Charity Lot plans await Bernardston residents’ input

Sustainable landscape designer John Lepore makes note of a washed-out logging road as he inventories the Charity Lot property in Bernartston last year. Lepore has spent more than a year designing a plan for the property.
Recorder/David Rainville

Sustainable landscape designer John Lepore makes note of a washed-out logging road as he inventories the Charity Lot property in Bernartston last year. Lepore has spent more than a year designing a plan for the property. Recorder/David Rainville Purchase photo reprints »

BERNARDSTON — Plans for the 84 wooded acres of the Charity Lot are coming together ... and it’s time for residents to have a final say in shaping its future.

Residents can view two conceptual plans for the Bald Mountain Road property and suggest their own ideas at a forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Bernardston Elementary School. They were drawn up by John Lepore, a sustainable landscape designer, Bernardston resident and former science teacher at Pioneer Valley Regional School. Lepore has also authored a sustainability plan for the school’s 90-acre grounds.

One Charity Lot design will emphasize the recreational possibilities of the land, while the other will focus on sustainably harvesting timber — and both will contain suggestions for forest management.

Recreational opportunities include hiking to spots like the lot’s wide western view, hunting, picnic areas, ATV trails, horseback riding, snowshoe trails and more.

It all depends on what the town wants, said Lepore.

After Tuesday’s forum, Lepore will begin to put together a final design, which could be used to apply for grants to help fund work to the property. He also hopes some of the work, such as cutting trails and removing problem plants, can be done by volunteers.

The lot could also fund some of the work itself. Lepore said a stand of white pine by the roadside should be cut right away, while the management plan — which would include thinning — would help provide plenty of tall, straight trees for later lumbering.

Work needs to be done before anyone can start thinning or harvesting the interior of the lot, though.

“Before we can do any work we need to repair the roads, because they’re so eroded,” Lepore said. He said logging roads and trails cut too steeply have rerouted runoff and become seasonal streambeds — and need to be moved so it won’t happen again, Lepore said.

“We could start them as (hiking) trails and work our way in,” he said. “Properly planned, they could become roads for hauling out lumber.”

Charitable goals

While selective logging could help fund the recreational development of the lot, it could also help needy families get by.

When the Charity Lot was donated to the town by the estate of local lawyer Joel Goodale in 1833, the gift carried a stipulation that the land be used to benefit the town’s “industrious poor.” In the past, this was done through logging the land or leasing it to farmers and giving profits to the needy, as well as allowing the less fortunate to cut their own firewood.

“We could manage the woodlot with selective cutting, and start a ‘wood bank’ to help the needy heat their homes in the winter,” Lepore suggested.

Once the forest is thinned to help lumber grow straight and tall, it could be harvested periodically, according to the forest management plan.

Before thinning the forest, though, Lepore wants to address several species of invasive plants that are taking over the area. If too many trees are dropped before these plants are taken care of, the extra sunlight will make them grow like, well, weeds.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain

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