Keeping up with Carlisle’s Trails Committee

by Anne Marie Brako

Members of the Trails Committee are (seated, left to right) Kevin C. Smith, Steve Tobin and Henry Cox, (standing) Marc Lamere, Louise Hara and George Fardy. MIssing from photo is Bert Willard.
(Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

Newcomers to town usually name “open space” as one of their top three reasons for moving to Carlisle, and for many, that translates to the myriad of trails around town. For these people, the Trails Committee may really represent one of their top reasons for moving to Carlisle. Staffed by a core of long-time and committed volunteers, the Trails Committee ensures that town residents can easily find and enjoy a walk in the woods.

The group maintains and improves the town’s network of public trails. After the October 2011 storm, for example, the Trails Committee scheduled three weekends of trail clean-up to ensure that residents could access the “town’s yard” of common trails.

“All of our work is done by volunteers,” said Chair Henry Cox, “both the committee and a pretty dedicated group of usual suspects. There is no paid staff.” Cox has served as a member of the committee for seven years. He personally enjoys going out on the trails with 11-year old daughter Erin, and in fact dates his involvement with the group back to when she was three and helped on her first project to build the Foss Farm boardwalk. Today he primarily uses trails on Foss Farm, Greenough and the O’Rourke properties.

One of the first volunteers to step forward, Steve Tobin, has been part of the committee since its origin in 1985. He did admit to perhaps having dropped off as a voting member for a couple years in 1991 due to “sleep deprivation” afforded by his own new daughter. He has chaired the committee for several years, and is the “go to” guy for questions about the group’s history. He likened asking about his favorite trail to asking someone which is their favorite child.

“When I walk on any trail I’m flooded with memories,” said Tobin, “Wildlife encounters, special weather conditions, fun times with my family, particular blow-downs that were difficult to clear, beautiful skiing days, new plants discovered, people I met at random, on work days, or when leading walks, construction projects, laying out and cutting new trails.” Pressed, he admitted he really likes Marion’s and Twin Peaks (recent trails he created), Stone Row and Castle Rock (that remind him of the White Mountains), and Estabrook (feeling Thoreau’s ghost).

Marc Lamere, a member since 2003 and currently vice-chair (as well as former chair) also serves on the Planning Board. Lamere said that serving on the Trails Committee can provide an opportunity to understand how town government works. Besides maintaining trails and leading public trail walks, the group holds meetings, researches topics, takes votes and makes decisions for the town. He noted that the committee also works with representatives from other towns. For example, the committee coordinates with Bedford concerning the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, with Acton regarding the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, and with Chelmsford concerning the Cranberry Bog.

In addition to publishing the trail guide and leading walks to encourage residents to explore Carlisle’s trail network, the Trails Committee created the Trekker Award in 2007. Participants keep a log as they hike a list of public trails (see on their own time schedules. (Full instructions are available at:

Lamere has been working on the Trekker Award, and finds his favorite trail ends up being whatever he walks. However, he added that he particularly enjoys the eastern border of the red pine forest of the Pines Loop Trail on the Greenough Land. He recalls the tall, majestic pines lining both sides of the trail forming a straight corridor to pass through. “It always brings a smile to my face no matter the season or weather.”

Member Louise Hara moved to town in 1993, and also immediately began participating in trail work. She started attending meetings as a non-voting member, and then joined, and alternated as chair with Steve Tobin every two years until she became Planning Board Chair. She also had trouble naming a favorite trail, and added, “Each has a magical place that is unique. We are so fortunate to have them.”

Bert Willard, recording secretary since 2006, first became seriously involved with the committee as a volunteer with the project to build the Tobin Bridge in 1998 on the O’Rourke land. He uses the Rockstrom Trail often, as it is near his home, but also enjoys the Towle Woods.

Kevin C. Smith joined in 2006, and just completed his two-year stint as chair. He expressed a “special fondness for the Otter Slide Trail” and said it reminds him of his childhood.

Asked to name his favorite trail, member George Fardy said he really likes walking the Conant Land, due to its diversity: the combination of low flat land, high hills, wetlands and huge rocks. He has worked on just about all of the trails in town. He frequently has a dog or two along on hikes.

Grants fund trail work

The Trails Committee received a $15,000 Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant last year for spending over the next five years. This was the second CPA grant received by the group (the first in 2005), and the sum covers materials such as wood and nails as well as operational costs such as fees and mailing costs. The committee members—many of whom currently serve and have served on key town boards—are connected and active in many organizations. As such, the Trails Committee has successfully applied for grants with the other state organizations, including the Sudbury and Assabet River Stewardship Council and the Fields and Pond Association. Grants are usually highly restricted, however, so the Trails in Carlisle guide book produced by the committee provides some additional income above its costs to cover expenses such as tools and lunch to fuel the volunteer workforce. You can purchase the trails guide book for $10 from any committee member, at Town Hall or Ferns.

Looking down the road

“Mostly we look for a handful of manageable projects that would help to make popular locations more usable, more accessible, or both,” said Cox when asked about future goals. The committee is looking at trails on new conservation land, as well as those that can link up parcels or neighborhoods such as the Greystone Crossing and Hanover Hill developments.

In the case of Chestnut Estates, Lamere explained that a conservation parcel was given to the town when the development was created. It abuts the Mannis Conservation Land off Aldershot Lane. He said, “Anthony Perugini, a scout, has created a nice trail off of the Rangeway Trail in Chestnut Estates as an Eagle Scout project and the Trails Committee expects to continue that trail onto the Mannis Land to form a large loop trail. Another nice piece of conservation land, that was once land-locked, will then be accessible to the town.”

Cox also listed “some gleam-in-the-eye projects,” including:

• To extend the bridge which leads across a stream near the Foss Farm parking lot toward the East Meadow, but ends short of dry ground. According to Tobin, the bridge was constructed as a Boy Scout project many years ago. He says, “It would be nice to build a boardwalk across the wetland to the “South Field Loop” which would also give access to the fishing area on the river, and to Skelton Road. We’ve tried to figure out how to do this many times in the past, and we’re thinking about it again this year. The wetland is too soupy to support our usual concrete parking bumper design, and using helical piers, like we did for the Benfield platform, is extremely expensive.”

• To build a new bridge between Spalding Field and the Banta-Davis Land.

• To find a way across the town land at the end of Baldwin Road, leading up to the Rockstrom Trail.

• To one day create a wildlife viewing platform on the future Elliott Preserve property.

One pressing goal according to Cox is to think of ways “to get more people, especially more kids, out.” The recent moonlight hike around the Cranberry Bog supported that aim. Another favorite for town youth is held on Old Home Day—the Double Sunday Saunter featuring ice cream stops at both ends of the hike, at Kimball’s and Great Brook Farm State Park.

There is a new trail that members Cox, Tobin, Hara, Lamere and Willard all mentioned that has emerged as a favorite: The River Trail. If you have not been there yet, add it to your list. The River Trail might become another reason people come to Carlisle. At least, to those relying on kayaks for transportation—currently it is the only public trail in town accessible by boat. ∆