On Saturday, September 6th, Kris Ramsay, OCT’s Director, led an educational walk in the Town’s Kenrick Woods Conservation Area off Namequoit Road. This land is owned by the Town of Orleans and managed by the Conservation Commission. The Orleans Conservation Trust holds a Conservation Restriction over approximately 20 of the 41 acres preserved within the woodland. This conservation area is an integral part of an extensive greenbelt on the lower Cape, the largest contiguous parcel on Cape Cod for groundwater protection, and part of the watershed contributing to Arey’s Pond, which is a sub-embayment of Pleasant Bay.
While introducing the property to the 20 hikers, Kris explained that this conservation area was once part of a 150-acre piece of property owned by John Kenrick II, who lived from 1819 to 1898. Kenrick was a farmer, merchant, and a schoolteacher at the age of only 19. Kenrick was the first chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Orleans Public Library, a selectman for 14 years, Assessor, and Overseer of the Poor for the Town of Orleans. In addition, he was also Superintendent of Schools for 8 years, a 25-year member of the school committee, and a trial justice from 1850-1857. From 1852-1853 he was a representative in the state legislature as a known and pronounced Whig.
After this brief introduction the group began to hike, stopping not too far from the trail head to observe what appeared to be a ditch running as far as the eye could see, perpendicular to the trail itself. Inquiring as to whether or not anyone knew what this “ditch” was, Kris explained that this indent in the forest floor was actually evidence of a historic road, better known as the Old Gully, which likely predates the 1900‘s. The Old Gully Trail was also known locally as Mosquito Lane, which led from Namequoit Landing to Brewster via the Baker’s Pond area through the existing municipal well field area and the Route 6 Highway. This historic cart way also connected to the main road into Chatham at a location west of the current intersection of Namequoit Road and Route 28, in the current location of the municipal well field property.
Moving on, the hikers turned their attention to the unique landscape that surrounded them. Like the rest of the land across the Cape, this land had been deforested and John Kenrick II undertook the task of reforesting the area. Larch, Elm, White and Scotch Pines that were originally planted by Kenrick, are still very evident today. In fact, the tall, straight lumber from Kenrick Woods was coveted for flagpoles as well as spars and planks for sailing vessels of the eighteen and nineteen hundreds. Today those same tree species dominate the skyline, providing food and cover for a variety of local wildlife.
At the far end of the trail, the hikers ventured off the main trail to find a small stand of American Chestnuts. Kris explained that the American Chestnut was once found from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi, and was used extensively by colonists for its rot-resistant wood for building, fencing, etc. However, in 1904, at the Bronx Zoo, a disease called Chestnut Blight was found in some trees, and by 1955 almost the entire American Chestnut population was killed off by this disease, which is still a problem today in the surviving specimens. The blight has been found to be carried by birds as it sticks to their feet when they land on an infected tree. The current method of combating the blight is a recent attempt at hybridizing a 15/16th American Chestnut with a 1/16th Horse Chestnut, because the latter is immune to the blight. Biological strategies are now being implemented because prevention of the movement of blight via physical means has not been effective.
As the hikers headed back towards the parking lot they skirted along the edges of a former man- made cranberry bog, now recognized as a State-certified vernal pool located near the southwestern corner of the conservation area, close to Route 28. Interestingly, the Town’s Kenrick Woods Management Plan noted that peat was historically cut out of the bog, dried, and used as a heating fuel when cordwood was scarce or too costly.
If you missed this walk and would like to see the Kenrick Woods Conservation Area for yourself, it is an easy parking area to get to, located at 35 Namequoit Road, off Route 28. The trails are well-established, and a trail map that can be found and downloaded on the “trails” section of the OCT website.
Join us for our next walk on Tuesday, September 16th, from 9:00-10:15 am at the Mill Pond Valley Conservation Area. The parking area is located at 13 Champlain Road, Orleans.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, drive east on Main Street (.4 mi) towards Nauset Beach. Turn left on Tonset Rd. at the lights and follow to Hopkins Lane where you will take a slight right (.5). Continue to Brick Hill Rd and bear left (1mi), take a slight right on Champlain Rd. and park along the split rail fence on the right.