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50 acre project in New Ipswich conserves portion of Wapack Trail, Binney Pond shoreline

  • With the addition of 47 acres to the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, the entire shoreline of Binney Pond is now protected from development. Photo by Zack Porter, courtesy of Northeast Wilderness Trust

  • With the addition of 47 acres to the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, the entire shoreline of Binney Pond is now protected from development. Photo by Zack Porter, courtesy of Northeast Wilderness Trust—

  • With the addition of 47 acres to the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, the entire shoreline of Binney Pond is now protected from development. Photo by Zack Porter, courtesy of Northeast Wilderness Trust—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/14/2020 10:21:19 AM
Modified: 2/14/2020 10:21:07 AM

The Northeast Wilderness Trust has purchased nearly 50 acres, which includes a portion of the Wapack Trail and the Binney Pond shoreline, to preserve as forever wild forest.

The parcel, formerly owned by Shirley Sawtelle, connects to another piece of land already conserved by the Trust, known as the Binney Hill Wilderness Preserve, as well as the Wapack Wilderness, another conservation property owned by the Hampshire Country School and legally protected by the Trust.

“Nature is very important to my family,” Sawtelle said in a press release issued by the Trust. “We came to love it here because of the wildflowers and the animals…we’ve enjoyed the Wapack Trail tremendously.”

The Northeast Wilderness Trust raised the $110,000 to purchase and conserve the property over the past year. Though it received some donations from organizations such as Friends of the Wapack and the Quabbin to Cardigan Initiative, about 90 percent of the money came from individual donations, mostly from residents of Rindge and New Ipswich.

“It’s wonderful seeing that kind of local support for a project like this,” Northeast Wilderness Trust Executive Director Jon Leibowitz said in an interview Thursday.

The Wapack Trail traverses Mt. Watatic to North Pack Monadnock, over a total of 21.5 miles. The portion of the trail on the Sawtelle property is relatively short, Leibowitz said, less than a mile, but traverses some of the most beautiful views of Binney Pond and the surrounding wetlands.

“It’s small in its acreage, but it’s large in its impact,” Leibowitz said. “This secures the last piece of the Binney Pond shoreline. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the Wapack Trail.”

With the Sawtelle land portion of the trail protected, only about five miles of the Wapack Trail remain on unconserved land. The Friends of the Wapack, a group dedicated to the maintenance and protection of the trail, hopes to eventually conserve the entirety of the path.

In 2001, Boy Scout Jacob Varney and his Ashby scout troop built boardwalks on the property as Varney’s Eagle Scout project to allow hikers to enjoy the land without disturbing the wetland soils.

Rick Blanchette of New Ipswich, who is president of Friends of the Wapack, said seeing the Sawtelle property connect other wild properties is a win.

“As a teen, I would climb Pratt and New Ipswich Mountains and wander the Wapack,” Blanchette said. “Adding this piece with the Binney property is huge – it’s just terrific to have it all done. From the boardwalks, one can see beautiful mountain laurels and herons in the summer.”

In total, the three parcels make up about 2,000 acres of conservation. 

The Northeast Wilderness Trust practices “forever wild” conservation, meaning it does not selectively manage its forests, which is allowed under some conservation agreements, and allows trees to grow into old forest.

“This secures an important part of the Wapack Trail, and it also connects the Binney Hill and Wapack Wilderness easements, creating an enormous swath of 2,000 acres of forever wild forest, which is a pretty astounding accomplishment and pretty unique for that area of New Hampshire,” Leibowitz said. “There is a lot of conservation in New Hampshire, but this is one of the larger blocks of forever wild landscapes, and it has this gem of a historic trail going through it.”

The trail will continue to be maintained by the Friends of the Wapack, Leibowitz said.

“The trail provides a lot of access, and allows a special opportunity to invite the general public to experience what a wild forest looks like. And now, it’s only going to continue to get older year by year,” Leibowitz said.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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