GWS in the Concord Journal

Minute Man park grounds clearing makes room for farming in Concord
By Patrick Ball/Staff Writer The Concord Journal Posted Sep 08, 2010 @ 03:14 PM Concord —

Stonewalls along the Battle Road Trail and Lexington Road in Concord once hid minutemen firing on the British Regulars, but in recent years the iconic walls themselves have been hidden beneath invasive plant species and overgrown greenery.

The Buttrick Gardens, a lush and mysterious labyrinth overlooking the North Bridge, has been similarly overtaken by large trees and renegade shrubbery.

But Minute Man National Historical Park is battling back, like the embattled farmers who rose up against the Redcoats in 1775. Only this time, there’s a federal government funding the fight.

Minute Man received $1.7 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year and this summer funneled $560,000 of that funding into clearing Buttrick Gardens and historic agricultural fields within the park’s borders.

“It’s a major investment that the park would not have been able to do without these funds,” said Park Superintendent Nancy Nelson. “It’s really allowed the park to move forward in really significant ways that will last for a long time into the future.”

Growing partnerships

More than just restoring the land to the way it looked during revolutionary times, this work is clearing the way for expanded partnerships, such as with Battle Road Farms, with whom the park has a cooperative agreement to work the land and provide an agricultural component to the park’s educational offerings.

“We’re hoping Battle Road Farms will bridge generations by bringing together second-graders and their grandparents together over food and farming,” said David Graham, farm manager for Battle Road Farms. “This is a national park, and it’s all of our land. It’s sort of like making the national park work for us.”

Incubator farmers live on the property, growing vegetables and raising chickens. They operate a farmstand on the site and Tuesdays are CSA pickup days. Behind the barn, three little pigs and a pumpkin patch hint at what’s to come in the near future, when the Battle Road Farms fields will be populated with livestock. Forgotten apple and peach trees stand next to “witness” houses, 1770s homes that will be restored with the idea of housing for farmers or instructional kitchens for cooking programs.

“The colonial way of life that was so worth protecting is a story we’re returning to, and it’s really compelling,” said Brooke Redmond, communications and development director for the Farm Based Education Association and a board member at Battle Road Farms. “Almost every goal that we have here is sated with another, and the stim money made so many things possible.”

General contractors Classic Site Solutions Inc., of Wilbraham, have heavy machinery clearing trees and brush along Lexington Road. But across the street, youth teams from Groundwork Somerville and the Student Conservation Association have done much of the restoration work.

“It was like a jungle, basically, and we put a lot of muscle into it, a lot of hard work,” said Gunter Vital of Groundwork Somerville. “But it’s great to be able to see the vistas, and to know that there’s going to be livestock and education for the youth. It’s good work, very rewarding.”

At Buttrick Gardens, outside Minute Man NHP headquarters, the ongoing resetting, planting, pruning and invasive species removal has been aided by the dry summer and should continue into early next spring. The efforts here are focused on improving safety and restoring views of the North Bridge and river, which have been lost to overgrowth.

“I think people will see a very big difference in the garden come spring,” said Nelson, the park’s superintendent. “It had gotten so overgrown, the views of the river it was designed for were obscured, but the views now are very spectacular. And many of the paths that have been a safety hazard have been reset. It’s a much safer and a much more beautiful experience.”

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