Poplar Mountain Conservation Area in Erving getting new parking area

  • Erving is in the process of adding a gravel parking lot on Old State Road, which leads hikers into the Poplar Mountain Conservation Area. Contributed Photo—

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2022 7:58:29 PM

ERVING — Installation begins Friday for a new nine-vehicle parking area at the Poplar Mountain Conservation Area on Old State Road, Assistant Town Planner Mariah Kurtz announced Thursday afternoon.

The 50-foot-by-60-foot gravel lot is expected to be installed by Northfield’s Johnson Asphalt Paving between Friday morning and Tuesday, according to Kurtz. Town Administrator Bryan Smith said the project was funded as part of Erving’s fiscal year 2023 capital improvement plan, with the current $35,514.50 contract cost drawing from a $40,000 budget approval. Conservation Commission Chair David Brule said the commission expects the parking lot to improve accessibility to surrounding hiking trails and reduce illegal street parking.

The lot will be positioned on a 125-acre property purchased by the town from the estate of John Giniusz in 2007, according to the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, which oversees the conservation area. Since then, volunteers have worked to expand the area’s trail system and improve access, Brule said.

Brule explained that as the trails have increased in popularity, visitors have more frequently parked on the street, which is against the law.

“One thing is that we haven’t finished a user flow,” Brule said. “The problem is that there was ad-hoc parking on Old State Road that was fundamentally illegal, but there was nowhere else to park. … If we were to keep inviting people to come, we needed a safe place for people to park that was also legal.”

Brule said the Conservation Commission made the sensitive decision to remove some smaller trees to prepare the parking lot area. Conservation Commission member Mark Blatchley noted, though, that this was not a matter of dramatic deforestation.

“The area is already cleared with the exception of some hung-up problem trees, a tree or two needed for equipment to move around and a big pine too close to the entrance,” he said.

Brule, who is also president of the Nolumbeka Project, an Indigenous history and cultural organization, said he does not take altering the land lightly. The area, proximate to the Millers River that served as a transit route for tribal peoples, was also a confluence of tribes historically.

“That whole area, thousands of years ago, was a very important homeland for Nipmuc and Abenaki when they joined peacefully,” he said.

Brule said the most significant tree to be removed is a towering white pine, which was located too close to the parking area’s entrance. He stressed that this tree will be repurposed, with one possible option being its carving into a traditional dugout canoe. Other cleared trees will similarly be used productively, Blatchley added.

“Trunks of these trees will form the boundaries of the lot and the large pine will be set aside to see if it is large enough for another purpose,” Blatchley explained in an email. “Sections of the previously cut trees were sent to the Erving Elementary School last year for outdoor seats and as ‘Tree Cookies’ for a classroom project.”

Brule and Blatchley expect the lot to be usable shortly after its installation. Further into the future, the town plans to install an informational kiosk with a trail map, developed in conjunction with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).

Additionally, a trail work day is set for Oct. 23. Volunteers from Erving and surrounding communities are encouraged to attend.

“There are several places where trees fell down on or near trails, one which may actually entail moving a short section of trail around it,” Blatchley explained. “There is a short section under power lines overgrown with ferns that needs to be cleared.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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