Stewardship is the act of caring for the land and its resources. MECT’s stewardship efforts seek to balance the protection of the natural resources inherent in the properties that we hold while allowing for appropriate public access, use, and enjoyment of these very special places. MECT’s primary stewardship activities include maintaining our trail system, cataloging and protecting the natural resources on MECT property, certifying vernal pools, monitoring conservation restrictions that the organization holds, and implementing projects to improve public access to MECT properties. We welcome volunteers to join in many of these activities!
Manchester Essex Conservation Trust owns and protects 1,500 acres of woodlands and wetlands in Essex and Manchester. All our properties are open for public enjoyment. We also oversee 275 acres of land under conservation restrictions.
This year, in 2023, we have initiated a Trail Stewards program by which volunteers adopt an area and visit it periodically. Volunteers do minor trail maintenance, blazing and alert us to bigger problems. Our first group of volunteers is in training, and we will add more volunteers to the program periodically. If you are interested – please contact us here!
We also host Trail Work days for volunteers to help with blazing, trash clean up, sign installation, bridge building and brush removal. If you are interested – please contact us here!
In 2021 we certified three vernal pools in the vicinity of the proposed Shingle Place Hill 40B development which further constrained the designed project on the difficult parcel. We conducted salamander studies in 2021 and 2022 with Cape Ann Vernal Ponds on several ponds and wetlands in the Wilderness Conservation Area through state-permitted salamander trapping during the breeding season for mole salamanders, and we have set up “cover traps” to help us identify salamander populations in the uplands. We invited the MA Cold Water Fisheries scientists to explore the upper reaches of Sawmill Brook and Cat Brook for the presence of brook trout. We verified the presence of several threatened species that had been previously identified, and we’re happy to say the populations are strong. We installed and collect data from monitoring wells to measure the temperature and height of groundwater.
We’ve gotten off to a great start in 2023 mapping potential vernal pools in the Western Woods of Manchester. We will be collecting obligate species documentation (photographing egg masses of salamanders and wood frogs) and submitting data to the state to obtain certification of these pools. The town of Manchester has given us permission to certify the pools on town-owned land, and we are seeking permission to certify vernal pools on privately owned land as well. This adds a layer of protection to some of the areas that are not yet under permanent conservation.
More than 50 miles of foot trails and old cartways provide easy access to MECT woodlands. Our trail map of the Wilderness Conservation Area and all conservation properties will guide you in hiking, running, cross-country skiing, birdwatching, botanizing, and biking in designated areas. If you would like a printed copy of the trail map, become a member of MECT and receive a free map. You can also mail a check for $6.00 payable to Manchester Essex Conservation Trust to MECT, P.O. Box 1486, Manchester, MA 01944, and include your mailing address. MECT trail maps are also available for purchase for $5.00 at one of these locations: Riverside (Seaside) Cycle – 23 Elm St. Manchester; Manchester Hardware – 35R Beach St. Manchester; and Essex Bird and Pet Supply – 121 Eastern Ave, Essex.
Manchester and Essex contain many areas of local interest and historical significance. The Woodlands Guide provides an overview of the Wilderness Conservation Area and other reservations in these two communities. The guide includes some history of the origins of conservation in the area and shares stories and legends about some of the unique landmarks in the woods. It also describes trails and some of the geological features and flora and fauna to be found on them.
Management Plans and Scientific Studies
- MECT has conducted several studies to assess, catalog, and protect the ecological value of the land that we hold. Over time, we have completed three separate studies of the Wilderness Conservation Area to develop management plans for this important ecological treasure. These management plans provide a snapshot in time and provide a blueprint for MECTs stewardship efforts. Although the study area varies in each report, each provides a comprehensive summary of the flora, fauna, and geology of the study area at the time when the study was conducted. The first study was published in 1985 and the second in 2013.
- 2013 WILDERNESS CONSERVATION AREA MANAGEMENT
- 1985 MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR THE WILDERNESS CONSERVATION AREA
MECT has also conducted several scientific studies of plants and animals found on Trust property. In 2005, MECT published a Vascular Plant Survey of the Manchester Essex Woods. The study was done by longtime MECT volunteer Erika Sonder and funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. The survey lists over 300 vascular plants found in the Wilderness Conservation Area.
Hyla Ecological Services, Inc. (HES) conducted two Rare Species and Vernal Pool Surveys for MECT in 2004 and 2005. In the 2004 survey, HES documented the presence of spotted turtles and four-toed salamanders, both listed as “Species of Special Concern” by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP), in addition to 30 vernal pools. The 2005 Survey was intended to document the existence and locations of additional vernal pools and rare reptiles and amphibians as a follow-up to a study conducted in 2004.