Thursday, March 12, 2015

In Praise of the Thaw

Bare pavement! (But note how narrow the road is.)
I knew this winter had brainwashed me when I began regarding each new snowfall as a workout opportunity. Do you know that shoveling snow burns somewhere around 475 calories per hour? Keep that up for 90 minutes and – check! – another day’s workout is complete. Or so I told myself when the combined effects of school cancellations, icy roads, and treadmill burnout dwindled my options almost to zero.

On March 1st, I went for my first outdoor run in six weeks. It was a Sunday morning, early enough that there weren’t many cars out. The sun was shining, but it was still very cold – an invigorating nine degrees, to be exact. But at least there was no wind!

Those few moments during the previous week when temperatures hit the thirties, plus a major road-clearing endeavor in my neighborhood, had created long stretches of bare pavement. I noticed it the night before and thought, “Do I dare?” I’d seen other – hardier, gutsier – runners out on the ice, but I‘d never had much luck with that. But bare pavement! Hallelujah! This was my chance.

Ah, cabin fever . . .  A doctor once told me that there’s no excuse – opportunity-wise -- for skipping your cardio workout because you can always march in place. Lift those knees! Swing those arms! Keep your chest high! Go! Okay, but when the benefit of your daily run is as much for the fresh air and change of scenery as it is for the increased heart rate, marching in place loses its appeal pretty quickly. (As does borrowing your child’s Wii Fit and doing the karate classes.)

It is hard to describe just how good it feels to be outdoors, breathing cool clean air, moving at a nice clip along roads that only the day before were treacherous with ice. With more snow in the forecast for that night (indeed another five fluffy inches fell), I knew this would be only a brief respite: I’d be back to the treadmill the next morning. But somehow it was enough – just enough – to get me up over that terrible dread-filled hump so many of us are facing as we wonder just how long this miserable winter will last.

At this point, I think we’re all entitled to complain a little bit about the winter. It’s been a tough one. Someday we’ll recount – with seasoned survivor’s nostalgia – our stories of the Winter of 2015, with its two blizzards, its endless cold, its sobering tales of collapsed roofs and ever-narrowing roads. I’m pretty sure at this point that Spring is coming . . . and that we’re gonna make it. (But no, I’m not forgetting the April 1st Blizzard of 1998.)

Thinking ahead to warmer weather, the NSRWA has some events coming up that might interest you. March 28 and 29th is its annual Gardening Green Expo. River Clean-Up Day is April 11. And you can still sign up to volunteer this Spring’s river herring count. For details, visit

by Kezia Bacon
February 2015 
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 To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit

Exploring Hanover’s Iron Mine Brook

A view of Hanover's Iron Mine Brook.

On the first day of January 2015, I joined the North and South Rivers Watershed Association for its New Year’s Day Walk. The annual event is often a showcase for a new conservation property. This year it was held in Hanover, to introduce the public to the Iron Mine Brook Trails.

Iron Mine Brook flows from the uplands of Hanover into the Indian Head River. The conservation property surrounding it is comprised of 50 acres, bordered in part by “The Crotch,” where the Indian Head and the North Rivers flow together. Also within the property are some town well sites. There is a 2.3 mile loop trail, as well as a short side trail to Chapman’s Landing. Local history enthusiasts know this as the western-most shipping point on the North River. While our famed North River shipbuilding did not extend this far inland, Chapman’s Landing was a convenient port for Hanover’s other industries. Where the rivers flow together, there is a vast expanse of tidal freshwater marsh. The area is popular among anglers, and home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

Access to the Iron Mine Brook trails is available at the end of Indian Head Drive (off Elm Street) in Hanover. There is parking both at the public boat launch and along the roadside. Leading through the woods, the trail offers numerous opportunities to view the river and marshes. Eventually it winds around past the Water Protection zone, passes a short distance along an old railroad bed, crosses Riverside Drive, follows a footbridge over the brook itself, and returns shortly thereafter to the parking area.

The new and refurbished trails at Iron Mine Brook were made possible by the Hanover Open Space Committee (OSC), which has done some excellent work in the past 20 years -- acquiring property, providing access, and creating maps and trails. Its 2014 map “Town of Hanover Open Space with Historic Areas and Walking Areas” – co-produced with the Hanover Historical Society, is inspiring. Between the map and the OSC’s excellent website (see links at bottom), there is a lot to explore.

Efforts to form an Open Space Committee in Hanover began in 1992. According to Doug Thomson, Hanover’s Town Moderator and one of the original members of the OSC, the Conservation Commission had become so busy with its expanded regulatory functions that it had no time for land and resource protection or trail building. The original OSC – which included citizens as well as representatives from various town boards -- was created to assume this role. The group conducted a town-wide survey to determine priorities. Eventually a smaller, permanent OSC was formed. Thomson served as Chair from 1997 to 2004. Hal Thomas and Mary Dunn have been co-chairs since 2005.

According to Thomas, “The Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the Town's rural character is maintained and enhanced, both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties.”

In 1997, the OSC completed its first Open Space and Recreation Plan. Since then, it has purchased four properties. Thus, open space in Hanover now includes: Forge Pond Park on King Street, 40 acres of ball fields carved out of the 75-acre Cervelli Farm acquisition; the Stasiluk-Nava Property at 665 Center Street, a 9-acre parcel with trails completed by Eagle Scout Jonathon Terry; the  Denham Property at 120 Circuit Street, a 20-acre parcel containing a pond, woodlands and vernal pools; and the Webster Street Property, a 45 acre wooded site, soon to have trails of its own.

Most of the above abut other town-owned lands, providing a continuum of open space. The OSC also undertook an ambitious greenway project, the result of which is a series of interconnected walking paths that span the 8.5 miles from Hanover High School to Luddam’s Ford. As part of the project, the Student Conservation Association and other Open Space volunteers constructed bridges over Cushing Brook, French’s Stream, the Drinkwater River, and at Factory Pond.

Grants from the Community Preservation Fund – as well as significant volunteer effort -- made all of this possible. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Hanover Greenway Fund also provided funds to help build the bridges.

Since one of the goals of the Hanover Open Space Committee is to increase awareness of the town’s trails, the group sponsors walks throughout the year. There are over 1600 acres of town-owned land in Hanover. The OSC has put a lot of effort into marking trails and providing signage, complete with a smart phone/QR code system that immediately calls up a map. A dedicated cadre of volunteers maintains the trails, keeping them open and safe. Last year Kyle Grant built a new trail at Iron Mine Brook for his Eagle Scout Project.

Samantha Woods, Executive Director of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, has nothing but praise for the Hanover OSC. "Hanover's Open Space Committee has been very active both in obtaining open space and in improving access to it for the public. The Iron Mine Brook trail is just one example of the hard work that this all volunteer group has achieved.”

Woods also commented on future conservation and restoration projects in the area. “The NSRWA is actively working on a stream restoration project on Iron Mine Brook -- removing an unneeded culvert that is blocking fish passage. With the new trails and the stream restoration work this area will be a much more vital place for people and nature!"

Helpful Links:
Hanover Open Space Committee

Hanover Open Space Map (also available at the Hanover Town Hall, Library, and Conservation office)

by Kezia Bacon
January 2015

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 To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit