Did you know that 60% of Wawenock’s property is held in a Conservation Easement? That means it will be protected from development forever! The creation of a conservation easement was a long-held dream of the Usshers and a priority for June Gray. Andy, Catriona and Pat also agreed that there are many benefits to protecting the forest that collects and filters the water entering Camp’s cove, houses wildlife, and prevents erosion of the property from excessive water run-off. June was thrilled to see the process of partnering with an organization reach a successful conclusion in 2011. We were all thrilled to know that the forests surrounding Camp and buffering us from adjoining properties would forever remain natural – allowing campers to explore the wonderful woodland habitat around them without encumbrances of buildings or development. The partner who holds the easement is SWOAM – the Small Woodland Owner’s Association of Maine.
SWOAM visits Camp every year to monitor our easement property, ensure that no development is occurring, that the land is maintained utilizing best practices, and that we meet our goals of protecting and preserving species diversity, nature habitat, and the overall health of the forest. Part of maintaining a healthy forest is having an active forestry management plan under the guidance of a licensed Maine Forester. Our forester, Greg Foster, got to know the Wawenock property when working alongside his father, who partnered with Lillian and Syd Ussher in the management of Wawenock’s woods for many years! We do not need to log every year; thinning to improve the balance and health of trees every ten to twenty years is typical for most sections of the forest.
We wanted to tell you about our recently completed forestry work, which includes some areas of the property where trees have been cut for the first time in many decades. With the goals of forest health improvement, species diversity maintenance and thinning of some older trees that reached their maturation date, the forester marked trees to be felled throughout the uncut easement sections, as well as in some places on Camp’s remaining property. Cutting occurred mostly to the left of the delivery road and the road that continues beyond the dining room, winding up to the Images and Archery and Riflery ranges, as well as select thinning of trees that posed safety hazards closer to Middler Hill and Ussher Lodge. The area closest to The Images was selectively thinned to preserve, as much as possible, the look and feel of the shaded path that we all know and love.
Because it can look a little unsightly and dramatic at first, there is a desire to rake up every last twig, branch and stick that is visible from the trails as a result of the tree work. We have begun the clean-up process required to reduce fire risk and to make getting around Camp as easy and practical as always, and we will definitely pay some attention to aesthetics in key areas. However, we are also reminded by our forester and our consultants from SWOAM that when we create spaces for unfiltered light to reach the ground, the resulting ‘slash’ quickly gets tamped down by rain, snow, and falling leaves. Furthermore, it becomes an excellent nursery for new tree growth, provides small meadows where wild flowers and seedlings have sunlight to flourish and creates patches of grass for grouse and deer to graze upon. Perhaps most importantly, the branches, twigs and needles provide excellent resistance to water run-off, allowing the vernal pools in the woods to be sustained and for erosion of soil around Camp to be kept to a minimum.
When the water soaks slowly into the land instead of running off, it is filtered clean and our conservation easement becomes a really important factor in the permanent health and clarity of Lake Sebago, for this and future generations.
If you have any questions about Wawenock’s Forestry Plan or Conservation Easement please ask us any time. If you would like to help us with some of the clean-up of the property prior to opening day in June then please join us on Sunday, May 24th for our annual Camp Family Work and Play Picnic Day (great group, great food and great fun!) or let us know when you can make it here and we’ll gratefully put you to work any day that you’re available!
– written by Andy Sangster