What is a community? A group living in the same area? Yes, but more.
A group sharing similar interests? Yes, but more
A group sharing similar concerns? Yes, but more.
A group sharing friendships? Yes, and when you add all of these attributes of a community you have the Highland Communities Initiative (HCI), a project of The Trustees of Reservations.
Last Sunday members of many communities gathered to celebrate the opening of the Bullitt Reservation, the newest of The Reservations, with hikes and food, and freshly pressed cider. The day was golden with a brilliant sun lighting up the autumnal panoramas of forest and meadow that make up the 262 acres that were donated by Anne Bullitt, daughter of Ambassador William C. Bullitt who summered for many years in Ashfield.
A donation or acquisition of land is just the beginning of a Reservation. Mark Wamsley, HCI Program and Outreach Coordinator, explained that open community meetings were held last year to see what was most needed and wanted and hoped for from this beautiful piece of land. It will be no surprise that hiking trails and snow shoeing trails were high on the list. A Meadow Trail and a Pebble Trail were open and marked on Sunday, now open to all.
I joined a group on the three quarter mile hike up and down through the woods, never realizing there was a Pebble.
There was laughter as we approached the Pebble, a huge boulder left by the glaciers thousands of years ago. The trees that have grown up around it are quite a bit younger, as is the graffiti chiseled into the stone. Initials, E.F and the dates 85 and 88 show a determination that most kids with a can of spray paint can only imagine. One of my fellow hikers said that the initials belonged to a farmer’s son, who long ago lived nearby.
The series of guided hikes attracted many, but the other main feature of the day was a tour of the old caretaker’s cottage that is being transformed into a highly energy efficient office and meeting space. Among the events that HCI schedules, are practical workshops that can be held here.
Jim Younger, Director of Structural Resources and Technology for the Trustees of Renovations, and Mary Quigley gave brief presentations and answered questions about how the building was designed and built to meet Gold LEED certification.
“LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts,” devised by the U.S. Green Building Council.
In the case of this building, the LEED certification comes from the ways the deep energy retrofit has been accomplished with super insulation that will still breathe, energy efficient windows that will open, heat exchange technology, fiber cement siding and a metal roof. Rainwater off the roof will be used for the surrounding gardens that will include native plants and grasses. Plans for the future will include a solar panel on the barn roof to generate all the electricity needed to supply the building’s heat, lights and computers.
The house was gutted and recycled to meet other LEED standards. Old metal roofing was given away to those who could use it, as was everything else, “except the old insulation full of mouse nests,” Quigley said. “No one wanted that.”
The double thickness of planks that formed the interior walls were taken down and turned into a kitchen counter and desks.
The intent has been to make the building 50% more efficient than required by current standards.
This old building has served many purposes over its long life. Quigley said they found coins dating from 1783 between the floor boards. Long before Ambassador Bullitt bought the land and built his own holiday house, this building housed up to 13 people between 1839 and 1874 when it served as one of several Ashfield Poor Farms. It was a working farm operated by the town, and provided food and shelter to needy residents.
The staffs of the Hilltown Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust will move into their new offices, currently located in Haydenville, right after Thanksgiving.
“This is a wonderful spot,” Wamsley said. “The landscape is inspiring and it is closer to the community we’ll be working with. We expect more people to be dropping by the office. In addition we now have dedicated program space.”
Wamsley explained that future plans include working on the old barn so that it can be used for programs as well.
There is no need for any of us to wait until the barn is open for business. The trails are open now.
For those who share the ideals of this community and wish to add your support you can logon to www.ttor.org and become a member of The Trustees of Reservations or make donations directly to the Bullitt Reservation or the Hilltown Communities Initiative. ###
Between the Rows October 30, 2010