Friday, June 18, 2010
Great Brook Farm State Park: Meadow Pond
In addition to hundreds of acres of town, federal and privately owned conservation land, Carlisle is home to Great Brook Farm State Park, an active dairy farm surrounded by publicly accessible park land with ponds, picnic areas and an education/interpretive center. The 900+ acre park also boasts more than 20 miles of hiking trails. The trails at Great Brook Farm cover a wide variety of terrain, from fairly level trails which circle and cross several open fields, to trails through heavily wooded areas which lead past Native American sites and remains of several colonial-era mills, to esker trails such as Heartbreak Ridge, and to more difficult trails such as the Tophet Loop which skirts Tophet Swamp.
The area now known as Great Brook Farm State Park was purchased by Farnham Smith over several years beginning in the late 1930s. In 1974, 900 acres of the Farnham Smith property was purchased by the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources and additional purchases have brought the current total to almost 1,000 acres; 40% wetland, 20% open field and 40% woodland.
Like many areas in New England, Great Brook Farm displays evidence of glacial activity. Drumlins, eskers and large boulders can be found within the park together with the marshes, bogs and ponds that were formed when water-filled depressions, left from melting glaciers, eventually filled with sediment.
This varied landscape has made Great Brook Farm an excellent spot for observing wildlife. According to a thesis written by Rebecca Markey, The Transitional Land Known as Great Brook Farm State Park, in 1999 Tom Dodd identified 39 species of butterflies and in 2000 Tom Brownrigg identified more than 119 bird species within the park. Several vernal pools have been identified on the park grounds.
Trails and features
Hikers can access the trails around Meadow Pond from several spots along North Road. Pine Point Loop is the major trail that circles the pond. This trail is fairly level and quite wide; in most areas it is a stone-dust road. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has designated the 1.5 mile Pine Point Loop a “healthy heart trail,” one of more than 70 short hiking trails identified by the DCR as part of its Heathy Hearts Initiative to promote regular exercise and healthy lifestyles.
By entering from the south side of North Road near the farmhouse driveway, the hiker takes a short trail that connects to the Pine Point Loop. After passing through an open field the trail crosses a small segment of the pond (note the active beehive warning) and on to the edge of a corn field. The trail then continues to the far south end of the pond. Here the hiker can choose to take Heartbreak Ridge south toward Wolf Rock and Woodbine Roads or continue on Pine Point Loop. Along the trail, hikers will pass several equestrian jumps and on some days can see horseback riders taking part in competitions.
From the Pine Point Loop, several short loops, including the Duck, Keyes and Beaver Loops bring the hiker closer to Meadow Pond. These narrower paths are each less than half a mile long and bring the hiker close to the water where it is easy to spot turtles, frogs, ducks and other wildlife. On the Beaver Loop the hiker can observe a pile of boulders left during glacial retreat. After returning to the Pine Point Loop, the trail continues through a wooded area until it reaches the canoe launch near North Road where a boardwalk allows the hiker to complete the loop. The Pine Point Loop can be easily walked in less than an hour. Mosquitoes are noticeable near the water and there is some poison ivy near the road.
Tours and visitor information
Public tours of the dairy barn (on the north side of North Road) are available on weekends during the summer and Park Rangers and Park Interpreters frequently provide guided walks on the trails. During the month of June guided walks are scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday evenings. For details check the DCR website at http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events.htm. From April through October, the ice cream stand (located near the dairy barn) is open.
In addition to hiking, the trails at Great Brook Farm may also be used for horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing and snowshoeing. Fishing and canoeing are also permitted. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails and, since Great Brook Farm is an active farm, visitors are asked to stay at least 15 feet from the edges of all agricultural fields.
Access and parking
Parking for the trails and tours at Great Brook Farm is available at the parking lot located on the north side of North Road ½ mile from the intersection with Lowell Street. A parking fee ($2 daily, $35 annual pass) is now in effect. Parking fees are waived for vehicles with HP plates, placards and disabled veteran’s licenses plates. State residents 62 or older may obtain a Massachusetts Senior Pass for free parking. Those who are visiting the ice cream stand only can use the free 30-minute parking pass. ∆
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