Below is a letter from Board Member, Volunteer Coordinator, and Head Steward, Dr. Haik Kavookjian. Haik clearly enjoys getting out onto the properties and leading NCLT’s efforts to care for and maintain our many properties. Focusing last weekend on the Hannan Fieldat the corner of Smith Ridge (Hwy 123) and Canoe Hill, Haik recounts the efforts from a determined group of volunteers who were kind enough to lend their time and energy to the cause. Read on below for the full description.
For context, the Eastern Red Cedar is considered on this property to be an unwelcome invasive species. Cedars are naturally "controlled" by periodic wildfires, especially on old agricultural fields or grazing areas, as is the case for the Hannan Field. When a fire would burn the trees, native grasses would replace the area where the trees and its wide branches had once cast a wide shadow. Now that we are less tolerant urban fires (which is a good thing) the cedars have a easier time "invading" open landscapes.
Above: Young cedar sprouts dot the open landscape in late March; today, no longer.
Interestingly, because of the way these plants employ photosynthesis, cedar trees will likely benefit from increased atmospheric CO2 levels. More vigorously growing cedar trees produce more needles which fall to the soil, making it more challenging for surrounding grasses or flowering plants to take up nutrients. With this in mind, further attention will be required to keep the meadow open and free of cedars in the future.
Read on below, and if you would like to volunteer your time helping to be a steward of the Land Trust, or just letting us know when there is an issue to be resolved or some area where you think you could help, please see the "Get Involved" tab on our webpage or email us directly.
Members who have driven past the field on the corner of Route 123 and Canoe Hill may have wondered what looked different at Hannan Field by this past Saturday (4/15) afternoon. The answer is, with the help of 10 volunteers, the field had a going over with removal of all the red cedar which were becoming problematic. Interestingly these trees have become like Bonsai trees due to the constant pruning from Charlie Sheridan’s mowing tractor.
As we transition our management of this field toward once a year mowing we have started to target potential challenge with our fields, and the cedars were one. We were very fortunate to have a coalition of NCLT board members Chris Schipper, Tom Cronin and William Gardner. We also had the help of long time NCLT friend and volunteer, Ray Pacchiana. If that was not enough we had Dianne Colgan (a friend and NCLT neighbor on Ponus Ridge) as well as Kevin Lydon, Mary Lydon and their daughters (friend and immediate neighbors of NCLT) and even Brian Sandor ( Friends of the Earth member and former summer intern).
I had budgeted in one hour to do the entire field since the trees, although small, have tenacious roots. With such numbers of help and talent we were done in 30 minutes. I imagine people passing by on 123 wondered what was going on since the turn out and activity level was impressive. We are fortunate to have been able to draw together such an enthusiastic, hard working group of volunteers and I look with excitement was we shift to once a year mowing. I can’t wait to see how this field evolves.
As the season unfolds we will certainly need the help of the summer interns to address similar problems of invasive overgrowth from wild grapes and roses which will occur elsewhere. Good news is Mike Johnson and the summer crew last year showed that timely and focused pruning of invasives can help create a beautiful balance of plant life.
I feel this new policy will improve habitat, reduce mowing costs and reduce our carbon footprint.