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Woodland Nature Trail

By Larry Shield

AMESBURY, Mass.-- Thanks to the joint effort of a landscape contractor, an elementary school, an educational foundation and local businesses, Amesbury now has a Woodland Nature Trail. Located behind Amesbury Elementary School, the new trail extends up Powow Hill to Batchelder Park. It's the first phase of a three-part project linking the school to the park and the conservation land and trails on Battis Farm and Lake Gardner.

Last spring AES staff members Bruce McBrien and Pam Gagnon spearheaded the effort and were awarded $1,100 from the Amesbury Educational Foundation to create the trail.

Several residents donated their time and expertise to work on the project, including landscape contractor Sean Curran. "The goal was to have a place where children could be close to natural life in the woods," said Curran. "The trail goes past Lake Gardner and ends up at Camp Kent."

Curran told LCN one of the toughest challenges in developing the trail was dealing with the initial incline from the elementary school. From the playground the slope rises over 20 feet in a distance of only 100 feet. Timber stairs with crushed stones were placed into the slope to make it easier for children to ascend. After the initial slope, the trail runs fairly flat.

Another challenge was finding volunteers to clear out the poison ivy along the trail. Curran and his crew replaced the shrub with mulch.

Woodland Nature Trail will officially open after a 6 x 12-foot bridge is installed across a seasonal stream, Curran explained, probably sometime after Thanksgiving.

The trail runs about 3/4 mile with a width varying from 6 to 8 feet, and is strictly for pedestrians. "You can even go up it with your snowshoes in the winter. A set of stairs on that first incline is set up so snow can be swept away to both sides," Curran said.

"Volunteers from the school will help to maintain the trail," Curran noted, although AES staff member Bruce McBrien said he expects AES will keep an active ownership of the project. "In some capacity, every spring we will maintain it," McBrien said. "Once it's done, it's not going to be a major undertaking to keep it up. I can knock back any future growth of poison ivy along the trail. We'll make the most of this trail. It's a good size. It's manageable."

Future components may include hand-held computer technology to assist visually impaired people through the highlights of the trail. Chris Idzik, the educational outreach director for the Essex National Heritage Area (ENHA), suggested AES technology specialist McBrien apply for an ENHA grant to add informational kiosks along the trail.

In addition to Amesbury parents, teachers and residents, local businesses Cider Hill Farm, the Lake Gardner Improvement Association, and Andrew Logan of all made substantial contributions to the project.

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November 18, 2019, 11:37 am PDT

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