|The Lansing Bennett Forest is one of many local conservation areas with significant tree damage. But don’t let it stop you from visiting!|
February’s blizzard, and the several springtime windstorms that followed it, wreaked havoc on our local woodlands, as well as our own yards. Even now, months after Nemo, private tree companies are still very busy cleaning up the mess. But due to their significant acreage, our open space areas may face the biggest challenge. Over the past few months, I have received messages from most of our local conservation groups, explaining that the clean-up process in our forests and fields will take time, and urging walkers and hikers to use care.
You’ve probably seen what it takes to remove a single fallen tree from the average yard. Imagine dealing with close to a hundred trees . . . in a remote area with little or no truck access.
This challenge was abundantly evident when I walked last month in the Lansing Bennett Forest in Duxbury. It was my first visit to this 344-acre parcel, a peaceful woodland intersected by Phillips Brook, a tributary to the South River.
The property, originally dubbed Trout Farm, was set aside as conservation land in 1970, when the Town of Duxbury purchased it from the Lot Phillips Company, a Hanover-based outfit that manufactured wooden boxes. The 1.8-mile brook is home to two varieties of trout: brown, and wild brook. It is also the historic location of Howland’s Mill — founded in 1830 – which was a grist-, and then a sawmill. In later years, there was a trout farm on site.
More recently the name of the property was changed, to honor Dr. Lansing Bennett, who served as chair of the Duxbury Conservation Commission from 1967 to 1979. Dr. Bennett was a tireless advocate for open space, and during his tenure, the Duxbury acquired over 1200 acres.
Access to the Lansing Bennett Forest is on Union Bridge Road, where there is a small parking area parallel to the street. Cross, Summer and Franklin Streets mark the property’s other boundaries. The parcel is also home to a section of the Bay Circuit Trail, 200 miles of walking paths that stretch in a wide semi-circle from Plum Island in Newburyport to Bay Farm on the Duxbury-Kingston line.
While there is a map posted on site, I strongly recommend downloading and printing the area’s property guide, which is available on the Town of Duxbury’s website. The walking paths within the Lansing Bennett Forest follow a loose circle, but there are also many spur trails that provide foot access to and from the perimeter. Bringing a map makes for a much less confusing trip.
The property is mostly upland, a forest comprised primarily of pine and oak. The trails trace the hills and valleys of kettle holes, a common landscape feature created long ago by receding glaciers. Down by Phillips Brook, you’ll find a maple swamp, with boardwalks traversing the wetter areas. The section of trail that runs directly along the brook is quite lovely.
Being a pine and oak forest, in the section of Duxbury hit hardest by the Blizzard of 2013, the Lansing Bennett Forest has seen better days. Trees are down everywhere. My visit involved scrambling over – and climbing under – numerous fallen trunks and branches. It was actually pretty fun, but if I hadn’t been in the mood for such a rugged experience, I would have had to turn back fairly soon into my walk.
I wasn’t able to connect with Duxbury Conservation to confirm this, but it is very likely that they will attend to the fallen trees soon enough. In the meantime, if you don’t mind a little “adventure,” the Lansing Bennett Forest is definitely worth a visit.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com