Woodward Cove Trail Improvements

By Lily McVetty, 2019 Summer Intern

June 20, 2019

This past week, land stewards from the Regional Field Team helped Margaret and I complete various projects at several properties in Brunswick and in Topsham. It is true that a little help goes a long way. With the assistance from the Regional Field Team, we were able to accomplish a lot of important tasks that would otherwise be daunting. Thanks to their hard work and upbeat demeanors, the trails at Woodward Cove are in better condition and are waiting to be explored and enjoyed!

We dedicated a significant part of the week to working on improvements at Woodward Cove, a property located on Gurnet Road in Brunswick. The water access trail was re-routed to create a direct path to the water and to protect and conserve the marshes. In the near future, BTLT anticipates installing stone steps to ensure its users a safer transition from the land to the water. Additionally, this will aid in protecting the shore from further erosion. On the loop trail, invasive plant species were removed and bog bridges were installed.

These projects presented us with the opportunity to learn and fine-tune valuable stewardship skills and techniques. We learned how to properly use a chain saw to cut down hazardous trees. I learned how to identify and remove several invasives. Woodward Cove is home to a non-native plant called Bittersweet. It is characterized by its bright orange roots, which should be hung off the ground in nearby trees to prevent further spreading. The Regional Field Team and I had a fun time testing each other’s invasive plant knowledge. How many invasives can you identify on the Woodward Cove trails?

Getting to Know Our Neighbors: A Recounting of BTLT’s First Bioblitz at Crystal Spring Farm

By Christian Schorn

Green Soldier Fly. Photo Credit: Richard Joyce

It must have looked odd. In one corner of the Blueberry Fields at Crystal Spring Farm, a group of people crept across the fields, every now and then one leaping or pirouetting with a long net on a pole. In the other, people knelt in a circle around a miniscule patch of grass, their eyes inches away from the stubby flowers. But what looked like modern dance or pagan ritual was actually naturalists at work!

On June 8th, BTLT hosted its first ever Bioblitz at Crystal Spring Farm. The goal of a bioblitz is to compile a list of all the known species in a given area over a defined period of time. Expert, amateur, and aspiring naturalists all get together and spend a morning, day, or week catching butterflies, following beetles, scoping out birds, and identifying wildflowers, recording their observations as they go. Bioblitzes can be useful for a variety of reasons—data collection, public engagement, or just a fun excuse to get outside. But why focus on these little fields?

Black Huckleberry. Photo credit: Richard Joyce

What many people know as the “blueberry fields” at Crystal Spring Farm is really a rare natural community type called a Sandplain Grassland. These prairie-like ecosystems appeared in Maine soon after the glaciers retreated, tracing the outline of the sandy glacial moraines and outwash deltas left behind. They were likely maintained in their open state through burning by the indigenous Abenaki people for blueberry farming and game hunting purposes, but after European settlement, many of these grasslands were developed, converted to agriculture, or invaded by trees as a result of fire suppression. The modern remnants of this natural community in the Northeast are ecologically enigmatic, and ranked as “extremely rare” by the state of Maine.

As stewards of the conserved land at Crystal Spring Farm, we consider it our responsibility to preserve these rare elements of Maine’s natural heritage. In the next several years, we hope to implement prescribed burns in the blueberry fields as a management tool to reduce tree and shrub cover and sustain the natural grasslands. But we won’t be able to tell how effective these treatments are unless we understand exactly how they change the landscape— so we put out a call for enthusiastic naturalists to help us!

Dryland Sedge. Photo credit: Christian Schorn

So on a warm Saturday morning in June, BTLT staff and volunteers met bright and early on the Blueberry Loop for an early morning birding hour. After hearing and witnessing uncommon grassland birds such as eastern meadowlarks and prairie warblers, we divided into two naturalist strike teams—one catching and studying insects, and the other identifying and recording plants. Pictures and identifications were uploaded to iNaturalist, an app designed to collect and share species observations from across the world. If you are an iNaturalist user, you can see our collected observations under the project “BTLT Blueberry Barren Bioblitz. Team Bug had a fruitful morning catching and observing an astounding number of native pollinators and insects such as ichneumon wasps, soldier flies, nomad bees, and pine elfins. Team Plant learned how to identify plants using botanical keys, and wielded their newfound knowledge to identify chokeberries, cinquefoils, and blue-eyed grasses, and discover endangered species under their own noses, including a vast population of the endangered velvet sedge (Carex vestita) and new populations of the rare dryland sedge (Carex siccata)!

