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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Nichols Wood Lot, Reading, Massachusetts, USA

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Nichols Wood Lot, Reading, Massachusetts, USA
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Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Reading
Posts: 1
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When broken slats and decaying wood threatened the bridge to a neighborhood trail in our Massachusetts town, I was delighted to help in order to make the path safe for families exploring nature during the odd circumstances of the pandemic. My family and I had been involved with exploring and taking routine walks on this trail in the Nichols Wood Lot for years. Because the trail is so close to our house, trimming branches, participating and leading nature hikes for scouts and residents, and trailblazing was an easy and effective way to give back to the community. So when the bridge needed repair, the Reading Trails Committee asked my brother and me to work on this family project in April 2020 because of our prior experience maintaining trails in other areas around town. Working in our own family group would also help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Nichols Wood Lot was donated to the Reading Open Land Trust (ROLT) in 2007 by Reading historian and conservationist Ben Nichols, who founded ROLT in 1979 to preserve open space in Reading. The parcel's history in the Nichols family went back more than 200 years, when it was purchased by Ben's great grandfather in 1806 to be used as the family's wood lot. Mr. Nichols acquired the lot from his sister Miriam Barclay in 1975, and in 1988, the deed was reformed "to keep the premises described herein in an open and natural state in perpetuity." I remember attending the 2009 dedication of the property even though I was not yet 7 years old. Mr. Nichols was also a great friend of the scouts in town and had been involved in planting the Town Forest, then called the 100 Acre Meadow, on Arbor Day in 1930.

Before we attempted to rip apart the rotting wooden planks and old nails, we needed a plan. The bridge connects Sledge Woods, owned by the Reading Conservation Commission, to the Nichols' Wood Lot. The Nichols property, in turn, connects to another Commission parcel named Kurchian Woods. So the bridge makes it possible for residents from a few different neighborhoods to enjoy walks in these open spaces. We walked the site to take a closer look at what had to be done to put the new boards in place. The footings and three supports seemed to be in decent shape due to the fabric nailed in between the boards and the support beams. We then picked up some leftover supplies from the Trail Committee that were used in previous boardwalk builds. To prevent the same thing from happening again, we used composite boards. Unlike the wooden boards, composite boards are made of both plastic and wood -- often from recycled materials -- so the bridge would not rot as quickly. We also obtained some new screws and borrowed drills, a driver, and some crowbars.

The next day we came back with all the supplies and were ready to begin! We used the hammer and a sharp tool to hammer away the mold from the nail head. We used the back of the hammer and crowbars to carefully pry out the wood. This took us quite a long time because we had to be very careful not to split the old nails in half or allow the materials -- or us! -- to fall in the creek. While we worked, a woman hiked by and told us that she walked the trail very often and was very excited for the new trail bridge. A family on mountain bikes also rode through, demonstrating the importance of this path for keeping spirits high during the pandemic. We lined up the boards so we knew they fit properly and started to drill. We had to be very strategic with the screws so we did not screw into the old holes from the rotting planks. We checked each board was aligned with the others, and finally the bridge was finished. But the rest of the job was not. After cleaning up the worksite, we then researched a place to dispose of the old pressure-treated wood safely and transported the boards. The Trails Committee and ROLT were grateful for our work, but we were just happy we could keep this neighborhood trail accessible to other town residents.

This project was special to me because it is important for people to understand and experience nature to encourage them to preserve it. Preserving open space is beneficial to the wildlife and to the people who enjoy experiencing the outdoors. An important lesson is that taking care of open space can start in one's own neighborhood in properties people have visited their whole lives. People like Ben Nichols, who spent a lifetime preserving open space and guaranteeing it for the future, inspire me and others to take responsibility for these lands for future generations.

I have been accepted at Skidmore College for the fall 2021, where I will study environmental science. Projects like this one give me hope that I can make an impact on the community and its wildlife and natural habitats. So someday future generations will be able to enjoy a neighborhood trail with their families as I have done.
Date: December 31, 2020 Views: 2259 File size: 22.0kb, 3648.4kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 36
Volunteers: 4
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 16 to 55
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