Andover is a microcosm of the entire Bay Circuit Trail System. It began to think about land preservation in 1894 when the Andover Village Improvement Society, (AVIS), was born. Since then, it has put 1100 acres under protection with a fairly comprehensive run of ecotones, glacial terrain traces and spots touched by the long history of the place.
And the spirit of volunteerism couldn't be more lively. Participation in the Bay Circuit system varies by town and Andover could be considered a hub if not the hub because the Bay Circuit Alliance has long had its home there and its Conservation Commission is comparably exemplary.
It even has an organization given to weaving all the protected jurisdiction strands into a handy mosaic, the Andover Trails Committee.
I identified five areas of the town to provide a sense of its relationship to the Bay Circuit Trail and the other features that have shaped it over time.
1. Bay Circuit East.
This part is defined by the highest point in the area, Holt Hill, in the Charles W. Ward Reservation. The other anchor is the venerable Harold Parker State Forest. Between these two lies a string of gems including the Skug River/Hammond Reservations and the Mary French Reservation.
2.The Main Street Corridor.
Route 28 was cobbled together from a north to south patchwork of old turnpikes that began with a road from the market town, Medford, to the farm settlements along the Merrimack Valley edge.
Foster's Pond, at the southern edge with North Reading, has its own organization in addition to The Peggy Keck and Goldsmith Reservations. Heading north the Pustell Reservation follows.
3. The Shawsheen Watershed Corridor.
This is also joined by the offspring of the Andover and Wilmington Railroad. It runs along the eastern edge of the river.
This may well be a defining feature of the town and considerable effort has been expended to make it shine. Following the river from south to north, the Sanborn Reservation is the first of these efforts followed down stream by Pole Hill, site of a ghost resort long gone to nature. Further downstream lies Pomp's Pond, home to a freed slave in Thoreau's time.
The Vale Reservation and the Shawsheen River Reservation form a centerpiece cluster that ties the Ballardvale neighborhood to Andover Center. And, at the point of confluence with the Merrimack, Den Rock Park is a collaboration with the city of Lawrence.
All these and other preserved lands are part of an ongoing creation, the Shawsheen River Greenway.
4. Bay Circuit West.
The trail continues to Tewksbury and beyond until it's eventual terminus in Duxbury.
As the trail rises from the Shawsheen river heading west, it immediately meets another cluster of parcels beginning with Indian Ridge Reservation and followed by Bakers Meadow and West Parish Meadow and the nearby cemetery,which has a thoughtfully designed walking tour.
There is a second cluster further westward built around the Harold Rafton Reservation, the largest property protected by AVIS. From there the Bay Circuit Trail heads toward the Merrimack. One additional parcel in this area lies at the edge of Tewksbury, the Nat Smith Reservation.
5. The Merrimack River.
The river's southern side is shaped by the bluffs of a kame terrace draped with white pine and returning oak forests. The principle parcel given to its southern side is the Deer Jump Reservation, a long and sinuous thing of beauty.
This is but a handy overview. These areas will get more detailed visits in future posts. As it is, we just finished several hours of video shoots to augment Andover's inventory.
Note For the Urban Carless. The wonders of Andover are yours to discover through the capacities of commuter rail.