We will be holding a second Bioblitz this summer on August 10th (check our Events page for more information closer to the event date!), to continue collecting pre-burn baseline data, and will continue to host bioblitzes in the summers following our burn management, to understand how biodiversity changed in response—like taking pictures both before and after a home renovation.

Pygmy Bee Fly. Photo credit: Richard Joyce

Apart from gaining valuable data on the biodiversity of an area, we came away with a greater and deeper appreciation of what our conservation efforts are protecting here at Crystal Spring Farm. By the end of the day, we found ourselves noticing little things we hadn’t before; a quick-fluttering day emerald moth, iridescent tiger beetles glinting in the sun, waves of velvet sedge rippling gently in the breeze, a sole pink ladyslipper standing erect above a low sea of blueberry bushes. We share our conserved places with these special species, and it’s the least we can do to get to know our neighbors.

Thanks to Richard Joyce for helping to organize this event, and to all the volunteers who showed up to help!

New Face around BTLT! Meet Summer Intern, Lily McVetty

Hello! My name Lily McVetty, and I am a rising junior at Bowdoin College. This summer, I will be stewarding various properties for BTLT and helping out at the weekend farmers’ markets. As someone who grew up in Maine, I am passionate about maintaining and conserving the State’s natural resources. I have many fond memories hiking, swimming, and skiing in Midcoast Maine. It is my hope that many forthcoming generations will also be able to benefit from their natural surroundings. During my past two years at Bowdoin, I have enjoyed several runs and visits to properties maintained by BTLT. I look forward to familiarizing myself with the non-profits’ trails and to supporting local farmers and businesses within the community.

I am grateful to live and study in an area in which its immediate and neighboring communities share a strong desire to protect its environment. I am excited to learn from and work alongside Brunswick and Topsham organizations. My internship at BTLT will provide meaningful experiences that will lead to many future opportunities to continue advocating for sustainable practices.

While off the trails, I will be volunteering with the Sunrise Movement, adventuring nearby restaurants and coffee cafés, catching up on leisure reading, and playing soccer with friends.

BTLT in the News, “New bike club wants to expand opportunities for riders”

“New bike club wants to expand opportunities for riders”

October 17, 2018

 

The Neptune Woods Trails Celebration is this Sunday, October 21 and we can’t wait to enjoy the trails with you! Check out this recent Times Record article to learn more about the new trails.

BRUNSWICK — A new club in the Topsham and Brunswick wants to give bike enthusiasts more places to ride and draw more people into the sport.

Since opening a new chapter in April, the Six Rivers chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association has been working to improve access to recreational trails. Topsham officials recently gave the club the go-ahead to develop a trail system in town. Through volunteer efforts and partnering with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust they are ready to officially open the Neptune Woods Trail at Brunswick Landing on Oct. 21.

“We had these trails in Brunswick and Topsham that really just need some maintenance,” said Kristian Haralson, Six Rivers board member. “Our hope is within the next year to do more programming.”

The group hopes the new trails and programs will draw more riders, especially children. Haralson said Topsham’s designs will be similar to what the club has done in other areas. The trail should be smooth, making it accessible for newer riders.

Read the full article here.

Construction Area at Cathance River Nature Preserve

Attention Hikers

Trails in Construction Area and Parking Changes

Due to construction, the intersection of the Highland Trail, River Access Trail, and Cathance River Trail (West and East) is flagged and off limits in some areas. Please proceed through the openings in the flagging as indicated by the arrows below to continue to the Preserve trails, avoid areas where access is flagged off, and use caution while passing through this area.

During this time hikers are directed to park at the Ecology Center parking instead of Hiker Parking. Please park thoughtfully to ensure that you are far enough off the road and to accommodate as many cars as possible. If the Ecology Center parking area is full, additional parking can be found at the Community Center.

Please contact the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust at 729-7694 if you have any questions and thank you for your patience during this time!

BTLT in the News, “Brunswick trail has wormers, clammers, hikers in mind”

Brunswick trail has wormers, clammers, hikers in mind

September 26, 2018

The new trail at Woodward Cove received some press recently, courtesy of Elizabeth Clemente at The Forecaster.

Woodward Cove, a property the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust purchased two years ago to preserve mud-flat access for wormers and clammers, has a new walking trail.

The new trail runs through the organization’s property on Gurnet Road.

Stewards from both BTLT  and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust were responsible for creating the new path and cut the winding, lollipop-shaped route. It is just under a half-mile long and gives hikers views of hills and apple trees.

