What a delight to discover a new place to walk! You’d never know it, but behind the new Pembroke Pointe Shopping Plaza (at the junction of Routes 53 and 139 in Pembroke), you will see a sign for the Canoe Club Preserve, 20 acres of open space managed by the Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts. I’m always trying to keep up-to-date on new conservation lands, so on a recent Sunday, I decided to check it out.

The trailhead for the preserve is well marked from the plaza’s rear parking area. Watch for the sign, then head down the hill, and you can choose to go right or left.

If you go to the left, a narrow trail leads you through the woods. For my visit on a bright morning in mid-October, the fall foliage was at its peak. The sun filtered through the trees and illuminated the leaves like stained glass. Beautiful!
As the trail is new and not yet well trod, be careful where you step. There are some small stumps and roots to watch out for. That should change soon enough — the more people who use the trail, the better it will be!

Eventually the path opens into an extensive boardwalk that crosses swampy woodland and tidal freshwater marsh. You may see moving water beneath the boardwalk – springs that lead to the upper reaches of the North River, which is just down the hill.

Now that it’s mid-fall, the colors of the marsh are fading, but there is still plenty to admire. While the lush green grasses of late spring may turn more heads, the golds and grays of autumn offer their own subtle glow.

As for wildlife, Jessica Schultz, Director of Stewardship for the Wildlands Trust, recommends that visitors be on the lookout for migrating birds. In addition, she says one of the highlights of the property is the view through the forest from the hillside, especially at this time of year. Typically we see the woods from the ground up, but as the Canoe Club Preserve is set on a steep hill, following the boardwalk trail reveals the mid-level of the forest.

The boardwalk eventually leads to a three-way intersection. Turn right and proceed to another dirt path, which completes a loop back to the trailhead. If you look up when you get to this part of the trail, you may see a chair mounted high in a tree. This is an old hunting stand, which eventually will be removed. It’s an odd site in an otherwise natural environment.

Please be aware that the other section of boardwalk that links into the aforementioned intersection is private property, even though it is not yet posted as such. (I didn’t know this at the time of my visit. Trespassing afforded me some great views of the marsh and the upper reaches of the North River, but I don’t recommend you follow suit. Those lands, which include a dock, boathouse and several wooden benches — belong to the homeowners at the adjacent Canoe Club Estates.)

How did this come to be? As part of his subdivision construction plan, Ron Wilson, the developer of Canoe Club Estates, was required by the Pembroke Planning Board to set aside a portion of his land for conservation. In April 2005, he gave 20 acres to The Wildlands Trust for public use. The Wildlands Trust created the trail and boardwalk system – a process that took a full year to complete since the Pembroke Pointe Shopping Plaza was under construction at the same time. Wilson was enthusiastic about the trail system, and participated in its creation.

I applaud the Pembroke Planning Board for their vision. What a great idea – to require that some land be saved while adjacent properties are developed. And what an attractive feature to offer potential homebuyers – Wilson’s subdivision includes a private nature preserve that links into the Wildlands Trust parcel. I hope to see more collaboration like this in the future.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, correspondent
October 2006

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’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.