Friday, March 20, 2009
Changes planned for Great Brook Farm State Park
Great Brook Farm State Park Supervisor Steve Carlin of the Massachusetts Department of
Conservation and Recreation (DCR) described several projects on the drawing board when he spoke at the Conservation Coffee March 10. Projects range from small repairs, to pond dredging, to a new dairy barn and possible timber harvesting. Carlin has been at the State Park for two years.
Conservation Commission Administrator Sylvia Willard told Carlin about a forestry plan on the web indicating an area for timber cutting on Great Brook Farm State Park property. Carlin was unaware of this and explained, “DCR is a big organization. It’s huge.” He did get back to the Mosquito quickly with more information from the state forester. He said the forestry plan has been out there for a while, “but there hasn’t been much movement on it.” Carlin added, “All the cuttings I have seen have been very low impact.”
The Proposed Timber Harvesting Plan from the Bureau of Fire Control and Forestry, a branch of the DCR, shows a designated area of 25 acres of mixed oak near the Litchfield House. The stand is roughly 70 years old. The plan states, “The goal of the harvest is to thin and maintain the oak type while creating conditions favorable to regenerate white pine, with the long-term goal being to convert the stand to white pine. This is a poor hardwood growth site which is better suited for white pine growth.”
It was pointed out at the coffee that if this plan were carried out, it might provide an opportunity for the public to cut firewood once the state forester marks the trees to be removed. The plan on the web states a number of restrictions and notes, “The harvesting operations will be suspended in the winter when the trails are groomed and utilized for cross-country skiing.”
Carlin said, “There are a number of capital projects in the works.” One project involves the barn which houses the cross-country ski touring concession. Carlin would like to replace the old windows with energy-efficient units and install a new ceiling.
Asked about the cross-country ski concession, Carlin noted that skiing is very dependent on the weather. When there is lots of snow, the state receives a percentage of the earnings from the ski-touring concession. However, the park does not keep those funds, which go instead into the state’s General Fund. Carlin pointed out that Great Brook Farm State Park only keeps what people put in the donation box.
Improvements near the dairy
Another idea being discussed is dredging the farm pond near the dairy barn. “That pond works as a back-up for the fire department. If the pond were dredged, it would hold more water,” said Carlin. A Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) consultation is scheduled for Monday, March 23 at 2 p.m. According to a notification of consultation received by the Conservation Commission (ConsCom), the project involves removal of about 3,300 cubic yards of sediment and will require permission from the ConsCom.
A new dairy barn is in the planning stages. Carlin said, “I hope budgeting will come through. We want Great Brook to remain a working dairy farm.” A recent improvement to the dairy facility involves a melt-water treatment strip, put in as a pilot project. The treatment strip acts like a septic system for the water that is used to clean the milking machinery/equipment after each use, three times a day. “We have been very happy with it so far,” commented Carlin.
Other park buildings
The Park Headquarters will also see improvements, though Carlin said most of the work on the former schoolhouse will be done on the non-historic side of the building. Another building under consideration is the log cabin on the Woodchuck Trail. The cabin has no electricity and has been without a tenant since the 1980s. Carlin noted it needs a new roof if it is to be preserved for future use.
Another topic of conversation was about the shack on a sandy beach, sometimes known as “the bee house” or “boat house” which sits across the street from the ice cream/dairy barn off the Pine Point Loop Trail. Jay Luby asked if it could be knocked down. Carlin explained that the DCR would like to have it taken down as well. It was on a list to get done but added, “In the state [bureaucracy], nothing is easy.”
Carlin also described public access improvements around the canoe launch. A new bridge was recently built and he said the new, wider structure successfully accommodates the snow-grooming machine. Currently, the DCR is discussing what to do about the canoe launch, debating whether they should use the previous launch or create a new one.
Some problems arise during the winter. Carlin said, “There is a percentage of folks who want to winter hike on their favorite trail” which happens to be closed to all but those on skis. Outside of the cross-country ski season, Carlin said he gets a lot of calls about dogs. “Equestrians don’t like dogs.” Communication will “help everyone get along a little better.”
Carlin hopes to have a seasonal ranger “who will have a uniformed presence.” The ranger could educate the public about its parking fees, leash rules and the carry-in carry-out policy. About the $2 parking fee, Carlin says he will be getting more serious about collecting that fee. There is a $25 ticket for those caught without paying the $2 fee. Another hope is to attract more people to the park from surrounding towns. ∆
© 2009 The