Margaret Gerber, stewardship manager for BTLT, said the trail was completed at the end of July, and is open, but her organization will not likely have a formal opening celebration for the property at this time because it does not yet have signs or a kiosk.

Gerber said in addition to giving visitors views of local scenery, the new path will also maintain a space for fishermen to work.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Eagle Scout builds bridge at Chase Reserve

Woodward Cove Trail Opens Up

By Connor Rockett

A little over two weeks ago, the land stewards from BTLT and Kennebec Estuary Land Trust completed a new trail for public use at the Woodward Cove property, located on Gurnet Road in Brunswick. After multiple scouting visits and a surprise discovery of some (very large) poison ivy patches, we cut a winding, lollipop-shaped route just under a mile long. A relatively short trail featuring gentle hills, an upturned rootmass, and apple trees, it is a wonderful spot to spend a few moments in peaceful reflection or to stretch the legs and get some fresh air after a long day.  All of us at the Land Trust are glad to see this trail open to the community and we hope you will enjoy it!

As I mentioned earlier, the unexpected appearance of poison ivy posed some problems. After having scouted and flagged an initial route, Margaret and I returned a week before the planned start of trail cutting only to find that an expansive patch had sprung up. It was unclear whether we would be able to build the trail. In what ended up being a great example of the creative problem solving involved in stewardship work, we devised a new route that included the interesting features of the property, all while avoiding sensitive wetland areas and the poison ivy.

The problem solving process was simple but effective: people observing, thinking, and communicating to find a better route. All that it entailed was 5 of us working on the ground, weighing options, relying on past experiences, and envisioning alternatives. That collaborative creativity allowed us to avoid the poison ivy, without having to resort to using costly and disruptive herbicides. It was place-based problem solving for community wellness in action (wooh!). So that being said, the next time you’re out on the Woodward Cove trail, hopefully you’ll be reminded of just how much can be accomplished by a small group of ordinary people with a common goal in mind!

Connecting to the land at the Community Garden

By Connor Rockett

I ended my last post talking about the importance of hands-on interaction with the land. It was this type of engagement with nature, which was built into the lives of our ancestors through farming and a deeper, less transient connection to place, that caused them to understand their dependence on the land and the meaning of a healthy, thoughtful relationship with it. That they articulated the importance of this relationship through their cultural production demonstrates that their ideas about nature were authentic and valuable and that our modern willingness to manipulate and degrade nature for the sake of production at all costs should not be taken for granted or seen as the way we have always operated with respect to our environment.

Since our industrial economy has alienated us from the land and told us that we can live above nature, we have largely forgotten how to relate to our surroundings in a way that is healthy and long-lasting. Alienation from the land, the fact that, for many of us, our way of living is (seemingly) separated from it, has made us blind to our dependence on it. Only through the observed and looming environmental catastrophes have more and more of us started to recognize that ecosystemic health cannot be wholly divorced from human health; that the two are linked in a complex relationship. But if, in the industrial economy, it takes loss of life and untold suffering to recognize this dependence, then it is already too late and we cannot say that we have a way to live, in the sense of staying alive. We have to build a different economy that causes us to live in accordance with this dependence. Such an economy will both nourish our bodies and spirits and allow us to survive on Earth.

The theme of building that land-friendly economy has been the focus of the last two blog posts and that is what I am leading up to in this one. Since the vast majority of us do not have an attentive engagement with the land, as our ancestors did, we struggle to understand it and to feel connected to it. Relearning this understanding of the land and reconnecting to it are, in my opinion, important for us collectively to be able to envision how a land-friendly economy should function and to know why we should have one. When many of us have the necessary understanding of and connection to the land, we can move towards a land-friendly economy as a community. Since no single one of us is able to, or should, decide on how to reshape our way of living, efforts to spread understanding and connection to the land are the basis for democratic, community-wide action to build a land-friendly economy.

I was lucky to contribute to the Land Trust’s efforts to foster hands-on understanding and affection for the land this week at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden when working with volunteers from Apogee Adventures. The volunteers and staff from BTLT divided up to tackle various tasks at the garden. I worked with two volunteers and, while we were weeding the strawberry rows, one of them said “I’m glad to be getting my hands dirty, it feels like I’m actually doing something.” That experience of investment and fulfillment in working the garden is just the type of engagement that will be the basis for orienting communities towards a more land-friendly way of life. It was clear from the vibrant and flourishing plots throughout the garden that those who work them have invested a great deal of love and care into them. Again, that is the type of interaction with the land, both educational and loving, that is needed to deepen our connection to it and I’m so glad to see that happening at the community garden.