Undiscovered Lexington ~ Group Links Conservation Lands for the Community to Enjoy!

These are just a couple of the beautiful spots to explore in Lexington. Just wait for the spring and check out the Citizens of Lexington Conservation Walks here:   https://colonialtimesmagazine.com/citizens-of-lexington-spring-conservation-walks/

 

Click on the image of the map below to link to a PDF of the Pilot Route.

Pilot Route

http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/ACROSSLexingtonPilotRouteMapOctober_15_2012.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

 

By Laurie Atwater

 

I grew up with woods behind my house and I knew every inch of it! I spent all day having adventures in those woods—walking, reading, exploring, catching frogs and building forts. It held endless fascination for me right through the sixth grade when we moved across town and got new woods and a walking path thanks to the Rails to Trails program. I can’t imagine my life without that experience in nature.

Today I long for the piney woods, the smells of the meadow, the rich soil of my grandfather’s garden and the wind off the lake more than anything. The other day I took my coffee to Minuteman National Park and began a difficult tipsy walk along the crusty snow to the Hartwell Tavern and left to the rock wall bordering the pasture where I sat down for some quiet. One lady laughed asking me if I was out for a walk or a coffee break! I told her it was a therapeutic experience—I needed a dose of nature.

I recently sat with Rick Abrams and Keith Ohmart of the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee to discuss their new project ACROSS (Accessing Conservation Land, Recreation Areas Open Spaces, Schools and Streets) Lexington. “You know,” Abrams says, “not many kids these days have the opportunity to get lost in nature.” But in Lexington, thanks to the efforts of Rick and the other members of the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee, Lexingtonians will get to know the many natural resources around town and be able to get out into nature—adults and children alike—with more ease.

Rick mentions several studies conducted at the University of Michigan by professors Rachel and Stephen Kaplan which show that walking in nature, living close to nature and viewing pictures of nature had positive benefits among diverse populations. The couple has theorized that modern life is full of “sustained attention” which is exhausting. Being in nature allows attention to wander and be captured by images of beauty and gives the brain time to recover. It’s called Attention Restoration Therapy (ART) and it occurs only in nature. A walk in the city does not have the same effect.

a71ce03ae7a0be49f07db110.L Recent books by Richard Louv, The Nature Principal and his previous book The Last Child in the Woods—Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder , describe the effect of our plugged-in lifestyle on our “denatured” children. Today’s kids don’t often have the experience that I had growing up, or that early residents of Lexington had before open space gave way to big houses. This lack of nature in our lives—this “nature deprivation deficit” as author Richard Louv calls it, may be just as damaging to our children as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Research at the University of Rochester in 2010 by investigators Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan revealed that time in nature not only recharges our imagination and relaxes our bodies, but it reorients our values. In an article in Scientific American , entitled The Moral Call of the Wild , social psychologist Wesley Shultz discusses this research in conjunction with changing American values and concludes that our ever-increasing distance from nature “could drive large-scale shifts in societal values.” Beyond its mood elevating effects, it seems that nature might also increase our desire to connect with our communities and decrease externalized values like the desire for fame or wealth. “As their results show, Shultz writes, “experiences with strictly built environments lead to life aspirations that are more self-focused.”

LEXINGTON’S OPEN SPACE

This story has two real heroes: the Lexington Conservation Committee and the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee. One Committee is relatively new and the other has been working since 1963 when according to the Town website “Town Meeting voted to accept the Conservation Act (M.G.L. Chapter 40 51 and s. 8c), which had been passed by the Massachusetts legislature to promote and protect open space in the Commonwealth. The Commission’s responsibilities were expanded to include administration and enforcement of wetlands protection when the Wetlands Protection Act (M.G.L. 131 Section 40) was created.”

This move corresponded with the boom in the development of inner ring suburbs between 1950 and 1960 (fueled by the highway system) and the rapid development of open space that accompanied the expansion into formerly rural cities and towns.

In 1951 Lexington became connected to Route 128 and the population began to swell. Lexington was a farming community rife with fields, meadows, woods and waterways that remained untouched until this rapid flight from the inner cities to the suburbs by a middle class yearning for yards and gardens.

According to Dick Kollen in his great book Lexington- from Liberty’s Birthplace to Progressive Suburb:  “While Lexingtonians applauded the benefits of Route 128’s construction…town leaders grew wary that excessive population growth would transform the town’s landscape and character.” (Page 145)

Indeed, the movement began in Lexington to acquire and protect Lexington’s open space for the generations to come and we are all the beneficiaries of this forward-thinking effort that continues today.  As large parcels of family farmland come up for sale, the town of Lexington has been there to preserve parts of it for future Lexingtonians to enjoy.  This preservation of  land will protect Lexington from the over-developed appearance of many of its neighbors.

 

“Sit here for a while on the stone wall (ever mindful of the poison ivy), and let your gaze and your thughts wander to the Chiesa barn in the far distance. Such peace and solitude on a warm afternoon or evening is a therapeutic interlude and a refreshing restorative … If you tell me that you have better things to do than sit on a lichen-covered stone wall at the edge of a hay field, watching the timothy rippling in the wind, I shall reply that materialism has overtaken and subdued you. Our children’s children shall be poorer without these peaceful acres to enjoy.”
-S. Lawrence Whipple. “Peaceful Acres’ Preservation Urged,” The Lexington Minuteman, May 25, 1985. Excerpted from Lexington Through the Years, S. Lawrence Whipple, Edited by S. Levi Doran.

