Have you been looking forward to the day when it might once again be safe to cross the brook at the Mink Brook Nature Preserve? We’re happy to report that, thanks to terrific partners, that day is now many steps closer! Dartmouth has generously offered a tall, sturdy tree that happened to be in the path of ski trail improvements at Oak Hill – a welcome gift that follows the college’s major contribution that saved the 112-acre Preserve from becoming a 32-lot subdivision in 1999. As this moves forward, three imperatives guide the project: protecting the ecological integrity of Mink Brook and its banks, safety for everyone who walks the trails at the Preserve, and of course, respect for the Native community.
Throughout the quarter century we have held and managed the Mink Brook Nature Preserve, we have been mindful of its significance to the Abenaki and understand that this, like other places we have protected, is unceded land. Throughout the process of determining how to restore a safe crossing of the brook, we have sought out and conferred with Native voices, with many hours in consultation about how we might move forward in a respectful way. It is our goal to steward the lands in our care in a way that is both consistent with Native values and helps our community appreciate these places.
Among these values is respect for nature. The need to protect streambanks from damage by too many eager feet has added urgency to our replacement project. Directing those unstoppable feet to one carefully selected spot, away from soft soils and onto a stable surface, will keep sediment out of the water and allow the streambank to re-vegetate naturally. Making the crossing safe – for feet large and small – is an equally important goal.
Why a white pine from Oak Hill? Given the recent history of the Preserve as farmland, it isn’t surprising that the trees growing there today aren’t yet tall and strong enough to provide a safe crossing over the Hurricane Irene-widened channel, so we had to look elsewhere to replace the log. To our surprise, a call to our foresters soon revealed the big tree that was slated to come down within weeks, conveniently close to the log landing. The project led by Friends of Oak Hill will result in a new, community-pleasing role for this tree now that its shade-giving, carbon-storing, bird-harboring days are done. Thanks to Forester Jeff Smith at Upper Valley Forestry for identifying the tree. (And yes, we really did think about floating a toppled pine from Pine Park down the Connecticut River and up the brook).
Many hands are making light work of this heavy lift. In addition to Dartmouth, our friends at Liberty Utilities are pitching in to bring the log to the Preserve. Hanover’s Public Works and Police departments are supporting the move. Chippers, a long-time business friend, will help pull it into position. The Upper Valley Trails Alliance, a regular Conservancy partner, will remove the deteriorated log and guide volunteers in preparing the fresh log for its new role.
We want to thank the talented team of students and faculty at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering who worked through the 2021-22 year to design a clever and attractive suspension footbridge. While we were not able to use their proposed design, they helped us learn even more about our community’s hopes and affection for the Preserve.
We will update this page regularly as our project proceeds. When it’s time for volunteers to pitch in, we’ll let you know! Thanks to all of our partners who are helping the Hanover Conservancy to restore our beloved log bridge.