Workshop to look at how to use Charity Lot forest
John Lepore takes in the view from the top of the 84-acre Charity Lot off Bald Mountain Road in Bernardston Tuesday.
A weathered sign marks the Charity Lot trailhead on Bald Mountain Road in Bernardston.
BERNARDSTON — How can the town get the most out of the 84-acre Charity Lot forest?
Residents will start to answer that question Monday night, when landscape architect and Bernardston resident John Lepore will host a community workshop from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Bernardston Elementary School.
“It’s going to be a really fun, positive project,” said Lepore. “I’m excited.”
Lepore has been busy compiling information and maps of the property, which he will bring to Monday’s forum. After a brief introduction, he’ll turn things over to residents, who will break into groups and come up with ideas, concerns, and questions about the property.
“Should there be horse, or dirtbike trails?” Lepore asked rhetorically. “Are there places ATVs should or shouldn’t be? Are there sensitive areas that are at risk?”
Lepore will take it all in, and come up with two possible plans for the forest, which he will present at a second workshop. Between the two workshops, he said, he will schedule a public hike so people can see the Charity Lot for themselves before they decide on aspects of the proposed plans.
The Charity Lot was given to the town in the will of Judge Job Goodale, who died in 1833. His will asked that the town give any proceeds from its use to the poor, and was first named the Charity Farm.
The property’s short frontage on Bald Mountain Road, the site of a white pine plantation in 1924, gives way to a mixed forest, with seasonal and year-round streams, traversed by everything from logging roads to deer runs.
A hike up the hill to the property’s peak provides an easterly view of the farms and fields on the other side of the interstate. The highway itself is mostly hidden from view by the trees that line it.
Out for a hike Tuesday morning, Lepore paused often to key in waypoints on a pocket-sized GPS, as he continued to familiarize himself with the property and map out its trails.
“I’ve been out here a couple times,” he said. “It’ll take a couple more to feel like I know the place.”
Though the town has owned the land for nearly 200 years, it’s not that familiar with the forest, either. A 2012 forest management plan left off a portion of the lot that juts out to the east and continues south. A stand of hemlock made the line easy to spot.
This, said Lepore, shows the need to have the land professionally surveyed at some point.
Surveys can be costly, but Lepore said it can wait. He expects the scope of the Charity Lot project to be far enough inside the property’s boundaries that they won’t need to be precisely plotted.
Lepore hopes to clear up those boundaries for everyone’s sake. Tuesday morning, he saw a handful of “No trespassing” signs, which, according to his GPS, were well within the Charity Lot’s bounds.
Lepore hopes the Charity Lot’s abutters will come to Monday’s forum.
“If they don’t, both the community and the landowners will miss out,” he said. “We need to start a dialogue with them.”
Those abutters have a wealth of experience to contribute, and Lepore wants to be sure their concerns and ideas are part of the process. As next-door-neighbors, they also stand to benefit from the recreational and open space opportunities that could come from the plan.
If you’d like to contribute, but can’t make it to Monday’s workshop, you can contact John Lepore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279