I am sitting at my dining room table looking out on my back yard and seeing 2-1/2’ of snowpack on the ground and its March 6th! I am not going to tell you to get your loppers and pruning saws ready because it will still be a month or more before the trails are clear and the ground is dry enough to get out there and do some winter storm clean-up. If you are a x-country skier or snow-shoer, it has been favorable, although not ideal. I have had cause to lead a couple of snowshoe hikes in areas that have not been “trudged on” before and it is tough work breaking trail when the snow is this deep, this light and fluffy, and this deep! Did I mention the depth of the snow? In one instance, I pleaded and begged one of The Trustees of Reservations young studs to lead the group for me and just hoped I could keep up with him. After about a mile of hiking, he stopped, looking as fresh as when he began, and quietly asked me if he was going too slow. When I caught my breadth, I told him his pace was just fine. We waited 10 minutes for the rest of the group to catch up to us! If you have the gear, the time and the energy, it is truly a wonderful experience to get out into the woods and experience this record-setting snowfall. We are getting plenty of sunny, although cold, days that make these hikes a pleasure. Use common sense and don’t plan too long of a hike and over exert yourself and you will have a great time. Places like the Doyle Reservation, Barrett Park and even the trails off of Elm Street at the Parmenter Road Trailhead have had sufficient numbers to have created packed down paths that are available for hiking and will provide you with some exercise and fresh air. If you feel the urge, you can even get off trail and break trail in virgin snow conditions! Don’t forget to keep hydrated on these walks/hikes. It really helps to keep you warm. I have been told by the mt bikers that the snow is just too deep and soft for riding with the “fat” tires!
On other trail related matters, members of the LTS team met with the Mayor and some of his key staff to discuss the Liability Waiver and the forestry issue. It was a good meeting, although no definitive decisions were made, it did open up channels of communication and the City Solicitor has promised to review the waiver form and come back to us with a revised Waiver Form for us to consider. We encouraged the City to consider developing a Trail Master Plan to resolve some of the on-going issues and problems on Watershed lands. We also encouraged them to apply for trail grants to repair the fire roads/trails within the watershed. Additional conversations will occur as we try to put together a comprehensive plan for completing and managing the trail network in the City. Our Annual Work Plan is still focused on completing trail work at Barrett Park and Prospect Park. We have enough work there for the coming season.
Speaking about grants, the Leominster Recreation Department had submitted a trail grant for wayfinding (directional) signage for the trails in the watershed area and that grant is moving forward and looking favorable for funding. This will allow the City, with LTS assistance, to erect wayfinding signs at key intersections out on the trails/fire roads in the watershed to eliminate or reduce the number of times hikers get lost on the trails. The issue has been that with federal dollars (the RTP Trail Grant Program is a federally-funded, state-administered), all grants have to abide by federal regulations relative to archaeological resources and there can be no ground disturbance in areas of suspected archaeological importance without appropriate mitigation measures (reconnaissance or surveys or other measures). Our grant was proposing the “digging” of 36 holes for sign posts. These holes would have disturbed or destroyed the archaeological record in those locations so we had to have further discussions with the staff archaeologist from DCR to educate them as to the low probability that we would find historic artifacts in most of the locations where we were proposing sign posts. Rich Powers and I GPS’ed and photographed the locations and sent them it to DCR and we were able to convince them that this effort would have minimal impact on the archaeological record. We did agree that an interpretive panel discussing the history of the “Notown” area would be a worthwhile addition to the trail network and a good educational experience for hikers in that area.
So, my daughter’s Corgi loves to get out on the trails and comes for hikes/walks with me a few times each week. This snow has been so deep (she is only about 12-14” at the top of her head) that she has not even tried to get off trail. To that end, I have created a maze of snow-blown trails in my back yard for her to run around on and she loves them. When she comes over and I let her out in the back yard, she races around the trails slamming into the snowy sides of the paths that I have created for her. It’s a blast to watch. I almost feel like joining her, but that wouldn’t be fun to watch, just sad.
So, the truly good news is that the days are getting longer, the sun is rising higher in the sky, the sunshine is feeling warmer on our faces and the hope is spring is growing stronger in our hearts. Keep the faith and know that we will be hiking on the west side of town again and enjoying the views from the K-Mart Vista, the N. Monoosnoc Summit, and the view of Mt. Wachusett from S. Monoosnoc soon!
Happy Trails from a fellow LTS Steward,