Ashfield's OLD-Growth forest tract up for sale, January 2016
The small but significant certified old-growth forest tract on the corner of 112 and Sears Rd in Ashfield, which was celebrated during the town's 250th anniversary last year (see more about this special spot below), appears to be up for sale.
An ad appeared in the print edition of the Recorder this week (January 21, 2016) and a simple online search turned up this listing (MLS # 4452488) for it:
A well-stocked, conserved forest with a towering stand of old growth trees. The property is in Ashfield in the Berkshire foothills about 12 miles west of the Connecticut River. A town-maintained, gravel road bisects the forest, providing ample access for land management activities. The terrain is gently rolling throughout most of the forest. A brook runs through the property, supporting 20 acres of wetland meadows in the lower areas, while most upland soils are well-drained. The forest supports a white pine/hemlock species mix with associated hardwoods. A noteworthy aspect of the forest is the existence of a 3-acre stand of old growth white pine and hemlock. Research conducted in 2003 recorded diameters ranging from 3 to 6 feet and heights ranging from 117 to 132 feet. One of the biggest pines (at that time) was estimated to contain 3,500 board feet of volume. The state holds a working forest conservation easement on the property; building construction is not allowed.
The previous owner, Hull Forestland Products of Pomfret Center, CT, had pledged to protect the tract, and, like the ad said, moved to put an easement on it, per this statement on their site:
"Hull Forestlands has pledged to protect this stand of old growth and we placed the property under conservation restriction with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in 2003."
While it's reassuring that there is said to be a conservation easement on the old trees, it would seem to be important to know for sure that they're protected in the event the property is sold. Because the ad above promotes the amount board feet in each of the old trees, and after consulting the forest expert who helped certify its old-growth status -- Bob Leverett, who led last winter's hike in the grove -- it seems even more urgent to find out the status. If you are familiar with conservation restrictions or have an interest in seeing this special piece of land preserved, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Old-Growth Forest Hike, March 2015
I've been fascinated with old-growth tracts, forests which have never been cut, since learning about them in college and then living out West where much of the nation's ancient groves remain. However, upon moving East I learned in Orion magazine that states like Massachusetts still have many (small) areas that were never cut for one reason or another by early colonists. After visiting at least four of them, I arranged to do reporting projects on old-growth issues in Poland (report here) and then Sweden (here), two countries where much of Europe's remaining ancient forests are located.
So in celebration of Ashfield's 250th, on March 21 at 10 am, old-growth forest expert Bob Leverett will give a guided tour of our own old-growth patch which holds trees that germinated right around the time that the town was founded. This event is a repeat of a walk Bob led a few winters ago that was attended by many appreciative townsfolk. The site is on Sears Road a very short distance from 112 – one can see the crowns of old white pines on a small hill there, and there is a scattering of old hemlocks, birches, and maples too, all of them being between 170 and about 250 years of age. There is one exceptionally large white pine named the Mason Pine (for Howard Mason who was responsible for saving this rare piece of forest which has never been cut, back when it was under prior ownership). The land is now owned by Hull Forestlands and they are committed to preserving this piece of history; they welcome visitors to the tract.
Park on Sears Road near the junction of Route 112 and wear appropriate clothing and shoes – though it is a very short distance to walk, the last time we did this event, it went for over an hour in snow drifts protected by the deep shade of ancient trees, so it can be chilly.
For more information about these trees, see the Hampshire Gazette article below and Eastern Native Tree Society's page about the tract here.