To create and steward trails--and the lands through which they pass--is a lot like raising a child. A new trail requires a concerted effort to bring it to life, dedication and nurturing to build and develop it, and eventually the will to send it off into the world for others to enjoy. The lopping, clearing, routing, marking, mapping and marketing have already occurred. Now its time for visitors.
When I take in the ebb and flow of the Indian River as it winds past me here in the heart of the Riverbend Conservation Land in West Newbury, my senses are overwhelmed with the perfection of the place--intense colors, moving water, birdsong, diverse plant life.
Here is a spot of land that was lost and undiscovered until last year, when a meandering deer trail was widened and groomed to allow access through it. The well laid stone wall that runs through the property and old cellar holes and wells along the way remind us of the settlers who cleared and farmed here two centuries ago. The level site just above the water's edge tells of long-ago campfires by early explorers and native people. The river's banks show evidence of generations who launched and landed canoes here. Old infrastructure, dams, mill ponds and skid roads remind us that Pipestave Hill was named for the trees harvested there, then floated down to ships waiting on the Merrimac to take that wood around the world in barrels, pipes and boxes. Photos from 1900 show the area to be cleared of trees and laid out in open fields. Aside from the stone walls, it is now hard to see this place as other than virgin forest.
When a new trail is opened to the public there's a certain trust that goes with that introduction. The sponsors hope that the public find and enjoy the experience, respect the terrain and the creatures that live there, and share their discovery with other nature-loving trail walkers. Equestrians and bicyclists, dog walkers and cross-country skiiers, all become the stewards for that trail whenever they use it. Please, come walk the Riverbend Trails and see what they have to offer.