Pascommuck Conservation Trust to celebrate turning 40 with Saturday celebration

  • Echodale Farm on Park Hill Road in Easthampton. In 2008, the Pascommuck Conservation Trust secured an agricultural restriction on the farm with the help of the state Department of Agriculture and the Trust for Public Land. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Pascommuck Conservation Trust raises funding through its annual plant sales in the spring and fall. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • John Bator Park.  SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • A walking bridge at Pomeroy Meadows Conservation Area collapsed over the winter. Volunteers at Pascommuck Land Trust are raising funding to have it replaced. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Pascommuck Land Trust also has an ongoing bench dedication project. Pictured here are Kate and Greg Rolland in 2021 at the Edward J. Dwyer Conservation Area with the bench they dedicated to those who fought the global pandemic. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Mutter’s Field/Brickyard Brook Conservation Area. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • East Green Street entrance to Mutter’s Field. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Bloodroot poppies along Old Pascommuck Conservation Area Trail. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Mutter’s Field/Brickyard Brook Conservation Area: “A Place in Nature for Everyone.” SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Mutter’s Field planter and interpretive sign about pollinators. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Mutter's Field/Brickyard Brook Conservation Area. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Trail entrance to the Broad Brook Meadows Conservation Area. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Broad Brook Meadows Conservation Area. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2022 8:37:51 PM
Modified: 6/23/2022 8:35:29 PM

EASTHAMPTON — City residents and visitors who have enjoyed any, or all, of the 190 acres of open space in Easthampton under the protection and stewardship of the Pascommuck Conservation Trust have a chance to say thanks on Saturday when the nonprofit throws itself a 40th birthday party.

Pascommuck Conservation Trust was founded in 1982 by a group of residents who came together to clean up Nashawannuck Pond, which was polluted at the time, according to Marty Klein, a longtime board member.

Shortly thereafter, the mission of the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization shifted to land protection.

“Our mission is to protect and preserve important open space, farmland and other natural resources in Easthampton for the benefit of the community,” Klein said. “All of PCT’s accomplishments over the past 40 years are the result of the efforts of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and the many donors and supporters who believed in our mission.”

Currently, the trust stewards 16 properties in Easthampton, which totals roughly 190 acres. Thirteen of the properties are conservation areas, one is a public park and two are conservation areas with agricultural preservation restrictions, which offers non-development alternatives to farmers and owners of agricultural land.

Saturday’s celebratory event will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at John Bator Park Conservation Area, which is located on the south shore of Rubber Thread Pond and next to the Municipal Building. It will feature guest speakers, original songs from John Bator and treats, including Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream & Candy Store’s “PCT Porcupine Parfait.” The special flavor of ice cream is a vanilla base with caramel swirl and chocolate chips, according to Marylou Dodge, a member of the board of directors for the trust.

The trust will also have new paper maps that detail the trails throughout the city, said Dodge.

“These maps are so clear. There are many trails and properties that are hidden — most are struck behind streets and houses,” she said. “But these new paper maps are so simplified. They tell who we are and why you would want to walk these beautiful trails.”

Pascommuck is the name of Easthampton’s earliest known settlement from the late 1600s, according to city records. Settlers lived near the oxbow of the Connecticut River. The Native American word means “where it bends,” and refers to the shape of the river there.

The Manhan River continues to be a focus area for the PCT, as it is the major tributary from Easthampton flowing into the Connecticut River.

Throughout the organization’s four decades, Klein describes the trust as being “opportunistic” with its approach.

“If there was a piece of land that was proposed for development and we have determined that there are important natural resources on it, we will see if there is an alternative to developing the property,” he said. “As opportunities arise, we evaluate and determine if they follow our mission … we might say ‘less development, more open trails and public access.’”

Klein said that one successful example of the work put in by volunteers at the trust is helping Echodale Farm secure an agricultural restriction in 2008 with the help of the state Department of Agriculture and the Trust for Public Land. The restriction ensures that the farm would be actively used for agricultural purposes into the future.

“Most importantly, through our efforts and the contributions of hundreds of people in the community, Easthampton’s largest working farm was protected from development,” he said. “That was a great example of the work we do … It was a huge achievement for us. When we first considered that project, we figured it would be very expensive. Even with partners, we had to raise $300,000, which is a pretty big number for an organization like us. This is a good example of how a small organization can take on a project like this and accomplish great things.”

Concurrently, a 25-acre parcel next to Park Hill Orchards was also protected by the city of Easthampton and became the site of the city’s community gardens.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trust has also seen a significant uptick in people using the trust’s trails over the last two years. And as some of the trust’s board members are getting older and looking to step back, Klein says the board is looking for new members and ways they can be increasingly relevant to a younger generation looking for outdoor recreation opportunities.

“We’re looking for new members to help us continue our mission,” he said. “We’d like to engage with a wider population in the community. Even though we’ve been here for 40 years, there are still a lot of people that do not know who we are and what we do.”

Volunteers of the organization also help perform routine maintenance on all of the trust’s properties. One project that the group is currently focused on is installing a new bridge at Pomeroy Meadows Conservation Area.

The Ranch Avenue entrance has been closed since March after it collapsed. Dodge said the replacement of the bridge is a bit complicated by the unstable terrain and considerations of climate change effects there. She expects that the bridge will be replaced at some point over the summer.

For Klein, participation in the group was something that he’s remained passionate about. A self-described mushroom expert, he’s led more than 50 nature walks throughout the trust’s properties.

“My heart is in it. It’s so important to me,” he said. “I love getting people to appreciate what we’re trying to do.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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