HCT Speaker Series: Harvard’s Stone Wall Mysteries Solved

Join Geologist and New England’s expert on stone walls, Dr. Robert Thorson, as he decodes mysteries from the thousands of stones that make up stone walls laid by colonists, Native Americans & enslaved people. Thorson writes “[Stone walls are] a visceral connection to the past. They are just as surely a remnant of a former civilization as a ruin in the Amazon rain forest.” Professor Thorson reveals why New England is uniquely situated to be the quintessential landscape for stone walls and the work that communities are doing to preserve them.

Have questions about Harvard’s old stone walls? Professor Thorson will join us on September 28, 2021 at 7:00 pm for an interactive Zoom presentation. During the second half of his presentation, he will examine several evocative images from Harvard, showing what local “wall-watchers” might see that “bird-watchers” might not. A question and answer session will be offered at the end of the presentation.

Click here to register for Harvard’s Stone Wall Mysteries. This is a free event, but you must register by September 25 to attend. You will receive an online invitation with Zoom login details two days prior to the event.

About Professor Robert M. Thorson
Dr. Robert M. Thorson is a Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut, the author of seven books including Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds; The Guide to Walden Pond, Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science, Exploring Stone Walls, and Stone by Stone: The Fascinating History in New England’s Stone Walls, and the coordinator of the Stone Wall Initiative, New England’s premiere resource for historic stone walls.

Hike HCT’s Storybook Trail featuring The Gruffalo

Experience “The Gruffalo” at HCT’s Storybook Trail!

When: August 13th – September 6th from dawn ’til dusk

Where: Start at the Burgess-Brown Land trailhead entrance at the end of Murray Lane in Harvard, MA

Cost: Free of charge


Ideal for young readers of all skill levels, the storybook trail at Brown Burgess Land offers an opportunity to experience a children’s story while wandering along a ½ mile path through the woods. Join us for the first time or return to experience this trail again and again in all its summer glory!

About the Gruffalo
The Gruffalo, written by Julia Robinson, is a playful and beloved story about a clever little mouse and a monster in the woods. When mouse goes for a walk in the forest, he invents tales of a fantastic creature called a Gruffalo to scare off his enemies. Imagine his surprise when he meets a real Gruffalo!

Walking The Burgess-Brown Trail
The walking loop at Brown Burgess land (http://www.harvard-trails.com/brown.html) is an enchanting one for hikers of all ages, offering new discoveries around every corner. The trail begins by crossing a meadow with vestiges of old apple trees and a small pond. You then enter piney woods and pass by a spectacular glacial erratic rock structure which triggers the imagination of young ones. Mysterious stone piles and stone walls along the walk remind us how this forest was once farmed land.

Tell Us About Your Experience
We hope that the story book trail offers a new adventure and way to experience our beautiful town for you and your little ones! Please share your feedback and photos by emailing us at sights@harvardconservationtrust.org.

Choosing What to Conserve

During the past 47 years, the Trust has helped acquire or protect more than 850 acres of land in Harvard. Through the years, decision-making around which land to protect has depended upon the makeup of the Trustees and the opportunities that arose.  The Trust’s land preservation efforts are sometimes in the form of permanently protecting private land by placing a Conservation Restriction on a portion of the land, ensuring that land will never be developed, and will always retain its conservation values. Other times, the Trust has stepped in for land that the town wanted to preserve and acted as the lender, of sorts since the process of securing funding from the Town Meeting form of government takes much longer than the opportunity presented when land comes on the open market. The Trust has also been generously gifted land by residents, sometimes as part of their estate planning. But the Trust also pro-actively pursues land for protection, and that has been the strategy more often used in recent years as the cost of land has dramatically increased. Given limited financial resources, we need to be selective about which land purchases to pursue.

The Trust’s Land Protection Committee has worked deliberately to codify a process for determining the conservation value of land that is under consideration for protection. A two-dimensional matrix uses a point-value system for various attributes that results in an overall score of the value of a particular parcel. Qualities, such as ecological significance, public recreational opportunity, scenic value, project cost, acreage, agricultural value, are all assigned a weighted score that results in a score grade that helps drive decisions about what is worthy of the huge administrative, legal, and fundraising efforts that are required to complete a preservation project.

One characteristic that greatly drives the score is the adjacency, or connectivity to other conservation areas. Our goal is to provide trail connections for public recreation, and larger contiguous permanently protected areas for wildlife habitat and groundwater protection. Harvard has many modest sized conservation areas whose conservation values can be increased by “linkage” to other conservation areas. We have several projects underway to accomplish exactly that goal. We are anxiously working to bring these projects to a close and expand on our mission to compound the value of each protected parcel through these expansions or connections. These connections will provide greater opportunities for expanding our trail network and avoid the fragmentation of habitat that development creates. You can help by contributing to HCT to enable us to cover the expenses associated with the purchases and target more opportunities in the near future.

Thank You and Farewell

HCT Members and Friends,

There is a conservation legacy in Harvard that is important not only for the town, but for the region and the broader conservation community, and it has been a privilege to serve as HCT’s executive director for the past five years.  HCT is a sound and effective organization because of the talent and dedication of thousands of volunteers and members since 1973.  Thank you for the tireless commitment, generosity, and energy that you bring to the ongoing work of protecting and caring for the forests, fields, and farmland of Harvard.  It’s inspiring, a true example of collective effort, and it has made my time with the Trust a pleasure.  I look forward to staying connected with HCT and local conservation efforts in the years ahead, and I wish you continued success in preserving the land and natural resources of Harvard and beyond.

