Sunday, October 7, 2012

Andover Trail Annals: The Petals of Ballardvale.

Andover has such a long resonance in the echo of my memory that I return to it periodically. One of the high points of my summer was a series of trips to an interesting cluster of conservation parcels grouped around the Ballardvale Commuter Rail station like petals of a flower with the station as the disk. 

The Andover Village Improvement Society parcel, the Vale Reservation, has a trailhead right at the station parking lot. The other three are Conservation Commission parcels and nearly as close. All are valuable support elements for the Shawsheen River.

Vale is on the northwestern side of the Shawsheen with the Pomps Pond/Foster's Island parcel on the opposite bank. 

It leads to the Shawsheen River Reservation to the north and is blessed with a number of elegant and very well constructed boardwalks that get you into stunning wetland epicenters.

Last year saw the addition of a striking and super sturdy truss bridge. The Andover Trails Committee collaborates with AVIS to craft these unique amenities with avid volunteer work.

Pomps Pond was a homestead for a freed slave named Pompey.

"The current name of Pomp's Pond refers to Pompey Lovejoy, a freed slave who built a cabin near the pond on Abbot Road, fished, and farmed nearby land. Pompey Lovejoy died in the 1820s, over a hundred years old."

Courtesy of the Andover Trails Committee.

To the southeast of the station, you'll find Pole Hill, the site of an early leisure travel destination for summer picnics and concerts at the turn of the 20th century.

"At the turn of the century, this area was known as “The Grove”. It boasted a picnic area and a dance hall and attracted people from all over. The Boston and Maine Railroad even had a siding at Pole Hill to accommodate the dancers. There were three camps along the Shawsheen River, one of which served as a refreshment stand. 

When the river was higher, canoes could be rented in Ballardvale for a romantic paddle upstream to “The Grove”. But Pole Hill’s history is not only of good times; after a murder was committed here, the dance hall was closed for good."

Courtesy of the Andover Trails Committee.

And the southwest is home to Serio's Grove, a childhood swimming hole for Jay Leno.

"The Serio family, Frank Sr. and his wife Theresa, moved from Malden in 1932 to a site “off Lowell Junction Rd.” The home had no phone, electricity, or water. Electricity came in about 1935. At the time of their move the property was mostly open land, nothing like the forest that has grown up during the intervening 40 or so years.

Frank Serio Sr. was given recognition as one of the town’s early environmentalists. Soon after moving in he became concerned about the industrial soap being dumped into the river from an upstream chemical company. Through his efforts a plan was developed by the company to eliminate the pollution.

Because of his interests in the environment the Conservation Commission decided to honor Frank Sr. by naming the property after him. In 2008 the property was officially named “Serio’s Grove”. A dedication ceremony was held on the property with many Serio relatives in attendance. Jay Leno, an Andover native who use to rent canoes from Frank Serio Sr. back when Jay was a young boy, sent a DVD to this event congratulating the Serio family."

Courtesy of the Andover Trails Committee.

The group of properties, along with others in the vicinity, can be explored over the course of a day and they are a kaleidoscopic whirl of ecotones.

"Bottle" Gentian in Serio's Grove.