Earth Day cleanup at Woodcock

Participants in this year’s Where the Wild Things Run 5K foot race on Sunday, May 5, will cover almost all of the 3.1 miles on trails at Woodcock Nature Center.

What had previously been a hybrid road-trail race is going native, thanks in large part to volunteers from GE Capital Real Estate in Norwalk who signed up for a day of trail rehabilitation on Monday, April 22, which was Earth Day.

“This is the second year we have come to Woodcock Nature Center,” said James Luton, manager of citizenship at GE Capital Real Estate.

The company focuses its philanthropy in three areas: building communities, helping disadvantaged families, and education. With its educational program that reaches thousands of schoolchildren, the nature center fit the company’s criteria.

“This is a great natural resource,” Mr. Luton said. He explained that the company reached out to Woodcock a few months ago and Henryk Teraszkiewicz, Woodcock’s director, suggested work on transforming hiking trails into running trails and bridging an eight-foot creek with a 12-foot boardwalk.

Working in two shifts — morning and afternoon — 45 GE volunteers worked on clearing trails and laying woodchips and building the components for the bridge which they also laid. The woodchips were donated by Wilton arborist Prahl Halfdan and GE gave Woodcock a grant for some of the other materials.

The volunteers also used tree limbs that came down in storms over the past two years as supports and edging for the trails.

In doing this work, the volunteers opened a new “purple” trail, bringing Woodcock’s trail total to about 4.5 miles.

GE Capital Real Estate gives away $1 million globally each year, Mr. Luton said, in the form of corporate grants, United Way fund-raising, and matching 1:1 charitable donations made by employees.

Organizing the volunteer contingent for GE was Debbie Eisenstein, the company’s diversity leader. Workers came from the company’s Norwalk and New York City offices.

Many of the company’s volunteer events take place indoors, like tutoring, she said, but the opportunity to be outdoors at Woodcock was very appealing.

Long-lasting effects

Mr. Teraszkiewicz said the effects of the volunteers’ work will be felt long after next month’s race.

“The feedback we got from people is they love the trail part of the race,” he said, “and that goes more in line with increasing exposure to nature.

“We said, ‘Let’s get to work on them and bring it to fruition.’ … This will increase usage of the trails and the bridge will make them safer. It will also bring awareness to our trails,” he said.

“Some of our trails are unlike others; there’s an upper hardwood forest and wetlands. … I want everyone to know it’s available every day from dawn to dusk.”

One of the areas being opened up by the work is home to a stand of American elm trees, once a common tree in this country — hence the name Elm Street in so many towns — until they were decimated by Dutch elm disease.

Those racing, jogging or walking in the Where the Wild Things Run 5K will experience the nature center’s biodiversity by running in a figure eight on Woodcock property. There is also a 1K Kids Fun Run appropriate for all ages.

Registration will take place from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., with the fun run beginning at 8:30 and the 5K at 9.

Registration before May 3 for the 5K is $25 for participants 14 and older, $30 the day of the race. For those 13 and under, the entry fee is $15. T-shirts will be given to the first 200 participants.

The entry fee for the fun run is $10.

A map of the 5K route is online at; click on Events.

Advance registration is available online.