Thank you and farewell,

D.O.

 

Read open letter from the President

HCT Seeks Next Executive Director

Executive Director – Job Description
Cherished as an asset to the residents of Harvard, MA, and surrounding communities, the Harvard Conservation Trust, HCT, is a private, charitable, non-profit land trust whose mission is “to preserve the unique character and natural resources of Harvard”. Since its inception in 1973, HCT has helped to permanently protect more than 850 acres of land for conservation, through purchase, conservation restriction, and easement. With the full support of its Board of Directors, the Trust seeks an Executive Director to execute the strategic vision of HCT – to preserve natural resources through conservation and to create a fully connected network of protected lands.

To read the full job description follow this LINK.

Application Procedure: Interested individuals should send a cover letter with résumé to president@harvardconservationtrust.org . No phone calls, please. Harvard Conservation Trust is an equal opportunity employer.

Free HCT Membership

In the spirit of community and togetherness, HCT will provide a free one-year membership and our Trail Guide to area residents who are new to HCT and the trails of Harvard.  To sign up, simply email your name and mailing address to, info@harvardconservationtrust.org, under the subject line “New Member” by June 30, 2020 (email addresses are never shared).  If you are a current or past member of HCT and would like another trail guide, contact us by phone (978-456-9292) or email (info@…).  Our hope is this small gesture might help those who would like to visit conservation lands and trails in Harvard during these difficult times, but may not know where to go.

A complete list of Harvard’s conservation properties, along with printable trail maps, can be found online here.  For everyone’s health and safety, please follow the provisional trail use guidelines under COVID-19 State of Emergency.  Though we may be practicing social distancing at the moment, ultimately, connecting with land and nature can bring us together as a community and strengthen the bond that comes from a shared sense of place.

Getting Outside During COVID-19

The heart of HCT’s mission is the ability of people to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of Harvard.  HCT and the Town have opted to keep our trails open for use, under new provisional guidelines, as these outdoor resources are needed more than ever.  We hope everyone in our community will take advantage of the range of different properties and recreational trails that have been preserved and cared for through volunteer efforts. Conservation areas are open from dawn to dusk and can be safely used and enjoyed under the posted rules (found at https://harvardconservationtrust.org/trails/ and https://www.harvard.ma.us/home/news/mud-season-and-harvard-trails) as well as the provisional guidelines below, developed in response to the current COVID-19 public health emergency:

• When parking please be respectful of others; avoid blocking other cars and do not park beyond specified areas into hayfields or adjacent natural lands. If parking area is full upon arrival, please choose a different property to visit, and/or return at another time.

• Limit the number of people in your group; ideally, 2 or less, and under no circumstances more than 5. Avoid congregating at trail heads, scenic overlooks, benches and rest areas, etc. Consider only using trails with members of your immediate family or those from your household.

• Maintain the physical distancing criteria advised by public health experts, at least 6 feet, at all times; including in the parking area, at the trail head, on the trail, on bridges, etc. When encountering others on the trail traveling in the opposite direction, step off the trail to provide a safe distance while passing. Likewise, when running, biking or otherwise overtaking a trail walker, pause and negotiate safely distanced passing.

• Keep pets leashed, or heeled, to reduce the potential for inadvertent contact with other trail users through the interaction of pets.

• Adult ticks and nymphs are active now, please take precautions such as wearing appropriate clothing and performing “tick checks” during and after walks.

A complete list of Harvard’s conservation properties, along with printable trail maps, can be found online at http://www.harvard-trails.com/mapindex.html.

Note Regarding COVID-19

As we all take the necessary precautions to help our community stay safe and healthy, please keep in mind that Harvard’s conservation lands remain open from dawn to dusk.  Getting outside to walk, run, or ride the trails keeps the body fit, while sitting quietly at the edge of a field or pond can calm the mind and relieve stress in these worrisome times.  We ask that you respect the space of others you encounter on the trails and maintain appropriate distance.  Please also refrain from visiting conservation lands in groups of 10 or more.  Though we may be practicing social distancing at the moment, in the big picture, connecting with land and nature can bring us together and strengthen community bonds through a shared sense of place.

The Harvard Conservation Trust

Harvard Conservation Trust New Year’s Walk

Per tradition, the Harvard Conservation Trust will ring in the New Year with a stroll among Harvard’s forests and fields. Nothing sets the tone for the year ahead like a leisurely walk with friends and neighbors in the crisp rejuvenating air of January. The walk will take place at 11:00am. HCT Membership not required. Location details will be provided at sign up. The walk will require a moderate level of fitness. Hiking poles, or good foot traction will be helpful if conditions are icy. Expect the walk to take approximately 1 hour. Dress for comfort and warmth. In the event of hazardous weather, the walk will be cancelled. Registration is necessary at : http://bit.ly/HCTNewYear.  Happy New Year from HCT!

Honoring the Memory of Marylynn

We are saddened to share the news of the passing of HCT’s first Executive Director, Marylynn Gentry (read obituary). Marylynn was a leader, a passionate naturalist, and a committed champion of land conservation in Harvard and beyond.  She will be greatly missed and the example she set will continue to inspire our work for years to come.