TEMPLETON — The site of the former Dwelly Farm will soon become a haven for native plants and wildlife. Officials with North County Land Trust have announced they will begin moving forward with a project aimed at removing invasive plants, re-establishing native plants and pollinators, and creating a three-acre field at their publicly accessible Dwelly Farm Conservation Area on Barre Road.
Jassy Bratko, NCLT’s director of land protection, said the 68-acre property is unique to the area because of its diversity.
“There are fields which are remnants of its past as a dairy farm,” said Bratko about the property that was purchased in 1912 by the Dwelly family, which operated a farm there until 1969. “There is young woodland with plentiful white birch, a more mature woodland consisting mostly of hemlocks, and a wooded marsh (that) bisects the property and is crossed by a 40-foot bridge.”
The area’s natural diversity has resulted in a great variety of wildlife, plants and trees, according to Bratko, and has developed into a habitat for the American woodcock, a plump, short-legged shorebird with a long, straight bill. She said a looping, well-maintained and marked trail system that winds its way through the entire area gives visitors an easy way to explore the various habitats on the property.
The property was given to the NCLT in 2010 through the will of David Dwelly, who loved the property and wanted to ensure that it remained undeveloped, Bratko said. Some of the fields have reverted to forest, but remnants of farm equipment, fields and stone walls can still be seen by sharp-eyed visitors. NCLT officials said they want to honor the property’s agricultural past by reclaiming a former pasture that has since grown into a stand of pine. The re-established field will be planted with native plants and flowers beneficial to pollinator insects and local wildlife.
“A three-acre pine grove will be clear-cut, stumped, graded and seeded with flowers and grasses that will attract pollinators,” Bratko said. “The trees will be cut in the late spring or early summer, and the new meadow will be graded and seeded in the early fall.”
The pine grove will be cut by Scott Anderson of Anderson Logging and Lumber in Westminster. The stumping, grading and seeding will be done by Mark Lafferty of Lafferty Enterprises in Ashburnham, and the invasive removal will be performed by Land Stewardship Inc. of Turners Falls, according to officials.
The invasive plant species that have infested the property over the years include glossy buckthorn and Japanese knotweed, referred to by Bratko as “the two major thugs of the plant world.”
“Glossy buckthorn is native to Eurasia but was introduced to this country to be used as a hedge and, ironically, for wildlife habitat,” Bratko explained. “This small tree grows about 20 feet high and creates dense thickets that rapidly out-compete native plants.” She said the plant’s berries, which range in color from red to black, are enjoyed by birds and small mammals but provide little nutrition and can actually cause nutritional deficiencies in wildlife. “(The plant) is extremely difficult to control because its seeds are widely dispersed by the wildlife that eat them,” she said, adding that during the summer the tree’s branches can become so weighted by berries that they can block the trails in the area.
Japanese knotweed, nicknamed “Godzilla weed,” is one of the world’s most invasive plants, according to Bratko. Growing up to 10 feet in height, the herbaceous plant is so strong it can push through asphalt and concrete.
“Luckily, it is established in a relatively small area at Dwelly, but the goal is to eradicate it from the property,” Bratko said.
Work on the property, including clearing and seeding, is expected to begin shortly and take about a year, while control of the invasive plants would continue for the following four years.
“The management plan at Dwelly has been carefully researched and planned, but for the first year it may seem like we are making a mess of the property,” Bratko said. “Passersby and visitors will see trees cut down and uprooted, acres of shrubs cut down and left in piles, and some plants that have been chemically treated.”
But Bratko said it is important for residents to understand that all of the work being performed is being done for the benefit of the community. She said once the invasive plants are removed from the area, native insects, birds and animals will flourish once again.
“The conservation area will be a place of real beauty that is not only visible to people who explore the trails, but to folks driving by on Barre Road,” Bratko said “ The fields will be filled with grasses and wildflowers, and in addition to great hiking trails, we envision a nature trail where visitors can learn about native plants and perhaps be encouraged to plant them on their own properties.”