Allandale Woods gets new attention

David Taber

Photo Courtesy Boston Natural Areas Network
BRIDGE TO THE WOODS —The Boston Youth Conservation Corps crew, a program of the Boston Natural Areas Network, installs a new footbridge in Allandale Woods. The crew worked at Allandale for seven weeks this summer.

‘Wilds’ hosts unique ecosystem

MOSS HILL—Allandale Woods, the city’s largest “urban wild,” heads into the fall foliage season with new and refurbished walking paths—thanks to the summertime efforts of youth volunteers—and official recognition of a new habitat in the 98-acre woods.

Cleanup work done by the youths cleared the way for the testing of a seasonal pond in the woods, confirming that it meets criteria to be designated a “vernal pool.” Vernal pools are seasonal bodies of water that form after winter thaws, but dry up over the course of the year. In the absence of fish, they can support a uniquely diverse array of species, including species of salamanders and frogs.

Allandale is also bigger than previously reported. City urban wilds program director Paul Sutton said the woods’ acreage was recently recalculated as well, previously it was believed to be around 90 acres. It is, in fact, 98 acres.

Since the woods are already conservation land, the vernal pool designation will not mean any new restrictions on hiking in the area, Sutton told the Gazette. It could provide new impetus for water quality protection and improvement in the Bussey Brook watershed, he said.

Bordered by Allandale Street, Centre Street, the VFW Parkway and Hackensack Road, Allandale “is one of the few relatively pristine secondary growth oak-hickory forests in the city of Boston,” according to the city’s web site. It is also home to pines, beeches and a diverse array of other trees. It features ponds, marshlands, and rocky outcroppings. It is the largest urban wild—a term used to designate city parklands that are allowed to develop with minimal human impact. The Appalachian Mountain Club mostly laid out the existing trails in 1992.

Two groups of youths, ages 15 to 17, from a Boston chapter of the national Student Conservation Association spent seven weeks doing “major trail rehabilitation” on an existing trail off the VFW Parkway, Sutton said.

Another youth group associated with the Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN) built a new spur trail leading from the VFW side of the woods to the rear of Springhouse and Sophia Snow Place, two senior communities on Allandale Street.

In addition to handling the mechanics of trail creation—including removing ground vegetation topsoil and low-hanging branches from the path’s route, grading the path and installing steppingstones and footbridges—the BNAN youths were heavily involved in the design work that went into the new path, Sutton said.

“They were involved with the trail layout. They definitely had input,” on how best to avoid obstacles and steer the path toward scenic elements in the woods. “All we knew was we wanted to end up at a particular point,” Sutton said.

The new trail prominently features a historic farm wall surviving the former Brandegee Estate.

Over the summer the youth volunteers also worked to clear the ponds and streams in the woods of invasives and trash. “The next phase is looking at what kind of aquatic life is in there,” Sutton said. The vernal pool designation—conducted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program—is part of that process.

The renovated trails are accessible from the VFW Parkway behind the Church of Annunciation near Centre Street. There is another entrance on the VFW at the campus of the Lyndon School, and now two on Allandale Street behind Springhouse and Sophia Snow Place, as well as one across from the horse stable on the Brandegee Estate at around 165 Allandale St.

The Gazette published a feature on the woods in October of last year. Since then, Sutton said, there has been increased interest in the woods, but he is still looking for volunteers to help out with woodland maintenance and potentially form a Friends of Allandale Woods group, he said. Sutton can be reached at 961-3029 or [email protected]

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