Hundreds turn out for Carlisle’s first Trails Day

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HANOVER HILL HOPPERS. A group with many young children pauses by Virginia Farme Road during a walk on Carlisle’s Trails Day held on Saturday, May 18. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

It was a perfect day. Mother Nature cooperated and the weather could not have been better for the first Carlisle Trails Day. On Saturday, May 18, after a day of murky rain on Friday, the sky was blue and the temperatures climbed to a pleasant 72°F as hundreds of people, from seven weeks to 88 years of age, took part in a day-long challenge to walk all of the 56+ miles of trails in Carlisle. 

The plans

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CCF member Wayne Davis had the idea for the Trails Day event. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

The Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) together with the Carlisle Trails Committee (CTC) organized the outdoor program to celebrate the beauty of Carlisle’s natural surroundings and to encourage residents of all ages to enjoy the town’s open space and wildlife habitats. With this in mind CCF and CTC planned a full day of activities and challenged Carlisle residents to collectively walk all of the town’s trails in a single day. The Board of Selectmen signaled its support as it declared May 18, 2019 Carlisle Trails Day, and as part of the proclamation the Selectmen encouraged all residents to “participate in the Trails Day activities, share the experience with family and/or some new or old friends, and strengthen our collective commitment to preserving the natural, scenic, and recreational qualities of our town.”

Through the website, residents could sign up for one of 26 guided walks, or could post one of their own. The guided walks, some of which were “toddler friendly” or “dog friendly,” were led by volunteers. Each walk ranged in distance from half a mile up to six miles and the walks started at various times during the day, allowing hikers to sign up for one that best fit their schedule and interest. The website provided information about each planned walk including some of its highlights—from the colonial era quarry and lime kiln on the Benfield Land walk, to meeting baby goats at Woodhaven Farm on the Davis Corridor walk, to passing an abandoned cabin and cellar holes at a Great Brook Farm walk. One walk even featured a chance to watch the full moon set at 5:28 a.m. Residents could use the website to volunteer to lead a walk, to sign up for a walk, or to create their own walk.

Local businesses support Carlisle Trails Day

Local businesses also got into the act. As an incentive, Clark Farm Market provided fresh coffee and juice all day for all walkers. From 3-4:30 p.m., Kimball’s Ice Cream at Bates Farm provided ice cream cones for all walkers aged 16 and under who registered ahead of time. From 5-6:30 p.m. walkers could meet at Ferns to enjoy snacks and beverages. After completing the walk, hikers were asked to record their effort at the Kimball’s or Ferns gatherings or to use the website to record their walk, upload photos and share comments. Visit the website or CCF’s Instagram account at @ccf.nature to see photos of the day.

Post-walk celebrations

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Becky Fortier leads the Woodbine Wanderers along the Lantern Loop trail at Great Brook Farm State Park (Photo by Ellen Huber)

With the glorious sun and a poster-sized map filled with walkers’ names, it was hard to see the day as anything but a great success. Many people signed up for walks ahead of time, but others showed up when it became obvious that the weather would beckon them outside. 

By mid-afternoon, several CCF and CTC members manned tables set up at Kimball’s. Here, young hikers could talk with a CCF or CTC member about what they saw during the walk and sign their name on the poster-sized map of town indicating which trail they walked. Once they had signed the map, they received a ticket for a free ice cream. 

Later, at the post-walk gathering and CCF annual meeting at Ferns, outgoing CCF President Dale Ryder said the day was a great success. She explained that the principal mission of CCF is to preserve the natural beauty and rural character of Carlisle, and that this is done mainly by preserving and maintaining conservation land in town. But that CCF also has an educational mission—to educate residents about the open space and trails in town, and to help children learn about nature. “Our mission is accomplished . . . . It was a great day. I hope we can do it again next year.”

Ryder thanked Wayne Davis, who, more than a year ago, came up with the idea of a Carlisle Trails Day. She also thanked the members of the Trails Committee for their work in preparing the trails, helping to plan the day and leading many of the walks. “Steve [Tobin] was out last night looking at the trails. It was a community-wide effort.” She also thanked Ferns, Kimball Farm, and Clark Farm for their support. 


Incoming CCF President Kelly Guarino led the early morning “moon-set” walk at Foss Farm. Guarino said that ten early risers joined her for a “wonderful walk.” She said people spread the word about the day to friends outside of town including a family from Harvard that joined her walk. 

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Ready for the woods, hikers guard against ticks with socks pulled over long pants and bug spray. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

CCF member Steve Hinton led a small group on the Bisbee Land. He said that once the group came down the hill toward Spencer Brook, “it was spooky quiet.” He saw the day as “a fun way to get people out to enjoy the land and to understand what CCF does.” He added, “You can’t protect land until you value the land. People don’t value the land until they have gotten to know it.” 

CCF member Steve Spang led a group on the Cranberry Bog. “It was a lot of fun to see people enjoying the outdoors. I was interested to see people who hadn’t walked our trails before.” The group included a large contingent of elementary school children who spied turtles, snakes and red-tailed hawks. Jean Bagnaschi took part in the bog walk and found it a good opportunity to get to know people as they walked. “People would go at their own pace. It was perfect.”

Becky Fortier led a neighborhood group—the Woodbine Warriors (along with one Partridge Pirate). Praising the event she said, “It was a wonderful way to showcase our trails. I loved how each person had their own focus and interest. The walks provided something for everyone. I hope they have it again next year.” 

CCF and CTC member Mark Lamere said that one of the goals of the day was to get people out to see the land. “People were out on trails in their own neighborhood that they had never walked on before.”

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Carrie Patel signs in after leading Walk #24, Great Brook State Park North, while a younger participant signs in after doing Walk #11, at Banta-Davis and Fox Hill. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Ginny Lamere walked at Carlisle Pines State Forest where the lady slippers were in bloom. “It was lovely. We got to see some massive oaks and hemlocks in addition to the tall pines. Kay Hurley found several interesting fungi. I learned a lot on a beautiful walk.”

Steve Tobin, CTC Chair and CCF member, was pleased with the turn out. “It was great. We had people on every walk and many who had never been on a trail in Carlisle before.” Resident Mary Zoll agreed, “I am astounded and delighted by the level of participation.”

Carlisle meets the challenge 

Wayne Davis, who led walks on Hanover Hill and Great Meadows, was also pleased with the way the day worked out. “The most gratifying thing is the number of young families that came out.” He said that planning the day “was a lot of work, but that 50% of the work is re-usable.” He added, “This has felt like one long party all day. It’s what I had hoped for. The only thing I regret is that Art Milliken isn’t here. He would have loved getting everyone out on the trails, and at Kimballs, and here.”

Afterward, Davis said that 275 individuals trekked 760 collective miles on all 26 walks. Some people did multiple walks. He said, “Wow! What a day! We met the challenge. Along with lots of new friends made, old relationships rekindled, a deep appreciation for nature sparked in lots of little ones, and much ice cream (and just a little beer and wine) consumed.”

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A large group enjoys the warm sunshine on May 18 to participate in Carlisle’s Trails Day.
(Photo by Marco Rivero)

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First graders examine a water snake at the
Cranberry Bog off Curve Street during Trails Day on Saturday, May 18. (Photo by Alex Chen)
Year-old Addison Kelleher is ready to get started on Trails Day, May 18. (Photo by Ellen Huber)