Ashland Town Forest: Wonderful Finds, Long-Ago History
Jul 31, 2020 03:38PM
By Cynthia Whitty
The Ashland Town Forest is experiencing one of its busiest years ever—a 10-fold increase, according to the Ashland Town Forest Committee—as people from Ashland and many other towns are walking the trails as a way of coping with the situation created by the pandemic. Some are coming from miles away, hiking the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT). Others are taking advantage of an outing closerto home.
“One of the silver-linings of the COVID crisis is that whole families have more time to be together and take walks in the forest,” Brian McGrattan, associate-member of the Forest Committee, said.
Meanwhile the forest committee and additional volunteers have been working hard to improve access and trails.
With grant funding from outdoor equipment retailer REI, and working in collaboration with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the town forest portion of the BCT now has a new 140-foot boardoften a muddy mess.
Ashland’s section of the BCT traverses the town forest from the main parking lot on Winter Street to the new parking lot off Oregon Road. The new boardwalk is just in from Oregon Road.
A second big project is on Oak Street. The west side of the forest runs along Oak Street, and until this year, had poor access through the side yard of one of the apartment houses. With grant funding from the Community Preservation Committee, a partnership with the Sudbury Valley Trustees, help from the Ashland Department of Public Works, and the cooperation of Oak Street Apartment management, the forest committee has created a new entrance through a 50-foot wide parcel of town-owned land between the apartments.
Starting with a new 120-foot gravel walkway, the trail features two new bridges—a 24-foot span across the brook behind the apartment houses and a 28-foot span built a short way up the trail by the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA).
When work started at the site, the Forest Committee discovered a stormwater problem—a seasonal spring flowed across apartment house land and into Oak Street. Evan White, the town engineer, came up with solution: a rain garden. The stormwater committee, on which White also serves, had been looking for a good location to install a demonstration rain garden. Thus, one committee’s need became another committee’s good fortune.
“This is a win-win-win-win,” Brian Forestal, town forest committee chair, said. “Residents get improved access through what will soon be a beautiful and very functional rain garden, over two new bridge on a pristine new trail. The stormwater committee gets a demo rain garden to help educate town citizens and further meet the requirements of the stormwater permit. The forest committee meets its commitment to have good access on the west side of the forest and the town solves a vexing water and winter safety problem in the process.”
As though all the above was not enough, the forest committee is working with two Eagle Scout candidates to extend and improve two bridges on the Yellow Trail in the Cowassock portion of the forest. A third scout will build a new deer exclosure. These projects will be done this year.
“Collaboration is key,” Rob St. Germain, forest projects manager, said. “The town does not have the money or personnel needed to maintain a forest like ours, but by working with others, the job gets done.” The committee now has a long list of projects done in collaboration with the scouts and others.
“If you have time, give yourself an enjoyable gift,” Forestal said.“Take a walk in the town forest and check out these wonderful enhancements!”