Betsy’s Corner: Take a nature walk

We may live in a commuter’s suburb, but it wasn’t long ago that this area was farmland. I have an antique map dated 1870 showing all the old familiar names. Many of our street names were taken from 19th Century residents in our town. The more I learn about history and the development of our area and neighborhoods, the more I understand about this area as a whole.

Last Saturday I attended a nice gathering of nature lovers at Fannie Stebbins Nature Preserve. The event was educational and I learned so much. Meeting bird and wildlife experts was rewarding while I learned bird songs and calls. Binoculars and long pants were mandatory as bugs and possibly ticks buzzed around our heads and feet. I saw a beautiful young deer and a few monarch butterflies.  An electric fence has been recently installed at a few sites to protect the hundreds of trees planted within the past few years. The local deer feasted on young tree leaves that were not protected. If you have time, go check out the meadows and bring your bug spray. In fact, make the time to see what this forest flood plain looks like. It is a rare ecological area along the Connecticut River, now part of the Silvio Conte preserve of the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

Closer to our homes we have several areas of open space where we can enjoy nature. There are two large golf courses in town where birds flock seasonally. We have four public parks: Turner, Greenwood, Laurel and Bliss Parks. Open space, including the town green, the sports fields and The Meadows make up a huge portion of protected unbuildable land. We should treasure these slices of nature within our community.  We are so lucky to have this much open space in a residential area close to a city. I think there are only 2 buildable lots left in town: one on Shaker Road south of the Longmeadow Country Club and another on Maple Road west of the shopping area.  How can we continue to protect our limited open space? How can we improve what we have? First, we need to care and appreciate what we have. Today I planted flowers at Bliss near the playground. Don’t let trash ruin our parkland. Think about volunteering for the annual cleanup day each spring at Bliss/Laurel Parks. Look for ways to help. If you are involved with scouting, please have your Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts help us. We are actively looking for an Eagle Scout who will help mark the trails in the woods of Bliss Park.

We are all leading busy lives with constant interruption from cellphones and family commitments. Take the time to appreciate the parks and walk in nature with your children. With the help of Mark Gold and the Select Board we now know that Bliss and Laurel Parks cannot be built on or developed. The town listened to the people’s vote in May 2017 and the land is protected in perpetuity for all generations to come under Massachusetts law article 97. Thank your local leaders. Aren’t we fortunate to have such forward-thinking community volunteers who helped to make this happen? I still can’t believe that we almost lost part of Bliss Park to a development and a parking lot.

They did not pave paradise!