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Groups Work to Maintain and Expand Cascades Park

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

 

The Greater Worcester Land Trust (GWLT) has been working hard to expand and improve one of Worcester’s natural gems.

The non-profit is dedicated to preserving and improving green space in the area and has been focusing their efforts on Cascades West with their Wildlife Habitat Forestry service.

“About ten years ago we had a problem with a whole bunch of trees. We had a bunch of invasives from trees to bushes in the area. The state told us that it would be great for wildlife. We went back five years later to find that it is a hotspot for migratory birds and butterflies,” said GWLT Executive Director, Colin Novick. The organization discussed the possibility of making the small yet habitable and productive area bigger, leading them to where they are now.

Novick is hopeful that their latest endeavor will be completed at the end of the week.

Cascades Park is located at the northwestern edge of town, lying at the apex of Paxton, Worcester, and Holden. The 150 acre green space is owned by multiple groups, all working to keep the land and trails in good shape. The park includes waterfalls, vernal pools, dense forest, and meadows.

The GWLT has been hard at work to make the park’s meadow a larger part of the park.

“We’re thinking it might be done this week. Our hope was that because it sees a lot of people, we wanted to do it strategically and get out as quickly as possible,” he said. “So that nature could jump back in and people could come back and enjoy the area.”

A Teeming Addition

The GWLT is expanding the meadow by seven acres, which will bring the meadow to a ten acre total. The process has included a lot of work and tree removal for the meadow space, but the group is leaving the flora that will make the best additions to the habitat.

“We’re leaving trees behind that produce berries or nuts, as well as some funky looking dead trees that are used a lot by the migrating species of birds for perching and nesting,” Novick said. Raspberries, blackberries, and other mixed vegetation have populated the area.

“There are people who go mushrooming and wild foraging there. We’ve even seen wild asparagus. It’s neat because it’s big enough that all these people can bring different interests there and find these gems,” he said.

Yesterday, the group worked on the Meadow Ridge Trail bypass, a plan to keep the strain of hikers and traffic off of the newly expanded meadow.

Right in Your Backyard

One thing that Novick and the GWLT are so excited about with Cascade Park is its access and accessibility from the community so close around it.

“It’s kind of fun in that it’s at the edge of Worcester. You can take the WRTA public buses #2 and #6 and end up in the woods and come out in this beautiful teeming meadow,” he said. “You’ll find everything from wild berries to migratory birds.”

Areas like Cascade Park, he said, are particularly fun in that they see much more use than other places in the state.

“In Western Mass., who gets to see it out there? People hike and walk this property and appreciate it,” he said. “The neat part is that there is 150 acres of basically forest land right at the edge of an urban center. That population practically has a national forest next door.”

Federal Aid

The GWLT has been working though a federal program that will help them cut costs. The Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for conservation-minded landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitats.

“The land trust enters into a contract with federal government. They’re looking to encourage these programs for many reasons, including the benefit of migratory pollinators – sort of a bee crisis thing,” Novick said. “They’re really convincing people to make them for the greater good.”

While the government aid won’t cover all of the cost, Novick said that they have realized that there will be wood left for woodchips and logs which will also help cover the expense of making one of Worcester’s parks even better.

 

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