By the time I took over as Secretary in May 2020, the Trust had figured out how to maneuver in our distanced world to avoid the Covid threat. All meetings were held remotely with everyone able to attend. Our staff, Cheri Brunault and Ruth Gutman, met remotely as regularly as before. When Cheri scheduled trail days, she spread us out as much as safety required. In the spring we worked on finishing the Sousa Trail in Alfred to have as many Three Rivers trails available as possible, for people wanting to get outside safely. In the fall Cheri asked members to help finish the Hansen Pond trail in Acton. It was a big project involving parking, trail design improvements, and a lot of hand labor. Her persistent leadership paid off.
Usually by June each year the Board and staff are preparing for the annual Farm Walk in Springvale with accompanying Farm Breakfast fundraiser in the McDougal Orchard’s beautiful, big barn. Not in 2020, though. Ruth came up with a substitute: her Farm Breakfast Recipe book with the popular strata recipe and David Mann’s wonderful succotash recipe as well. It is too soon to know what food will be offered this year, but the walk will happen, and Three Rivers will have a presence at McDougal Orchard.
The board also tackled the challenge of writing and adopting two position statements, both of them inspired in part by the outcome of discussions among board members on books and topics addressing environmental and racial justice. You can find the Climate Statement and the Solidarity (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice) Statement on our website.
The Trust acquired a 78-acre parcel in Shapleigh at the end of June 2020. Having to do everything remotely meant we did not meet the sellers, Beth O’Malley and Randy Young, in person at the closing. (We had met them the prior year.) The availability of state funding through the MNRCP program made it possible to protect over 1,000 feet of frontage on Pump Box Brook, including open wetlands formed by beaver dams, productive vernal pools, and extensive forested uplands. . Pump Box Brook is the biggest and most important feeder into Mousam Lake in Shapleigh. This watershed has been a high priority for the Trust since our inception in the year 2000. There will be a parking area and walking trail on the parcel as soon as possible, either this fall or next spring.
In the past year, the Trust applied to the same pot of MNRCP funding to acquire the wetlands on the 550 acre parcel we call Sanford Community Forest. Money was awarded to protect the wetlands on more than half the acreage. Transfer of ownership on 310 acres is coming soon; and there will be much more to say and write regarding the remaining 240 acres in the near future. Fundraising continues, to ensure the success of the project.
Annual easement and fee monitoring was completed by last December 2020. The ADA-compliant accessible trail on Goat Hill was almost finished in the fall and was open for foot traffic all winter. The accessible route will be completed this year; and the top of the Hill will be prepared for wheelchair use at last.
The Board agreed that we needed to revisit our investments and decide how to move forward with the goal of increasing our income from those funds. The investment/finance committee met, interviewed three firms, and is ready to recommend to the board that the Trust hire one of those three firms as investment advisor this year.