WESTFORD — Did you know that Westford has a network of over 75 miles of maintained trails?
The Conservation Trust is a volunteer-run organization which works to protect Westford’s natural areas, preserve the town’s history and educate the public on Westford’s lands and invasive species. They are separate from the the Conservation Commission, which is a government entity charged with protecting the town’s lands and enforcing its bylaws.
The Trust is also responsible for maintaining Westford’s network of trails, which extend through most of Westford’s public lands.
“We’re pretty much the NGO version of the Conservation Commission,” Rich Strazdas, clerk of the Trust told WestfordCAT.
Maintaining healthy biodiversity
One of the Trust’s latest projects involves using goats as “lawn mowers,” where a small section of town-owned land is fenced off and filled with goats, who will clear out invasive species within the area.
“They defoliate whatever you pen them in with, and we’re going to do this as a pilot project to see how it works,” Strazdas said. “This is just a new one in our toolbox.”
Bill Harman, honorary director of the Trust continued, “they’re better than lawn mowers, because they eat all the way down to the ground if they have time to do that.”
The Trust is focused on removing these invasive species because, according to Strazdas, they outcompete native species and do not provide nutritional value to native wildlife.
“In the case of Mile-a-Minute, they can completely overtake an area and become a monoculture, which is not healthy,” Strazdas said.
Harman continued, “they take all of the sunshine and expand their leaves and take away all of the sunshine from native species.”
Without the goats, members of the Trust remove invasive species by hand – without using chemicals or machinery.
“We’re always looking for volunteers. We’ll teach you what it looks like and how to eradicate it,” said Strazdas.
Harman continued, “there’s a lot of very interesting things to talk about when we’re in the fields with these Mile-a-Minute fields.”
Accessibility on Westford’s trails
Strazdas and Harman noted the continued work to make some trails more accessible and inviting.
Multiple trails, such as the Tom Paul Trail, are slightly wider than other trails. Strazdas explained that these trails are the result of former rail beds or herd paths, which flattened and leveled out sections of the trails.
However, the trust is working to make some sections of trails truly accessible to all, regardless of physical ability.
“There is a movement in Westford to make trails wide enough and wheelchair accessible enough so that a person using a wheelchair can experience the woods like we can,” said Harman.
He continued, “the Healthy Westford Committee is working with the Disability Commission on a project near Edward’s Beach. There is a small trail there that is going to be widened and flattened to be a wheelchair trail over there. When it’s finished, it will be a very inviting trail for wheelchairs and everybody else too.”
Strazdas, Harman promote Trust involvement
Strazdas and Harman promoted multiple ways prospective volunteers can get involved with the Trust.
The organization is always seeking volunteers for its Mile-a-Minute walks, which are held biweekly throughout the summer. Those looking to hike can participate in a weekly trail steward group on Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m.
Strazdas noted that the Trust has an extensive backlog of projects it is looking to complete, and is always looking for scouts looking to help complete each project.
“They may not make trails outright, but they help to make amenities. We are very grateful to have an active scout population in Westford,” said Strazdas.
He continued, “Every time we publish a Westford Trails guide I always try to thank everybody who has helped with these projects.”
Those looking to purchase a Westford Trails booklet can purchase the 14th edition at the Roudenbush Community Center, Town Clerk’s office or Muffin’s on Main. Booklets are $5 each.
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