Friday, September 21, 2012

Bay Circuit Trail: Kingston Chronicles.

Kingston, Massachusetts is tucked between Plymouth and Duxbury along the coast and shares the southern end point of the Bay Circuit Trail with the latter.

Shipbuilding was a principle focus for much of its existence. A kernel of that continues at Jones River Landing, the conservation epicenter.

Despite recent attempts by speculators to make it a metro Boston bedroom community, it is essentially rural with an agricultural economy pegged to cranberries.

It's part of a vast sand swath that also defines Cape Cod, the islands and parts of Long Island. As such it was never too well suited for farming, lacked any minerals to generate wealth and isn't a tourist destination.

It brings to mind the sand county lands of Wisconsin beloved by Aldo Leopold

All that aside, it has an impressive array of conservation properties along the Jones River, which will ever be the living core of whatever human efforts may meet it.

Following the Bay Circuit Trail description for the area, we first encounter the Silver Lake Sanctuary near the Pembroke border. 

It is one of three parcels acquired between 1997 and 1999 amid a property speculation boom fueled by the restoration of commuter rail. I used the Halifax station as my initial point of entry and it is quite helpful.

From there the trail heads to the Cranberry Watershed Preserve via an unusually demure and unmarked trailhead south of the high school on Lake Street.

It took me several visits over August and September to get the routes right because of blazing absence but diligence gets results. The problem appears to be a higher incidence of vandalism than is common elsewhere wedded to a readily evident lack of support from the towns principle decision makers.

The town website tells the story. Effort is lavished on a web presence for a youth recreational initiative, worthy enough, but most useful links for land preserves are either broken, incomplete or have an unusually long loading time.

As a consequence, there is very little mapping online for individual tracts and what there is is fairly unusable.While the shift from boom to bust that followed the Great Recession can partially account for the absence of support for the properties, there was no such excuse during the prior boom phases that followed 2000.

The vandalism appears to express conflicts my own town experienced in the late 60s. The commuter rail boom brought an additional 3000 plus residents into the town in a fairly short period with predictable stresses on every service aspect and a corresponding deficit strain on town coffers.

Thus the long standing residents saw their tax rates spike without much in the way of service improvement and an influx of people who increasingly were at odds with their rural traditions involving various noisy motorized recreation contraptions.

The Hathaway Preserve appears to have borne the brunt of this. It happens to be bisected by utility power lines that were long preferred corridors for these things and attempts to assert noisy RV prerogatives find their focus there.

And this is complicated by an evident corridor easement failure at one particularly good route run leading to a trail to nowhere that is nonetheless quite wonderful. You end up with a veritable twilight zone of a tract that is thankfully small so a half a day of exploration will unravel most of its knots.

From there, the trail heads to the fourth major tract carrying the Bay Circuit and it is the oldest of them all,  Sampson Park, a completely charming old place with some man made trail features that look as if pilgrims made them. It is in very good condition but also suffers from blazing problems.

At the end of the day, a dedicated community volunteer initiative could probably fix many of these minor defects in short order and with minimal fuss. 

Kingston also shares ownership of Bay Farm with Duxbury where the southern end of the Bay Circuit meets the sea. That place will get its own special post.