What a day! Cardinals singing to start off the beautiful morning, and then a wonderful two-and-a-half hour walk, part of which was through areas I have not been in for a very long time. Perfect weather - no jacket!!!
This walk was through the property that lies behind my house, so parts are very familiar to me, but other parts are less so - I tend to be a creature of habit, and often follow the same routes. This land, more than 250 acres, is owned by the town adjacent to mine. I live on the edge of my town, and when I look out my back windows I see into the next town - though you'd never know, because it is all woods (second growth pine-oak forest, in case you are interested).
This land is town-owned, but it is not in conservation. It could theoretically be developed. It is called land-locked because it is surrounded on two sides by major highways, and on the others by residential areas, putting it in a restricted access situation. There is no automobile access to the area (other than parking for walkers, bikers, skiers, etc.) so development would be very expensive since a bridge or a tunnel would need to be built to cross a 6-lane state highway (there is no room for an entrance/exit ramp). BUT this has not stopped some people from thinking that such a project would be financially feasible.
Part of the town's water supply comes from this land, so it would behoove the selectmen to advise town meeting to do everything possible to preserve the land and prohibit development. Any building would have to protect the water sources, and there are vernal pools on the parcel, which are protected by state law and cannot be destroyed or filled, but wouldn't it be better for all concerned if the land were to simply remain open space?
There is already a power line easement over part of the property, and also a natural-gas line easement. Both of these areas are kept relatively clear of brush, and provide excellent edge habitat for quite a number of birds, and plenty of other wild critters as well. We saw a red-tail hawk circling as we were starting our walk.
There is, fortunately, a group working to get this property put into conservation in perpetuity. This is the group that organized the walk I went on this morning - and into the afternoon. Now, because I live in a different town, there is not much I can do to further the land protection issue, so I feel a little helpless, but I do what I can to support the project - such as adding some natural history knowledge on walks like this morning's.
The tricky part of this situation is that the only really legal access to the land is from a residential area in a different town (my town), so many residents don't know how to get to the area, and since it is not officially conservation land, there are no funds for signage and trail marking, etc. I kind of like the fact that it is "secret", but I also want it to be protected, and the only way to do that seems to be by telling lots of people about it, so they get excited and interested, and tell their town meeting members and selectmen that the land should be preserved.
Another interesting facet of this property is that many years ago, it was used as a car dump. You can find some really interesting old car parts from the 40's and 50's, as well as a few newer dumps. Of course there are also old batteries, tires, and lots of broken glass that can't possibly be good for the critters that call that area home. Sometimes people have paintball wars back there, and sometimes kids start brush fires while goofing around, but most of the people who use it are respectful - mountain bikers, runners, walkers and such.
If I had a zillion dollars maybe I'd buy the whole piece and donate it for public use. Wouldn't that be nice? But it ain't gonna happen any time soon! You can learn more about the Land Locked Forest here.