Friday, August 15, 2003
Big changes are coming to Great Meadows
The rules governing use of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge will soon be changing, because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is finalizing a 15-year Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the refuge. Carlisle's portion of the refuge includes land along the Concord River and the 126-acre O'Rourke Farm off Maple Street. It's important that we learn about the proposal and make our concerns known before the deadline for public comments on September 3. A copy of the plan is available at the library, the Conservation Commission office at Town Hall, or online at http://northeast.fws.gov/planning.
Briefly, the plan includes three alternatives: Option B is the official choice and was heavily favored by members of the public that spoke at the informational open house held in Maynard on July 31. Option C is a lower-cost alternative. Option A is to maintain the status quo. (See map)
Changes that will affect Carlisle include the introduction of hunting, and the elimination of "non-wildlife dependent uses" such as dog-walking and picnicking. These are scheduled to occur under either Options B or C.
Under Option B the O'Rourke Farm land will be opened to deer hunting by archery, and waterfowl hunting by shotgun will be allowed from boats on the Concord River. Also, more refuge staff are to be hired, and a complete inventory of plants and animals completed. Invasive non-native plants will be managed to improve species diversity. Educational programs are to be expanded, new signage and observation areas built, and a new visitor center is proposed for the Concord/Lincoln area. Visitor fees will be collected at the Concord site.
Dog-walking and picnicking are to be banned from the refuge by 2004. The CCP states, "We estimate nearly 20% of our visitors use the refuge to walk dogs." The plan also states, "We acknowledge the public's desire to walk their dog and picnic in a natural setting, but these activities are not dependent on the presence of fish and wildlife Refuge lands are not to be used as recreational parks."
The impacts of jogging will be studied for three years, and may at that time be eliminated. The refuge is already closed to bikes, dog sleds, snowmobiles, horseback riding and swimming.
I have questions about the need to eliminate dog-walking, picnicking or jogging on the O'Rourke land. This former pig farm isn't pristine wilderness, and I doubt the low number of visitors is having a noticeable ecological impact. I suspect that the new policy arose from concerns raised at other sites. However, after speaking with Deputy Project Manager Tim Prior, I believe one reason for the new restrictions is an attempt to make Great Meadows a wilder place than it is now.
Hunting is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's traditional tools to manage wildlife populations. But Great Meadows is small compared to many National Wildlife Refuges and eastern Massachusetts is densely populated. Those who come to observe wildlife greatly outnumber those who hunt, and therefore hunting should be limited accordingly. Safety to non-hunters is a big concern, and I hope that hunter safety training and proficiency testing will be part of the hunting permit process developed for Great Meadows. Prior said that once the CCP was adopted, specific hunting qualifications would be drawn up in a separate, internal operating plan.
Another facet of the plan which might be questioned is the proposed boundary for future refuge acquisition. Why does it include conservation land already protected by the town of Carlisle, yet exclude private contiguous, undeveloped land?
Now is the time to let U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know your concerns and suggestions for the future of Great Meadows. Comments may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (include Eastern Mass. NWR Complex in the subject,) or write to Lindsay Krey, Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley Massachusetts 01035.
August in Carlisle
It's been another quiet week in Carlisle. At 8 a.m. the cars waiting to enter the rotary from Westford Street are stacked only five deep. The evening traffic coming from Bedford enters the rotary without delay. The summer work crews still have lunch at Daisy's, but the commuter customers are down. The police department asks residents using the transfer station to renew their dump stickers. The fire department has made a full recovery from their July 4 chicken barbecue extravaganza.
Up the hill at the school, Camp Carlisle has been in full swing · swimming, tennis, golf, riding, crafts. The school committee continues to meet once a week. Last year's fiscal concerns haven't gone away over the summer. The selectmen have also met this week. They hope to persuade the cable company to provide access to all Carlisle residents. They are also looking at affordable housing and the upcoming high school budget. But no hard figures are on the table, so it's been smooth, August sailing.
The sheep have been moved from Towle Field on Westford Street to the pasture at the junction of South and West Streets. Both pastures are better for their efforts.
Lines are long on sultry nights at Kimball's Ice Cream at Bates Farm. First-time customers still ask for large cones. Great Brook Farm also has long lines for their ice cream, as well as the best corn in Carlisle.
The cranberry bog on Curve Street had another quiet week, too. Mosquitoes in the deep woods had joggers and walkers moving a little faster. Any day now the beekeeper at the bog's eight hives will begin to take off the summer's honey from the supers stacked on top of the hive bodies. It should taste faintly of cranberries. Beekeepers all over Carlisle will follow suit.
It's been a good season at Foss Farm. Another row of plots has been added to keep up with the town's renewed interest in gardening. The regular rain in June and July has done its wonders. Cut flowers are plentiful; ripening tomatoes are bending their cages; runaway zucchini the size of firewood have made their appearance. In a few plots, weeds have won the battle.
The daylily farm on Bedford Road continues to attract buyers even in August. Across town, at the Valentine farm on West Street, the Hereford herd has a couple of new additions grazing beside their mothers. Mr. Sorli's fields on Westford Street are green as no other green is green.
Every August, time forgets Carlisle. Tractors pulling hay wagons amble down side roads. Equestrians take to the quiet roads. The Library goes on its summer schedule, as does the Mosquitothe fog of August. The old Carlisle that slumbers beneath the slick new suburb reasserts itself along the grassy, winding, deserted footpaths of the State Forest.
Why would anyone want to leave?
[Author's Note: This column was written on Cape Cod!]
© 2003 The