalil, a biology major with his sights set on dental school, said it was important for him to work toward a worthy cause this summer.“But being outside all day doesn’t hurt either,” he said.