 

ACROSS LEXINGTON

Fast forward to today and the next step in this continuum has been undertaken—the committee seeks to increase Lexingtonians’ awareness of these great open spaces and to promote its use for passive recreation and alternate transportation around town. Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart and Eileen Entin comprise the ACROSS Lexington Task Force of the Greenways Corridor Committee (GCC). They have been charged by the Selectmen with the responsibility to identify existing pathways through conservation land and existing streets in town and to link them into coherent routes for pedestrians or bikers.

“We really have two goals,” Abrams says, “to get people walking in nature and to see this as an alternative form of transportation around town.”

Ohmart points out, “One of the key parts of this is that we are using existing infrastructure—either sidewalks or streets or trails that are already there in our conservation land. There’s very little in the way of new trails that need to be constructed. We’re not out there blazing trails where there was nothing before.”

Initially the committee simply wanted to connect the green spaces in town—playing fields and open spaces like Great Meadow, but they soon expanded their vision. “We realized that there are connections in town from neighborhoods to the town center and to the schools that would encourage people to leave their cars behind,” Ohmart says.

Making Lexington more walkable is the ultimate goal. “If we can get more kids, parents and elders out of their cars, walking to school, walking to the town center—that will make the community more sustainable,” says Abrams.

The Pilot Route was completed on October 15th and is 5.5 miles in length. The route starts in the town center and takes a walker through 4 conservation areas—Lower Vinebrook, Willard’s Woods, Chiesa Farm, and Parker Meadow—ending up back on the Minuteman bikeway.

Since the Pilot Route was opened they have received positive feedback and they want to hear from more Lexingtonians. “We are a committee that wants feedback,” Abrams laughs. The more people that test out the route the more they hear.

 

The Board of Selectmen have established the Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Fund
to support the trail network by creating new directional and interpretive signage, electronic and/or print maps, and web/software development to incorporate current technologies. The mailing address for donations
(Write- Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund on the memo line of the check) is:
Board of Selectmen
ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund
Town of Lexington
1625 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA 02420

 

In the end, the goal of the committee is to link forty miles of streets and open spaces to traverse the entire town in many directions and link us with our center, the schools and other points of interest in Lexington. The Greenway Corridor Committee is hoping to complete the additional work over the next three years.

“The town of Lexington found some money to purchase the signage and some poles,” according to Abrams. But, he stresses, the majority of the small markers are affixed to existing structures—a telephone pole or a tree—and few posts have had to be added. All of the work has been completed by volunteers from the Conservation Stewards and the Greenways Corridor Committee.

THE PILOT ROUTE

An initial group of about thirty enthusiastic walkers initiated inaugurated the route. They broke up in small groups to explore the 5.5 miles of Lexington. “It was amazing,” Abrams says. “All of these people were avid walkers, but they always walked the same old routes. There was constant surprise among the walkers—they never knew these spaces existed in Lexington!” Throughout the walk people were amazed at the amount of time they could go without seeing a house. What we’re doing is helping everyone in town figure it out for themselves following the signage.”

This is really the point of ACROSS Lexington. Many of the spaces are hidden from the street and marked only by a modest trailhead. It is very easy to travel through town and never know about the 1,300 plus acres of town-owned conservation land.

MY ADVENTURE

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My adventure on Hathaway Road from left to right-the trailhead facing the street, the trail facing in, the ducks fishing for dinner!

Based on my conversation with Rick and Keith, I went looking for a trailhead on Hathaway Road (off Adams Street) and drove all the way to the end of that dead end street without finding it. As I was turning around, I stopped to ask a boy in his driveway playing if he knew where the trail was. He didn’t even know! Driving out I noticed an opening to my left and there it was—only a few houses from where the boy was playing!

I got out of the car and walked a short distance into the woods. Just a few feet into the woods I came upon a beautiful little stream complete with pairs of ducks fishing for dinner! What fun I had watching their “bottoms up” diving and paddling around! Rick says that just about every neighborhood in Lexington “has one or more of these areas of open space to explore.”

Next up—Chiesa Farm. I am ashamed to say that I have always loved driving by—and I used to love watching the horses—but I hadn’t even noticed that an opening had been established from the street and you can easily walk up over the hill toward the beautiful rock wall and the benches. On my way up the hill I meet Randy Kinard and David Parker with their dogs Parker (a Westie named for Captain John Parker) and Theo that David proudly called a mutt. Both men were used to walking the dogs in this spot and loved to let them go off leash for a little freedom and fun. When I tell them what I was up to, they were highly complementary of the new ACROSS Lexington markers. “You know you’re going to end up somewhere,” Randy says and both guys feel that the guidance will encourage more to venture forth without being afraid of getting lost!

Chiesa Farm is a busy place on a Saturday and soon I am chatting with Jim and his son Luke who were very familiar with the various open spaces around—Lower Vinebrook, Parker Meadow and of course, Chiesa Farm. Both were ruddy from a good walk. Luke went to Diamond Middle School and used to walk through the field on his way home from school. Then there was the goat lady who was out walking with her very small herd of 5 or 6 goats! I make my way through the second gate and am rewarded with a beautiful view of yet another pasture. A little bit of heaven right in Lexington. And, I recall that Larry Whipple wrote of this very spot—he loved it so much.

There are many beautiful places to explore in Lexington and now thanks to ACROSS Lexington you can venture out for a lovely walk that will invigorate and revitalize you, boost your creativity and land you right back in Lexington Center for a bite to eat, or a latte with friends.

Try it and then get in touch with any of the ACROSS Lexington folks—they’d love to hear from you!

 

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