Monday, November 18, 2019

A soft opening for Hoffman Preserve


Friday, November 29, 1 pm

We invite you to join us on a hike: the day after Thanksgiving, walk off the calories, let the kids burn off some energy, get out of the house…but don’t go shopping!
Join a team of Avalonia stewards and friends to walk through Hoffman, and have some of your questions answered. Squint your eyes and imagine the new green this spring and prepare to help us document the changes.

By Beth Sullivan
The woods are finally quiet. You can hear the birds. The large, noisy machines are gone. The mechanical part of the forest restoration project is complete. The landscape is quite changed. The open areas are pretty stark looking and, combined with the late autumn gray and brown tones, it looks pretty somber.
Now the hard part for Avalonia volunteers, the boots on the ground part, is beginning. Even before the boots hit the ground, however, planning has been underway to outline our goals and priorities for the project. What do we want the Hoffman Evergreen Preserve to be in 50-100 years. There is a lot to think about.
A stump makes a great seat.

Trails are reopening, but there are still areas to be cleaned up and debris will be left to decompose to nourish the land. Photograph by Jim Friedlander.

In one area, towering pines remain and young ones are already getting more sunlight. They will fill in the landscape over a few years.

Getting the trails open

One of our very first priorities was to get the trails opened and safe for hikers who have been looking forward to returning. Several teams of stewards have gone into the preserve over the last couple of weeks, to begin the job of cleaning up the trails and marking them. Overall, the layout of the trail system remains the same, but there are many areas where the trails were disrupted by the logging roads that needed to criss-cross through the land. Trees on several trails have already been re-blazed. The yellow and orange trails are done. Red is partly done, and blue will be completed soon. In places where there are no trees to mark, there are stakes with appropriate colors guiding a hiker across an open area to reconnect with the trail. As we have suggested in the past, using your smart phone and the Explorer for ArcGIS app is tremendously helpful now. Look for Avalonia on-line maps and the arrow icon will locate you.
The old pine loops will be removed from maps. The pines had been devastated by snow and wind storms and were completely removed. There are already white pine seedlings growing through the old needles. There are a few places where paths may be re-routed to avoid wet areas. When we have established the trail system, we will have new maps made and installed as they were before.
We do not want invasive plants to spread their seeds, so we are beginning a management effort.

The trees at the edge of the opening will provide seeds and sunlight will reach into the whole area. Photograph by Rick Newton.

In less than four years, the vegetation at the Peck Preserve has grown in densely, and is taking up carbon and providing better habitat for wildlife.

Counting the growth rings on a log  can be a great project for patient naturalists of any age.

Stop invasives from spreading

Another priority is to tackle the invasive species on the preserve. There is one large patch of invasive plants, on the orange trail near what was an old home site with disturbed ground. That’s where invasives come in first. We will try and get them cut and berries removed and bagged out, to prevent further spread into our newly opened areas. A team is already organized to start the effort ASAP. The effort will be ongoing.
As we all get familiar with the landscape, we are researching what may be the best way to help nature re-establish in the larger opened areas. As an example, in 2013, Avalonia conducted a young forest/restoration project on the Peck and Callahan preserves. It, too, was stark and barren looking at first, but as soon as the growing season began, the land just burst with new plants growing from seeds that were in the soil, waiting. In the first year the area became so dense with new, native plants, it was completely green. Now it is impossible to walk through. The wildlife has multiplied, there are greater numbers and species of plants, and we did very little to help Mother Nature. Mission accomplished. We expect the same at Hoffman.
The goal is to be able to introduce some native species that may not have been in the area, or may have died out in the half-century of evergreen darkness. We also have to consider that our climate is changing, is warming. Hoffman Preserve was planted to resemble a great northern forest that Mr. Hoffman loved. With the change that is already beginning, we have to think of plant species that will adapt and thrive in the new normal. We need to recognize what an important role forests play for our climate in taking carbon out of the atmosphere, and also balance the need for diversity in habitat to support diminishing wildlife populations. Both are at critical stages.
We still have a lot to research, a lot to think about, and many wonderful partners, scientists, ecologists and researchers are guiding us.
If you are interested in helping, contact the Avalonia office and we can add you to our list of volunteers for work parties there.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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