Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Help Protect A Gem In Scituate



Recently I was introduced some open space lands in Scituate’s West End, and I’m so pleased to make their acquaintance! Thanks to the dedication of a small group of conservation-minded citizens, there are now more than 400 acres of land preserved in this quiet corner of the town. Clustered around Bates Lane, off Thomas Clapp Road, these parcels represent years of diligence and collaboration between the Town of Scituate, its Community Preservation Committee, private citizens, and advocates for land conservation and the protection of the public water supply. Since 1998, the non-profit Maxwell Conservation Trust has been at the forefront of these efforts.

In the 1990s, Scituate residents Wayne and Cynde Robbins founded the Maxwell Conservation Trust (which is named after the couple’s golden retriever). Its mission, as stated on its informative website, is “to promote and assist in the conservation, preservation and responsible development of our natural and land resources including open spaces for recreation, wildlife, public water supply and forestry protection.” Since its inception, the Trust has helped to add a total of 325 acres to Scituate’s array of public lands.

On April 14th, the Town of Scituate will have the opportunity to vote on the acquisition of two additional parcels of land. This final purchase, if it passes, will mark the successful conclusion of the 14-year effort. To date, all related land acquisitions have been approved unanimously by Town Meeting.

Back in the 1990s, it became clear that a number of large land parcels in Scituate’s West End were being eyed for development. Most of the properties were adjacent to the 95-acre Bates Lane Conservation Area. At the time, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) was just getting started. A landowner wanted to sell 70 acres to the town for conservation and water protection, but the CPC had not yet accumulated sufficient funds to justify such a purchase. That’s when the Maxwell Trust stepped in, offering to buy the land and hold it in trust until the town was ready to complete the purchase. The Town of Scituate purchased 44 acres in 2002, and that same year, the Trust purchased the remaining 26. Since then, thanks to the efforts of the Maxwell Trust, eight additional properties have been acquired in the area.

As the members of the Maxwell Trust begin to scale back their efforts, they are hopeful that the town will now complete this project and complete the purchase agreed upon years ago. They cost is just shy of $390,000 – the same price the Trust paid in 2002.

Collectively the open space parcels in Scituate’s West End are known as the Bates Lane Conservation Area. I’d been hearing about them for quite some time, and finally in mid-March I had the opportunity to visit.

There are presently two parking areas for the Bates Lane Conservation Area. One is on Clapp Road, diagonally across the street from the intersection with Bates Lane. The other is at the Mount Hope Improvement Society building at the corner of Cedar Street and Clapp Road. The trailheads accessible from both parking areas feature kiosks with maps.

The trails are extensive and well-marked. Look for painted wooden markers on the trees at all major intersections. My guides led me along every path on the property – the Carl Pipes Trail, as well as the Litchfield, the Horse, the Moncy and the Maxwell. It took us about two hours to see them all. Trail improvements as well as additional parking areas are already funded and should be completed this year.

The lands themselves are pleasantly diverse. There is a lot of flat, recent-growth forest covering what was once farmland, with plenty of old stone walls. There are swampy areas where we saw skunk cabbage beginning to emerge (an early sign of spring!). There are little hollows featuring streams and bridges, plus lots of ferns and moss, as well as the occasional high hill. Glacial erratics (aka really large boulders) dot the landscape, and here and there you’ll even find a wooden bench where you can pause to rest, or just to listen to the sounds of the woods around you. The well-planned network of trails offers numerous options for exploring the property: you could spend the whole morning there, or for a shorter visit, check out one or two trails at a time.

Nature enthusiasts of the South Shore, there’s a good chance you haven’t yet experienced the Bates Lane Conservation Area – it’s one of those unassuming, “best kept secret” types of places, a true gem. I strongly recommend that you add it to your To Do list for this year. You won’t be disappointed.

Scituate residents, please consider attending Town Meeting on April 14th and voting in favor of the acquisition of these land parcels!

For more information, visit www.maxwellconservationtrust.org

by Kezia Bacon
March 2016

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 20 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Nature Walks & More: What’s New on the South Shore


I’ve been writing this nature column for almost twenty years now. Thank you for reading it!

It seems that there is always something new to report – conservation land acquisitions, trail development, unusual occurrences like last year’s snowy owl “irruption.” While many of these topics are worthy of complete articles, and it’s likely I will follow up on them later in the year, I’d like to take this opportunity to get caught up on some noteworthy happenings from this past year.

• This summer Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary (2000 Main Street, Marshfield) opened a new sensory trail. Designed for people who may not be able to enjoy a typical walk in the woods, the half-mile loop is ADA-compliant -- lined smoothly with gravel for easier walking or wheeling. It includes a post-and-rope guided trail, tactile displays for people with impaired vision, and signage in both large print and braille. Visitors are encouraged to use all of their senses to experience the outdoors – such as listening for birdsong, noticing the various scents in the air, or touching the bark of a tree.

• Also in Marshfield, good news for paddlers! The construction of a new dock at Peter Igo Park is complete. This means that kayakers, canoeists, rowers, and stand up paddle boarders, among others, now have easy access to the Green Harbor River (parking too). Check out this recently rehabilitated 17-acre park at the intersection of Dyke Road (Route 139) and Marshall Ave.

• “The Pathway” in Norwell is a project that has been unfolding over the past few years. A network of paved cycling/walking trails, sidewalks and boardwalks, The Pathway provides an alternative to crossing town via Route 123. If you park near the Norwell Middle School (328 Main Street), you can travel more than a mile in either direction – west to the high school or east to the Norris Reservation.

• There are a few conservation properties clustered together in Scituate’s West End, including the Bates Lane Conservation Area and the Litchfield Preserve. I had planned to write about this area for this month’s column, but the guided walk I’d signed up for was cancelled due to heavy snow and falling branches. I do hope to get there soon, so please stay tuned! These properties are located on Thomas Clapp Road. To park, look for a sign for Bates Lane and the Carl Pipes Memorial Trail. A second parking area is located at the Mount Hope Improvement Society building. There are a number of well-marked trails, plus the occasional wooden bench, a boardwalk style bridge, and a landmark known as Tepee Rock.

• In Plymouth, the Wildlands Trust has so much to offer. This past year the organization relocated its headquarters to the Davis-Douglas Farm and expanded its Halfway Pond Conservation Are to 418 acres. Nearby are the Six Ponds Preserve, the Emery Preserve, the Shifting Lots Preserve, and the South Triangle Pond Conservation Area. I’m hoping to explore several of these properties in the coming months, and I’ll report back to you with details. In the meantime, you can explore them on your own. Visit wildlandstrust.org for visitor information.

by Kezia Bacon
February 2016

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 20 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com