The Great Meadow Wetlands Project
Article and photo by Rosalie Triolo
It takes a community to Preserve, Protect and Provide for nature’s gift. The Community, Tuftonboro; Nature’s Gift, The Great Meadow Wetlands.
The Great Meadow Wetlands is located between Sodom Road, Mountain Road (Rt. 171) and part of Dame Road. On a recent tour of the Great Meadow Wetlands led by Steve Wingate, Chairman of the Tuftonboro Conservation Committee and retired Forester, he explained that a few years ago while leading another tour through the Great Meadow Wetlands, a member of the group made an interesting suggestion and possibly planted the seed which was to be the beginning of this project. “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a trail here so that more people could enjoy this resource?”
The task at hand began from words uttered in a single sentence. The Tuftonboro Conservation Commission successfully brokered a grant from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program to provide a Natural Resource Inventory for the Great Meadow area. This led to the hiring of Dr. Richard Van de Poll who provided a wealth of information from the geology of the area to its wildlife habitats and was instrumental in helping the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission obtain grants for the project.
In 2003 Dr. Van de Poll, of Ecosystem Management Consultants located in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, compiled an extensive and thorough 103-page report, which he submitted to the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission. In his report he provided the Committee with a synopsis of ecological conditions, water quality and the relative value for the benefit of the users of the wetland area. Dr. Van de Poll stated in the report, “During the 12-month period, between 2001-2002, a total of 12 species of amphibians, 3 reptiles, 3 fish, 93 species of birds, 33 species of mammals and 256 species of plants” were observed and noted. “In terms of feeding and resting, the Great Meadow serves as a critical winter and local migration habitat for black bear, as well as a host of other species. Moose were quite common, heard and/or seen, and the use of common game trails often contained the signs of this animal. Only the white-tailed deer was apparently more prevalent in terms of the sign left behind.”
As for the predators, “All of the major predator species were present at the Great Meadow property, inclusive of bobcat, coyote, red and gray fox, otter, fisher, mink and ermine…”
Following the orange-ribbon trail markers which indicated the location of a trail to be cleared, Steve led the way through some dense areas of tall gracefully lush fern fronds and thick sedge grass, a tall nutritious wetland grass. In the 1800’s, this was a farming area used to raise cattle. At the time sedge grass was an important source of food for cattle grazing in the Great Meadow Wetlands. At a spot about half-way through the orange-ribbon marked trail, Steve pointed to the place where Phase 3 of the planned project, an Observation Platform, was to be built overlooking a vast expanse of flourishing meadowland and beyond, a view of the Ossipee mountain range.
The Great Meadow Wetlands Project is a three-year, 3-Phase project. Phase #1 will is a parking area; Phase #2 is a 1+-mile loop trail; and Phase #3 is an observation platform. Currently, orange ribbons attached to tree limbs define the 1+ mile winding loop trail and the blue ribbons define the placement of the wooden boardwalk platforms over wet areas. With the completion of all three phases of the project, the Great Meadow Wetlands may be used and will easily lend itself as an educational tool for school children.
Steve talked about the declining rate of moose in the area. “The moose population in the area and in most of New Hampshire is declining due to the infestation of winter ticks. Winter ticks attach themselves to moose in the fall and feed on them through winter.” It is thought by many that this is due in part to climate change. More than 70% of the moose calf population has been affected.
Walking across a tree limb to cross to the other side of a wet and muddy area, Steve pointed to the rocks in the stream. “This is an important habitat for wild turkeys to feed in spring-fed winter waters. Turkeys turn over rocks to get at the aquatic worms for their source of protein.” In an area with conifer trees growing close to each other, Hemlock, Fir and Spruce trees provide a mantle of cover, which holds the heat in on clear winter nights. Here is where you’ll find grouse, wild turkey and chickadees.
In the summer 2019 edition of the Quarterly Newsletter published by the Tuftonboro Association, Steve Wingate wrote, “Before European settlement, open wetlands were important to native Americans. They trapped fish in narrow portions of the river (the Melvin River) and hunted beaver, waterfowl, and moose, which used wetlands as an important habitat. Native Americans also harvested foods and medicinal ingredients from the wetland vegetation. Blueberry plants were common along the tree-lined edge. Many succulent plants could be harvested from wetlands in the spring before any other food plants were available. Migrating waterfowl could be hunted in spring and fall.”
Discussing the role of volunteers, Steve expressed a need for more people to help cut and pull invasive weeds, glossy buckthorn and European bittersweet and do away with twigs cluttering the prospective trail.
With the financial help of the Tuftonboro Association, Phase #1, Jeff Moody has cleared the parking area next to the Tuftonboro Town DPW. Help is now needed to clean up trails so trucks carrying wood and other building supplies can get down to a flat spot to turn around and for a place to pre-build wooden walkways to be used to get across wetland areas. On several occasions, older boys from the YMCA Belknap camp have volunteered for part of the day, and have also been instrumental in clearing an educational trail behind the Tuftonboro Central School.
The Tuftonboro Association is handling fundraising for the trail. Donations may be sent to Tuftonboro Association, PO Box 121, Melvin Village, NH 03850. Please specify this donation is for the “Great Meadow Project.”