Friends of the Charity Farm Lot to improve town forest

  • The approximately 90-acre Charity Farm Lot, a town-owned forest, is located off Bald Mountain Road in Bernardston. Map contributed by John Lepore

Recorder Staff
Saturday, December 30, 2017

BERNARDSTON — The process of rehabilitating the Charity Farm Lot off Bald Mountain Road has taken another step forward, with the recent formation of the Friends of the Charity Farm Lot.

The Selectboard approved the committee’s creation at the request of landscape architect and resident John Lepore. Over the past several years, Lepore has been responsible for collecting community input about use of the town-owned forest, developing a management plan, overseeing work bees to remove invasive species and marking trails on the property’s approximately 90 acres.

The role of the Friends, Lepore explained, is to continue to curb invasive species; determine which trails should be remediated, closed or redirected; examine the property’s erosion issues and determine the best course for remediation; identify additional points of interest and develop trails to access them; create maps and signage; and apply for a 2018 Department of Conservation and Recreation grant, with applications due in February. Such actions would be outlined in Lepore’s proposed five-year plan that would be subject to Selectboard approval.

Though who will serve on the committee has yet to be determined, Lepore said he hopes to have intergenerational involvement so that, while making the Charity Farm Lot into a user-friendly forest, the committee will simultaneously “educate young people about the environment and the importance of natural systems.”

The ultimate goal is to make the forest something welcoming and easy for visitors to navigate, whether they go there to hunt, hike or ride horses, ATVs or snowmobiles.

“You walk in and people say ‘Where do I go?’ And ‘How can I get there?’” Lepore said, explaining that people who are already familiar with the area are the forest’s primary visitors.

According to the Charity Farm Lot Recreation & Conservation Plan completed by Lepore, the property 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. It has had a variety of uses including as a Christmas tree farm operated by the Boy Scouts during the 1960s and 1970s.

Two community meetings and hikes gave Lepore an understanding of what visitors appreciate about the site, and the need to embrace community recreational use with well-marked trails and scenic destinations. He said several residents already show interest in joining the Friends to continue improving the forest.

Should the town receive the DCR grant, which would provide 80 percent reimbursement of costs, Lepore said the plan is to hire a contractor to assess the lot’s significant erosion and provide cost estimates for repair. Erosion remediation, Lepore estimated, could cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000.

“There’s a lot of uncertainties,” he said. “We haven’t had anyone look at (the erosion).”

Grant funding could also be used to purchase signs or to hire the Student Conservation Association, which would help repair eroded trails, redirect water to prevent future erosion and perhaps mark new trails, Lepore said.

Those interested in serving on the Friends of the Charity Farm Lot, or who want to be involved in future work bees, are encouraged to contact John Lepore by email at ask@future-lands.com or send him a message on the Friends of the Charity Farm Lot’s Facebook page.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257