The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 28, 2010

Land stewards foster dialog among town’s conservation groups


The town’s MacAfee Land is part of a connected conservation area off Forest Park Drive. (Map by Carlisle Trails Committee)

The 15 men and women gathered at the May 17 meeting of the Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) have long worked to protect and manage Carlisle’s open space. The volunteers represented several different conservation groups, including: the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom), Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), Conservation Restriction Advisory Committee (CRAC), LSC and Trails Committee. Many wore more than one hat and two were also members of the Planning Board. The representatives shared updates on their groups’ activities over the past several months:

Land Stewardship Committee

LSC Chair Liz Carpenter said that a major accomplishment was the successful Town Meeting request for Community Preservation Act funds to repair the 105-year-old Cranberry Bog House. Community Preservation Committee Chair Kelly Guarino praised the volunteers who worked on the project, “They did a really good job.” Over a two-year period LSC members had collected estimates, scheduled inspections and talked to town boards and officials about the project.

In addition, the LSC has prepared a management plan for the Towle Conservation Land off Westford Street. The LSC plans to post information about the land and a bird list on the new kiosk installed at Towle. Trails Committee member Kevin Smith noted that the kiosk was “recycled” surplus donated from Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. At Foss Farm, the land stewards have organized the installation of two new irrigation wells and have revised the rules for the community gardens.

Current LSC projects include drafting a conservation land management plan to capture land descriptions, uses and legal constraints and provide a guideline when the ConsCom is faced with a request “out of the blue” to allow a new type of activity. The LSC hopes to have the plan completed next fall.

Outreach activities include a river wildlife program at Foss Farm scheduled for Sunday, May 30 at 2 p.m. Mass Audubon naturalists will lead the event, co-sponsored by the LSC and the Susan Zielinski Natural Science Fund of the Gleason Public Library.

Invasive plant control

LSC members spent 25 hours removing invasive garlic mustard from the Davis Corridor, reported Carpenter. Last year the ConsCom signed a multi-town, multi-agency memorandum of understanding on invasive species management sponsored by the Sudbury-Assabet-Concord (SUASCO) Watershed Council. CCF has since joined the collaborative effort.

LSC member Lynn Knight said that a grant-funded program is being offered to provide training in invasive species identification. The training will emphasize 11 species which are moving into the region. Volunteers are being sought to survey and map the plants’ distribution in town. Training will be offered on Saturday, June 5 in Bolton. (For more information, contact Knight, or Ted Elliman of the New England Wildflower Society at 1-508-877-7630 x 3203.)

Conservation Commission

ConsCom Chair Peter Burn said that the commission will be seeking two new members in the near future. A topic of concern to the ConsCom is the Benfield Farms affordable housing development and how access to the conservation land behind it will be affected by construction. Another vernal pool has been discovered on the Benfield property. About 20 feet in diameter, it was found to contain wood frog eggs this spring.

Carlisle Conservation Foundation

CCF is planning a celebration for September 26 to mark the non-profit’s 50th anniversary, announced CCF President Sally Swift. Among the projects she described is a long-term project to improve their documentation. As part of that process, Swift said they will survey one or two of their properties each year. Recently they surveyed the Pines Woodlot which abutts the Carlisle Pines State Forest off Forest Park Drive. According to Swift, they discovered that roughly four acres of the Pines Woodlot extends across the border into Westford.

CCF also surveyed the abutting MacAfee Land (see map). CCF purchased the MacAfee Land before it was transferred to the town and they continue to own two small portions of the original parcel which lie across the border in Westford and were not transferred to the town of Carlisle. An anonymous donor funded the town’s acquisition of the MacAfee Land. Combined with the Carlisle Pines, Erickson Land, Pines Woodlot and Holms/Avery Land the MacAfee parcel is part of a conservation area of over 55 acres.

MacAfee Land incursion

Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard said that someone has recently disturbed the MacAfee Land, “It looks like they have taken down some good-sized trees and obliterated a trail.” She later explained that subsequent to the meeting, the boundaries were staked, and she along with LSC member Dwight DeMay and Steve Hinton were able to verify the damage was on town and CCF land. “It was not pretty.” She said that there was one tree cut on CCF land and at least 14 tree stumps and one damaged tree on the town’s land.

Willard said that while at the site, they met the Westford homeowner who admitted responsibility for the incursion, caused by a tree-cutter he had hired. The property owner is to attend the May 27 ConsCom meeting.

Conservation Restriction

Advisory Committee

CRAC is continuing to regularly inspect the roughly 30 properties under town Conservation Restriction. While there are small issues with a few properties, CRAC member Ken Harte said, “We’re between crises.” The group is seeking two new members.

One issue raised was the condition of the handicapped-accessible trail on the Malcolm Preserve off Stearns Street. The boards edging the stone-dust trail are deteriorating and the hard spring rains have eroded the path. The private organization The Trustees of Reservations owns the property jointly with CCF and is responsible for managing and mowing. Trails Committee member Marc Lamere said that the Trails Committee has offered to work with the Trustees to improve the trail.

New trail booklet

Kevin Smith, who serves on both the Trails Committee and CCF, talked about the new color version of the Carlisle Trail Booklet, which is at the printers and should be available for sale by Old Home Day. CCF has provided funding in commemoration of the CCF anniversary, as well as the 25th anniversary of the Trails Committee. According to Smith, the new version uses computerized maps, which will be easier to update in the future. There are also plans to provide the maps on-line, to make it easier for people to print larger copies. Smith concluded, “I have to say this has been a great collaboration between CCF and the Trails Committee.”

Other trails projects

Lamere said that the $15,000 funding approved by Annual Town Meeting will be used by the Trails Committee over the next five years to pay for supplies for routine trail maintenance and boardwalk construction. Labor is supplied by volunteers. Lamere explained a larger boardwalk project, such as one across the wetlands linking Spalding Field with the Banta-Davis Athletic Fields, would require additional funding (see related article, page 5).

Another large undertaking is the Spencer Brook crossing and wildlife viewing platform being planned in conjunction with CCF. The “three Steves,” CCF members Steve Hinton, Spang and Tobin, are working on the designs and gathering information on how to engineer the piers needed to support the boardwalk over the large wetlands.

Work on Marion’s Trail is nearing completion, Tobin said. He handed out maps showing this new trail through CCF land, newly named “Ben’s Woods,” off West Street. The trail will end at the intersection of West Street and Pope Road across from CCF’s Spencer Brook Reservation. Ben’s Woods is named after the former owner and Carlisle conservationist, A. E. “Ben” Benfield, while the trail is named in honor of his wife.

The latest to earn the Trails Committee’s Trekker Award is Bert Williams. Tobin announced the award, which is given to those residents who hike a list of trails in town and volunteered at least one day on trail projects. Previous recipients include Mary Zoll, Kelly Guarino, Eric and Claire Brandhorst. For more information, see the committee’s web site: ∆

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