Sunday, August 18, 2013

Field Clearing--Goose Pond Rd and Tyringham Valley

Tuesday Aug 6-Thursday Aug 8

This week we put together a team of trail volunteers, ATC staff and a trail neighbor to perform some field maintenance on properties near the AT.   While the AT does not run through these fields, it does run adjacent to them and they form an important part of the view hikers have as they traverse the countryside. 

Silvia gets ready to attack
Definitely the right tool for the job.  ATC's new tractor w/ brush hog
Open fields, particularly in valleys, are a part of the "New England vernacular landscape".  It's the visual picture that to some extent defines what the area looks like--at least in our present sensibilities.  Of course previously, before Europeans began to define the land, it was mostly forested with open areas created by natural causes (beaver
meadows, for example) or areas opened by the indigenous inhabitants (aka "Indians").

Once Europeans became a permanent presence, the forest steadily diminished, and open country became the predominant landscape.  Images of southern New England from the latter part of the 1800's show almost no forests, even on the mountains.

In Massachusetts, since the mid 1850's, the land that was originally in agriculture, and later in pasture, slowly began to become re-forested as farming became less profitable and populations began to congregate in the cities and towns--where the jobs were.  Today, Massachusetts has more forested acres than it has had since the Civil War.

So back to the Trail.  As the footpath was moved off of roads onto protected lands, some of that land was being actively farmed or otherwise recently in agriculture, especially in valleys.  Both to preserve the current Trail landscape as part of the "nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which the Trail passes"   (from the NPS AT Strategic Plan), we try and maintain these traditionally open spaces.  One way is via a Special Use Permit (SUP).  This is an arrangement with a farmer to keep the land (possibly purchased from him for the Trail) in agriculture.  He (or she) pays a small fee to the Park Service, is able to farm the land, but is not responsible for paying property taxes on those tracts.  In other places, the land may have simply been purchased as open land, and the local Trail Club decides whether  to maintain it as open, or let natural succession take place--eventually resulting in more forested land.
How tall was the grass?  Steve running the tractor/brush hog .

So that's a (very) long-winded way to say we need to mow to keep these particular parcels open--to maintain the landscape in it's current form.  Therefore, we devote several project days a year to this effort, assisted by ATC staff and equipment as well as the Club's own field mowers.

Smaller mowers are used around the edges and obstructions.
The DR is challenged by this much growth.

The Giant Machete does a little better
Out of the Green Tunnel.  AT passes through the gate in the center of the photo.
We mow late in the summer after birds are finished nesting and most of the plants have set seed.  This is an ongoing part of maintaining the Trail in both Mass and CT--and likely other states as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment