Land Stewards Clear Trail Blockages following Recent Storms

September 16, 2023

Following the storms of September 8 and 10, regional headlines and newscasts were filled with photographs of downed trees across roads, railroad tracks, cars and buildings. Out of sight, the forested lands of Acton also suffered. Across the 1700 acres of Acton Conservation Lands, scores of trees fell, either snapped off mid-trunk or pulled up by the roots from the saturated soil.

When trees fall across trails in Acton’s Conservation Lands, clearing up the mess is the responsibility of the volunteer Acton Land Stewards, supported by the staff Land Stewardship Coordinator, Ian Bergemann. The twenty members of the Land Stewardship Committee each take responsibility for one of Acton’s 17 conservation land parcels. Stewards walk the trails regularly, watching for misuse of the land and keeping the trails open. They maintain signs and blazes, build bridges and walkways, and occasionally re-route a trail to avoid muddy patches or sensitive habitats. Stewards provide their own tools, and routine work is done with hand tools, such as clippers and handsaws. A subset of Stewards, called “sawyers,” have taken additional specialized training and are authorized to use chainsaws and other power tools in the conservation lands. In the aftermath of the storms of September 8 and 10, the sawyers have been hard at work. Their database of recent trail blockages shows nine blockages cleared as of September 16, and at least 21 more to go.

Trail in the woods blocked by fallen tree and two men working to clear the trail.
Land Stewardship Coordinator Ian Bergemann and Sawyer Dale Chayes clearing the yellow trail in Nagog Hill Conservation Land. Photo: Kim Kastens

If you encounter a fallen tree or branches blocking a trail in the conservation lands, the Stewards and Stewardship Coordinator Bergemann request that you report the problem by emailing Include as much as possible of the following information: a photograph of the situation, its location, the diameter of the largest trunk or branch, whether a walker can easily get over or around the blockage, and whether there are fallen branches or trunks suspended over the trail that could fall on a walker. If you are using a hiker’s GPS system or the Acton Trails interactive map on your cell phone, it is helpful if you can snap a screenshot of your location and send that along as well. If you enjoy walking in Acton’s conservation lands, thank a Land Steward.

Kim Kastens, a volunteer writer for the Acton Newspaper Initiative, is an Acton resident and is married to Land Steward Dale Chayes.


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