We opened a new trail for National Trails Day!
A new hiking trail at Chase Reserve on Bunganuc Road in Brunswick officially opened for business on National Trails Day (Saturday, June 3rd). Twenty-five adventurous souls showed up for guided walks on Saturday, curious for a look at this 193-acre property that is part of the largest undeveloped block of forestland in coastal Cumberland County. We hold a conservation easement on the property and built and manage the trail now open to the public.
On Saturday, several groups were guided along Jack’s Trail, a mile-long journey over rolling terrain through woods dominated by white pine, hemlock, and red oak, interspersed by small openings from a timber harvest. Pointing to decaying piles of branches from the harvest (slash), Land Trust Associate Director Caroline Eliot noted the benefits of leaving this material on site. It provides cover for small animals and nutrients for the next crop of trees. She added, “While it’s not pretty initially, it’s amazing how quickly the land recovers from the harvest.” Eliot pointed out how quickly ferns and wildflowers are reclaiming the herb layer and directed attention to dense spruce, fir, and white pine regeneration in small openings created by the harvest.
The trail has many small ups and downs as it winds through the hummocks and hollows of the forest. Eliot remarked that deer tracks indicate wildlife is enjoying the trail as well. Hikers marveled at a 5-acre area of majestic, 100-year-old white pine and hemlock near the rear of the property. The easement designates this and several other areas for special management to protect particularly valuable or sensitive resources. Hikers were also fascinated by a moose rub on a six-inch diameter conifer at the edge of a clearing. Large sections of bark had been scraped away up to seven feet above the ground by a moose’s antlers. One group observed a beaver in the beaver-created impoundment at the rear of the property. Here, at the trail’s end, the adventurous can cross an old beaver dam on the Little River (proceed with caution!), and pick up Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail.
The property, which is privately-owned, was conserved by Jack Henshaw in 2011. He was determined that the property, owned by his family since the 1940s, remain much as he experienced it growing up. Henshaw conveyed a conservation easement to Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust ensuring the property will never be developed but allowing continued agricultural and forest management. At Jack Henshaw’s request, the Reserve was named for Benjamin Chase, owner of the property in the 1700s and Revolutionary War soldier.
Henshaw’s two daughters, Anne and Betsy, and a granddaughter, Lila Davies, attended one of the Saturday walks. His son, John Henshaw, lives nearby and is also actively involved in the family’s management of the property. Anne Henshaw said of her father, who passed away in 2013, “I know Dad would have been thrilled with the trail and the knowledge that these woods are being enjoyed by the community, especially dogs. He loved to walk the property over the years with the many generations of dogs who called Chase Reserve home.” Dogs are allowed on leash on the trail at Chase Reserve and several were in attendance on Saturday.
The easement protects valuable coastal habitat abutting Maquoit Bay, to the benefit of clammers, wormers, boaters, fishermen, and others. It also protects streams and forested wetlands important to water quality in the bay. The property’s diverse habitat, which includes fields, small forest openings, and mature forest, and proximity to other undeveloped properties, makes it attractive to many birds and forest-dwelling animals.
The property’s many natural values and proximity to other conserved properties made it a top candidate for conservation. The conservation easement was funded primarily by a federal National Coastal Wetlands Grant, with additional financial support from the Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Open Space Conservancy, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, and Jack Henshaw.
Located just before the Freeport town boundary, Chase Reserve is marked by a small parking area on the upland side of the road. Public access to the property is limited to the trail which is marked by a white blaze. Visit this property soon and experience the deep quiet and rich bird song of this woodland!
The Land Trust has been working for over 35 years in the Brunswick-Topsham region to strengthen their community through conservation. With over 2,500 acres in conserved, the Land Trust also manages over 17 miles of trails, the Saturday Farmers Market at Crystal Spring Farm, Tom Settlemire Community Garden, Labyrinth in the Woods, along will a diverse array of events and programs.