by Jason Berard, Stewardship Coordinator
Over the course of our 28 year history, UVLT has conserved more than 450 properties in the 45 towns we serve, totaling approximately 45,000 acres. Doing the math, each property averages 100 acres. And we have an obligation to walk each one annually. In order to walk these places as efficiently as possible, and also to make sure we are seeing different parts of each property so that we get a more complete understanding of the place over time, we try to combine nearby properties into longer walks that might encompass 700 acres or more of conserved land and be 5-6 miles long. Using our field folders, USGS maps, forest management plans and on the ground knowledge from previous walks, we determine the best way to connect multiple properties together into day-long trips.
As we protect new places each year, the possible walk configurations evolve.
But these routes don’t show up on any list of trails, or available places to walk, and there are no maps of the woods roads that we might use to link properties into longer walks. The connections are something you learn over time by getting out there and walking the land year after year. UVLT staff share this knowledge with our dedicated cadre of volunteer easement monitors when they take an assignment, and we have been looking for a way to share these connections with the larger community, too.
So when the “O” section of the Green Mountain Club asked us if we wanted to collaborate with them on a series of hikes in the Upper Valley that would cross conserved land, it seemed like a perfect fit. It didn’t take long to come up with a few trips over the summer to kick off what we hope will be a long partnership. But it isn’t just that we have a unique knowledge of these places to share with the folks who go on GMC trips. Not at all. In the process of planning each walk, we reach out to local groups who also know these special places, but in ways different than we do. For instance, back in the winter we did a trip in North Grantham that linked two remote properties that UVLT owns. 150 years ago this area was a thriving village complete with a school and a general store. Without reaching out to Renee Hocker at the Grantham Historical Society, we would never have learned the stories behind the stone walls and cellar holes we passed that day. So with each of these trips, we make new and deeper connections to the communities we serve. And we know the hikers do too!
This summer we’ll be co-hosting trips in Thetford, Lyme, Grantham, Enfield, Plainfield and Corinth. They will pass the remnants of a 19th century Inn, an old copper mine, cellar holes, waterfalls, unusual plant communities, rich agricultural land, an old slate quarry, and who knows what else! Come along with us to see what we can discover together!