Introducing: HCT-Bromfield Student Service Collaboration

Student volunteers from Bromfield have been working outdoors all Summer on protected lands across Harvard: clearing new trails and making sure that existing trails are well marked and safe for hikers and wildlife.  It’s all part of a new collaboration between The Harvard Conservation Trust and the Bromfield School, who have worked together to create an alternative learning experience off school grounds.  As part of Bromfield’s commitment to encouraging active citizenship and volunteerism, students must complete 40 hours of community service in order to graduate. Through the HCT collaboration, Students can be of service to their community and learn about the natural habitats here in Harvard at the same time.

The Trust has helped acquire or protect more than 850 acres of land in Harvard, and trails have seen more use during the COVID pandemic than ever before.  Rising Senior Marley Ferguson says, “I was born and raised in Harvard. In my teenage years, I began to run long distance and started exploring more trails. Sometimes I’m disappointed by what I find on the trails I love…I’ve spent time with my friends picking up other people’s garbage.” Students are acting as trail managers, invasive species strike teams, and new trailblazers.   Supervisors for student-teams – volunteers themselves – share their knowledge about the plants, wildlife, wetlands, orchards, even the old stone walls that make Harvard’s natural landscape unique.  If the first group of students is any indication, they are passionate about leaving a natural legacy here in Harvard. As one student Jake Morine sums it, “I’ve been on these trails behind my house my whole life.  It feels great to learn how to care for them. And it’s great to see so many people using them!”

Want to explore some new trails in Harvard? Check out this great map index.

  

Photos: (1) Dallas Briggs-Adams clearing old wire fencing from the Burgess-Brown trail and (2) Max Strazdus, Supervisor David Burney and Olivier Bradley clearing a new trail

Connections: Holy Hill, Kaufman Land, Town Forest and Ohlin Land

Conservation work focuses on connectivity: between people and the land, between individuals and community, and, for ecological and recreational reasons, between and among different pieces of protected land. Many of us look for connecting trails to extend our hikes, rides or runs – and as new ways to get to know the landscape of the town. A case in point: it’s possible to walk – almost exclusively on trails – through the enormously varied landscapes of Holy Hill, Kaufman Land, the Town Forest, and Ohlin Land.

Directions

Park at the Holy Hill Lot on South Shaker Road, then head north into the property, where you can choose loops of varying lengths. Returning to the parking lot, pass by your car as you head south into the Kaufman Land. Following the yellow blazes, you will emerge onto Poor Farm Road, where a bridge will take you across Route 2. A quick left, following the bridge, will take you into the Town Forest, where, again, you can choose your own adventure from among several interweaving trails. Emerging near the Village Nursery School and crossing Poor Farm Road to Ohlin Lane, locate the entrance to Ohlin Land on your right. Having made it down to Bowers Brook (and one of the best views in town), retrace your steps back to the Town Forest, and then back to your car at Holy Hill. 

Why connect these trails?

You will experience, in short order, a microcosm of the town. Holy Hill is an enormously rich cultural landscape, featuring the Shaker’s hilltop “Dancing Ground”, where Shakers whirled late into the night, cultivating “spiritual gifts”. The Kaufman Land and the Old Town Forest (really one piece of land bisected by Rt. 2) feature rocky outcrops, abundant and diverse flora, and, improbably, a single 18th-century gravestone. The Ohlin Land feels like a world unto itself: a ravine, where a cool and shaded hemlock/ pine forest meets the deep, braided channels of Bowers Brook. It’s worth noting that, in the course of traveling this route, you cross from one watershed (Stony Brook) into another (the Nashua). I’ll leave it to you to figure out where that happens. 

A few pictures, from a recent run:

Have you hiked the Muller trail yet?

Looking for a new trail to hike in Harvard? The “Conservation Trust” trail (also dubbed “The Muller Trail”) is a great one! You’ll find the marked trailhead and parking for about 4 cars just past 74 Littleton County Road. This land, donated by Erhart and Ruth Muller almost 50 years ago, is full of surprises! And if you picked up on “50 years ago…”, here’s a fun fact: Erhart Muller was one of the founders of the Harvard Conservation Trust back 50 years and this is the first land that was donated and is now part of hundreds of acres that’s been preserved for wildlife and our community.

You can spend hours here on foot or horseback. There are a couple of big, well-marked loops that have gradual inclines, so the difficulty is easy to moderate. It’s shady and dry, even after a hard rain! Head down the narrow trail to get started. In about a 1/4 mile you’ll pass an open, green field on the right; it’s a great picnic spot, just be sure to always “carry in-carry out”! Clearly this land was used for pasture and grazing many, many years ago because there’s a labyrinth of stone walls. At one spot, five come together! You’ll cross a bridge over a stream and wander into some mature yellow birch trees, showing off their paper-like bark. Here’s where the surprise comes:  If you stayed to the right, you could cross over private property owned by National Grid and arrive at Horse Meadows Knoll, another Harvard Conservation Trust land and you would stumble upon the Horse Meadows Reservoir!  Another fun fact: The Trust has been working to secure official rights from National Grid to connect these two lands. Then you will see official trails on your maps! (For now, you will have to enjoy these properties and their trail networks separately).

Photo Credits: Sergei Kucherov