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Hackett and Minot Trails: At Work in the Woods

By Ed Robinson

On a fine August afternoon, we meandered along a woodland trail on Harpswell Neck. Bruce McDougall was in his element – he’s a retired surgeon who attends week long courses on ferns and mosses. I enjoy Nature’s variety of mosses and ferns along the Maine coastline as much as the next fellow, but an entire week studying them? Besides, we were supposed to be working, not lollygagging among the ferns!

The itinerary for our walk included two trails maintained for public enjoyment by the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT). The Hackett Land Trail winds through 36 acres of mixed hardwoods, bordered by 3 acres of open meadow. Visible to the west of Route 123 (Harpswell Neck Road), this quiet plot complements Harpswell Center’s historic buildings – the 1757 Town Meeting House, the 1842 Elijah Kellogg Church, the 1876 Centennial Hall and the Tarr-Hackett House. Originally protected by HHLT via a conservation easement, the property was acquired in 2007 and public access granted in 2009 once the trail had been constructed.

Bruce and I were walking the property as part of HHLT’s annual monitoring process. Each property owned by or entrusted to HHLT under an easement must be surveyed annually to ensure the property is safe for use and that legal conditions of the acquisition or easement are being met. Bruce and his colleagues on HHLT’s Stewardship Committee, along with volunteers, are responsible for building such trails. In addition they regularly inspect trails to maintain signage and yellow trail markings, or to remove trash dumped by inconsiderate folks.

This day we had the Hackett Trail to ourselves, but for a grey squirrel collecting acorns for the coming winter. Looking at the terrain and vegetation, I suspect the squirrel will have plenty of competition from the local deer herd and wild turkeys in harvesting those high energy acorns. I made a note to return next year to enjoy a large vernal pool of nearly 250 feet in length, now dry after our fine summer. In April and May, that pool will be alive with the music of frogs and toads.

On the south side of Littlefield Road lies the Minot Trail. The land is more rolling here, with a mix of soft and hard woods and an old stone wall. Bruce pointed out any number of delicate and subtly colorful mosses as we moved along. This trail runs over private land, but the generous owners created a conservation easement with HHLT to allow public use of the trail. They ask only that you respect their privacy by staying on the trail and leave nothing behind but footprints.

These short but rewarding trails require only 15 – 20 minutes each of gentle walking unless like Bruce you want to get down on your knees to study the local flora. To access the trails, please park at the Harpswell Historical Society lot on the east side of Route 123. After crossing the highway, you need only walk 400 feet down Littlefield Road until you see the trail head signs. Enjoy!

September 2012