NATURE
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

This month NSRWA features the town of Rockland in its 50 Places to Explore Contest. Rockland might not immediately come to mind when you’re searching for a place to walk in nature. But if you visit the properties listed below, you may be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer. Especially along its borders, Rockland is home to some remarkably beautiful and interesting places!

Rockland Town Forest

A natural oasis in the midst of a bustling suburban town, this small, well-maintained 43-acre woodland features a trail network with up-close views of French’s Stream, a headwater tributary to the Indian Head/North River system. It exists largely because of George Anderson, the chairman of the Rockland Town Forest Committee, who has been very active in developing, maintaining and improving the trails, and otherwise keeping the property in top shape. Watch for curious stacks of stones, the occasional windchime… even a cleverly-placed gnome, all of which add an air of whimsy. Originally established in 1984 with just under 20 acres, the Rockland Town Forest has now doubled in size. Boardwalks and stream crossings make it especially captivating for younger children. Enter from North Avenue for limited on-site parking. Additional parking on Spruce Street, at Thompson Pond/Twin Pond Trail Network (diagonally across the road). https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/george-anderson-rockland-town-forest/

Rockland Rail Trail

This 3-mile, paved, easy-to-follow trail for walking and bicycling extends from the Hanover/Rockland town line to North Abington. There are several road crossings, each marked with a yellow metal gate that permits individuals to pass, but not cars. Proceed with caution through all intersections. Some are relatively quiet, but others involve major roadways such as Routes 139 and 123. At Union Street, there is a small section featuring the original rails from the railroad, as well as an informational kiosk. Heading west, the trail continues through residential areas and eventually passes by Rockland’s Senior Center, golf course, and high school, crossing French’s Stream as it approaches its terminus in Abington. Park at the Rockland Police Department, 500 Market Street. Additional access from the cul de sac at the end of Circuit Street in West Hanover (follow a short trail through the woods), at the Hanover Senior Center, and at the North Abington MBTA station. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/rockland-rail-trail-hanover-branch-rail-trail/

Summer Street Conservation Lands

This 14-acre forest, primarily pine and oak, is not currently accessible from Rockland, however there are two access points in Hanover’s Forge Pond Park. The trail through the Summer Street Conservation Lands provides a vital woodland connection between the French’s Stream Trail to the east and the Old Rockland Fireworks Loop to the west. (The lands here, like much of Rockland, are part of the French’s Stream watershed.) Follow the French’s Stream Trail from Parking Lot E at Forge Pond Park to the French’s Stream Bridge. Look for another trail just to the left of the bridge entrance, heading into a grassy power easement. This unnamed trail, marked with red Hanover Conservation blazes, continues through the Summer Street Conservation Lands for about a mile. After a second power easement, the trail connects with the Old Rockland Fireworks Loop, as well as the Clark Bog Trail. For parking, Lots C, D and E at Forge Pond Park in Hanover (245 King Street) provide the best access. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/summer-street-conservation-lands/

Old Rockland Fireworks Loop

Catch a glimpse of the area’s industrial past on this wide, partially paved, 1-mile forest trail. Concrete structures, some covered completely with graffiti, present a stark contrast to this otherwise wooded landscape. Small brooks — part of the French’s Stream watershed — run along both sides of the trail, and occasionally you’ll see a concrete pipe or culvert as well. This property is easily confused with the Hanover Fireworks trail system, across King Street from Forge Pond Park. The Old Rockland Fireworks Loop remains open, while the Hanover Fireworks property is closed due to unexploded ordinance within its boundaries that is in the process of being detonated and/or removed. (Please respect the “Trail Closed” signs.) The primary access point, with ample parking, is at Forge Pond Park in Hanover. Download a trail map and follow the Clark Bog Trail from Lot C. Additional access from Satucket Road in Rockland. Look for the two boulders on the left side of the road, in the section where there are no houses. Park on the street, and bear right when the trail forks. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/old-rockland-fireworks-loop-trail/

Hingham Street Reservoir

A picturesque public water supply surrounded by a 1.5-mile trail. The name might be misleading, but the scenery is beautiful! The reservoir — which is located on Hingham Street in Rockland — supplies water to the towns of Abington and Rockland. Public access, however, is from Deerfield Lane in Hanover. If you’re driving in from Whiting Street, look to the right, just before Deerfield makes a sharp curve to the left. Park along the side of the road. The trail — which is mostly level and clear — cuts quickly through a woodland and out to the reservoir, where it extends around the perimeter. It is bordered by young pine, birch and maple trees, and an abundance of sweet pepper bush. There are occasional boulders and outcroppings of rock, which generally offer the best views of the water. Ben Mann Brook, which flows through the property, flows into Cushing Brook, a tributary to the Indian Head/North River system. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/hingham-street-reservoir/

Twin Ponds Trail

After the South Weymouth Naval Air Station officially closed in 1997, some of the land on which it stood was opened to the public. This included the Twin Ponds property, a 2-mile trail system through woods and wetlands. Prior to the formation of the Naval Air Station (1942), it was a hog farm. From the parking area on Spruce Street, at the Abington/Rockland town line, the blue-blazed trail heads north through a meadow and into the woods. After crossing over the East Branch of French’s Stream, it continues past two ponds (the Twin Ponds) and onward, with occasional wooden walkways. Sometimes the trail — which includes two loops — is wide and flat; other times it’s narrow. There are numerous rocky outcroppings along the way, plus several old stone walls. It may be helpful to carry a map. Limited on-site parking on Spruce Street in Rockland. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/twin-ponds-trail/

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 20+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the 50 Places to Explore Contest, visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/enter-the-nsrwa-50-places-to-explore-contest/