Town Forest History
Today the Salem Town Forest serves not only as conservation land and protected environment for many wildlife species, but also recreational land that everyone can enjoy. With a 3.7 mile trail network, it’s a splendid place to walk (with or without dogs), ride horses, or mountain bike. There are abundant spring wildflowers, summer blueberries, and colorful fall foliage. In late fall hunters can search for deer during a limited hunting season. During winter, snow covered trails provide excellent snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing terrain. Any time of the year, Salem’s Town Forest provides a wonderful place to relax, spend time outdoors and learn about our natural resources.
Town Forest History
- Prior to the Town’s purchase, Town Forest land had been essentially undisturbed since the early 1900’s except for excavation from two gravel pits and occasional logging.
- At the March 1979 Town Meeting, voters passed Article 25 authorizing Selectmen to purchase land for not more than $800/acre - $80,000 total - using Federal Grant funds; and future land for up to $40,000 using State Heritage Conservation and Recreation Services matching funds.
- The first parcel, 79 acres, was purchased in September 1979 from Mr. William Brown. Selectman Richard Tibbetts, who was very much interested in Salem acquiring open space, negotiated this sale. Mr. Brown, who also wanted to see open space left for future generations, sold the land for about its assessed value rather than market value.
- Additional parcels have been added over the years, and in April 1994 all contiguous town-owned lots were consolidated into one large lot. By January 2002 the Town Forest totaled 198.72 acres. About 75% of the acreage is mixed conifer-hardwood forest, 20% is wetland, and 5% is scrub shrub or no growth on former gravel pits.
- The Town Forest was created at the March 1983 Town Meeting when Articles 16 and 17 were passed by voters to designate all town land encompassed by Bluff Street, Lake Street, Shadow Lake Road, and Zion Hill Road (about 173 acres at that time) as the official town forest; and to designate the Salem Conservation Commission as it’s managers.
- In June 1988, Mr. David Belford completed a Forest Management Plan to assist with forest maintenance and silviculture. The town’s share for the plan was paid with a $2,000 donation given by the Emerald Green Corp.
- Registered Forester Ron Klemarzick was hired to manage a harvest on the Town’s behalf during the winter and spring of 1994. This 60 acre harvest removed about 93,000 board feet, opening the canopy to allow tall grass and shrubs (including blueberries) to thrive.
- During the early 1990s, Registered Wetland Specialist Mark West created a trail layout connecting old forest roads. Subsequently Trail D was cut by a Boy Scout troop led by Scoutmaster Kenneth Campbell (a Conservation Commission member at the time). Trail additions during 2000 and 2001 give us 3.7 trail miles.
- In June 1996, Salem High School student intern Mr. Ryan Linehan completed a habitat survey to identify wildlife species found in the woodland and wetlands. His information, compiled in an educational booklet titled “Aspects of Nature…” can be found at the Town Hall and Kelly Library.
- In November 1998, both the parking area off Rt. 111 and footbridge over Hitytity Brook were completed. The bridge, which provides a scenic entrance into the trail system, was dedicated to Mr. Wally Schultz in June 2001 for his many years devoted as a Town of Salem Conservation Commission member.
- During spring 1999 a new 6,000 s.f. wetland was created within the forest to mitigate impacts from filling 3,037 s.f. wetlands for the parking lot and footbridge.
- During 2000 and 2001, Mr. Tom Stevens surveyed the Town Forest east of the Hitytity Brook. Boundary signs were placed on trails, and the boundary marked by ribbons or blazed trees.
- In June 2001, Salem High School student intern Ms. Ashley Mason completed a project to provide sixteen Nature Trail signs, a bulletin board at the parking area, and an updated trail brochure. Also, Eagle Scout candidate Mr. Chris Wilt completed a project to place trail markers at fourteen trail intersections.
- During February 2002, in the former gravel pit closest to the parking area, a “Brontosaurus” was used to trim swaths of small trees and tall shrubs close to the ground. This procedure maintains biodiversity in the forest. The cleared area will start to regenerate within a year and provide habitat for birds and animals that prefer a scrub shrub environment. Another gravel pit (about a half mile into the forest on Trail A) was completely stripped of its fertile topsoil and will not recover any time soon.
- In 2008 the area bordered by trail "E" and the hillside going to trail "B" had "Brontosaurus" work done.
- In 2009 a 25 acre tree harvest was completed.
- In January 2013 a 1 3/4 acre section of trail "A" and Trail "F" had "Brontosaurus" work done. This area and trail "B" and trail "E" are being managed as songbird and wildlife habitat. These areas will be looked at every 10 years to see if they need Bronto work to keep them healthy and productive.