Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stony Brook Trail Preview

Andrew Thornton recently showed me the new trail that he, Clark Lennon and Ted Thomas have been building along the Stonybrook. This is the trail that's part of a celebration this coming Sunday, to which all are invited (see other posts).

One of the most striking features is the age and size of trees that grow in this rich Stonybrook floodplain, gaining more character with each passing year. There are impressive specimens of tulip poplars, red oaks, sycamore, shagbark hickory, and many other species, including a pecan tree leaning out over the stream.

After a summer of drought, it's easy to step off the trail and take a look at the frogs, crawdads, fish and other critters eking out an existence in the brook.

Fowlers Toads kept an eye on us throughout the walk.

This photo tells the story of how reduced deer browsing pressure in Princeton Township has allowed the native plants to bounce back. Ten years ago, when deer numbers were very high, many spicebush shrubs were barely hanging on, with only one stem high enough to avoid being eaten. All new sprouts from the base would be browsed, preventing the bush from replacing the aging stem. As deer numbers were brought down, the spicebush have successfully developed new trunks to replace their aging lifeline. Prosperous native shrubs mean more high-lipid berries for birds and leaves to meet the specific needs of various butterfly and moth species.
At the end of the trail, a lovely new bridge spans the Stonybrook. Though the bridge is the result of various grants, and cooperation and initiative shown by FOPOS, Princeton Township, D&R Greenway and others, to me it symbolizes the fruits of patience and perseverance, as exemplified by Princeton resident Helmut Schwab. Some years back, I would listen to Helmut's updates on the project at Friends of Princeton Open Space meetings, and wonder how he could possible keep going in the face of what seemed like insurmountable regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles. Now, my eyes have been opened. What a fine destination after such a long journey.

Though I say the bridge is at the end of the trail, it is actually part of a circum-Princeton route that, with the building of this bridge, has come closer to realization.

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