Colchester Land Trust hike explores Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Oct. 14, 2013
Babcock Pond, a wildlife preserve, was explored during a recent hike. Photo by Merja H. Lehtinen.
Babcock Pond, a wildlife preserve, was explored during a recent hike. Photo by Merja H. Lehtinen.

A dozen or so local residents took part in the Oct. 6 Discover Colchester hike through the Babcock Pond Wildlife Management Area near Route 16.

The group was escorted by the Land Trust’s coordinator, Gary Walter, as well as two state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection employees, but the adventure began at the entrance to the park, which is a bumpy terrain of gravel, pools of water, and rock.

Emory Gluck, of DEEP’s Forestry Division, and Jack Berlando, of the Wildlife Division, were on hand to brief the hikers about New England landscapes and habitats they would see on the 2-mile trek. Berlando explained that just about every species of wild animal lives in the vast expanse of the Babcock reserve and other state properties. The wildlife there is protected, and the park, as all state property, closes before dusk. Driving, hunting, or disturbing the animals and wildlife habitat in any way, especially after dusk, is a criminal offense. Unfortunately, debris and tracks near the fields made it clear that parties had been held, as recent trash was left behind to mar the environment. Area residents, said Berlando, can call the dispatch center if they see or hear vehicles or walkers making unauthorized entry after sunset. The local number is 860-424-3333.

Gluck showed the hikers pictures of what New England looked like in the 1700s and 1800s. In areas such as Colchester, which was part of the pre-Colonial “plantations,” most of the land was 70 percent cleared of forests for farming in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The pre-Colonial and Colonial era demand for firewood was so high, it was lucrative for farmers to harvest the trees in order to clear their fields, he said. It made residents aware of the need to preserve the forests when there were shortages of wood. That led to coal and water wheels for alternative fuel sources. Eventually there was wide open farming space to feed people locally and afar. By the time the farms closed in the mid to late 1800s, with the dawn of the Industrial Age, forests had reclaimed much of the land as farms failed.

“It only takes a few years of not tilling, or today not mowing, land to have it reclaimed by the forest,” explained Gluck. The current state of the Babcock Pond area makes it rich for all sorts of wildlife, from those which live on land to those that prefer the pond.

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