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MRU Natural Area Guide: Note: The areas listed below are named only as a means of describing the

location. TAs and classes are welcome to adopt an area, help manage it sustainably, and give the location its own name. This written tour begins on a path near left field foul line and the school garden. Our Natural Area offers many educational opportunities for our students, staff and community members. Our natural area committee and science department are great resource for ideas and materials. Get outside and prevent Nature-Deficit Disorder! 1. Austin Homestead: One of Clarendon's older houses stood here until it fell into disrepair and was demolished during the 2011-2012 school year. Extensively studied due to its close proximity to school, this area, fringed by trees, includes an organic garden, orchard, drainage culverts, seasonal streams, and a rich plant biodiversity. Tree species include Sugar Maple, White Ash, Pin Oak,Stag Horn Sumac, Black Cherry,American Elm, Trembling Aspen, Yellow Poplar, Black Willow, Lilac, Black Spruce, Flowering Dogwood, and Red Osier Dogwood. The site was also the unfortunate recipient of many truckloads of fill from the teacher parking lot renovation project. The fill sat on site for 2 months prior to its eventual removal. Bio-remediation of the affected area will begin in the spring of 2014. 2. First Stream Crossing: A plank walk crosses a small seasonal stream just south of the Austin Homestead. Culverts along both sides of Middle Road empty into this stream making it a good place to sample storm water runoff for evidence of salt, phosphate and other pollutants. This stream is cloaked initially by a riparian buffer of maples and dogwoods. Further downstream, the buffer segues into a wall of dense sedge and grasses. The stream drains into the southern section of our wetland complex. South of the plank-walk, the trail divides. The main trail proceeds south into a White Pine forest. A side trail to the right follows the northern edge of the wetland, ending at Silver Maple Point. This trail may be taken but is currently incomplete. It needs planking to cross a wet area, brush removal, and blow-down cleanup to easily link up with trails along the western wetland. Early exits from this incomplete section are easily accessible. Blue

plastic sleeves along sections of the trail protect a variety of student planted trees and shrubs including Elderberry, Nannyberry and Wild Cranberry, all species that attract birds and other wildlife. 3. White Pine Woods: A cool site on hot days, these White Pine trees are about 25 years old. Descended from the taller, older pines on the east side of Middle Road, these trees are part of the ecological succession that began when the pastures where abandoned. Left to their own devices, they will grow, seed adjacent grasslands and dominate the area for the next 150-200 years. Current management envisions allowing the existing pines to grow but limit further encroachment into the fields. A small faint trail heading west from Pine Woods leads to an experimental planting area of Sugar Maple trees. 4. Sugar Maple Planting Area : This site includes 2 wild crab apple trees, a declining population of invasive honeysuckle, the edge of our White Pine Forest and an experimental planting of Sugar Maple trees. The land slopes on 3 sides into wetter land dominated by sedges, grasses and Red Oiser Dogwood. Passing through Pine Woods, the trail splits again. The main trail (boardwalk) veers off to the right and follows a series of planking. The fainter trail to the left provides access to the following 3 sites: 5. 20 yards up the faint trail (on the left) is a curious example of long term human impact on our Natural Area. These piles are loads of fill deposited after the initial site preparation prior to the construction of Mill River. Half the area is covered with Stag Horn Sumac and the other half with pasture grasses. 6. To the south of the faint trail is Rubble Woods. This mainly Yellow Poplar forest is marred by a large rubble pile that includes large concrete footings of mysterious origin and considerable construction debris from the construction of the Mill River addition. Stop by and bring back a blue brick as a souvenir. Ideally, this site should be cleaned up. 7. Rubble Landing: Once accessible from Middle Road, this overgrown flat site was used to dump the construction debris that dominates Rubble

Woods. Off trail enthusiasts might enjoy wandering the trail-less area that extends from Rubble Landing south to the southern property boundary. Noteworthy sites include an overgrown young pine forest containing a wide array of water smoothed boulders and rocks; left overs from our glacial history and a source of insight into the difficulty our colonial ancestors had in clearing this rocky landscape. Other places of interest in this "trail less area" include a gradually shrinking overgrown meadow that occupies the highest elevation of Mill River's Natural Area. This section includes the largest invasive buckthorn trees on Mill River property and along Middle Road, our tallest trees. Bushwhackers can rejoin the eastern board walk trail by heading west and downhill or retracing their steps to Rubble Landing or Rubble Woods. This section is also the focus of an upcoming research project in eliminating invasive buckthorn. 8. Eastern Boardwalk: This trail skirts the eastern edge of our southern wetland. It follows a deer trail and hugs the ecotone (transition area) between a young forest and the wetland. An abundance of grasses, sedges and wildflowers can be found along this trail. Tree species along the trail include White Pine, Apple, Poplar, Dogwood and our largest Northern Red Cedar. The trail crosses runoff channels before climbing to an experimental Red Oak planting area. 9. Red Oak experimental area: The highest point of elevation along the trail itself, this area is a grassed over sand and an experimental plot of planted Red Oak trees. The trail descends from the knoll, turns to the right and becomes the Southern Edge Trail. 10. Southern Edge Trail: This trail hugs the southern edge of the southern wetland and runs along our southern property boundary. Fence posts have been placed by our neighbor along the boundary and a fence will be constructed soon. Trail users are asked to respect our neighbors by staying on the trail and off the farm road. The southern edge trail passes through sedge, cattails, and a scattering of American Elm, Silver Maple, Black Willow, Apple and Dogwood trees as well as invasive honeysuckle. Use care on the rickety plank crossing as the water/mud is 3 feet deep. Beyond this crossing, the trail enters the southwest meadow.

11. Southwest Meadow: This meadow is the overflow area for the wetland. It is mainly comprised of sedges, grasses, cattails, Joe Pye Weed, Queen Annes Lace, Goldenrod, and Poison Parsnip. The trail meanders in a northwesterly direction, crosses a plank bridge that spans the wetlands drainage channel and ends at Silver Maple Point. 12. Silver Maple Point: This forested area just below the southwestern edge of the athletic fields is a 4 way trail junction. The west-east trail hugs the edge of the southern wetland and heads back towards the school garden. It is currently incomplete though numerous escape routes allow for some access. The northwestern trail proceeds out of the forest, crosses a grassy slope and enters the western wetland along a series of planks. The center path provides an exit from the Natural area and access to the athletic field . The point itself contains Silver Maple, Black Cherry, and Stag-horn Sumac along the curving bank. Red Oiser Dogwood is the dominant shrub species where the wetland meets the forest.
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West-East trail follows the contour that runs along the northern edge of the southern wetland area. The trail passes first through silver maple and sumac, punctuated by invasive honeysuckle. This area was completely impassable due to the debris remaining from an ill advised clearcut of mature sumac trees more than 10 years ago. It was cleaned up in the spring of 2012 by a group of ninth graders. An experimental planting of wildflowers along the hillside has produced a colorful display of flowers for the last 2 summers. Emerging from the wooded section, the path continues along the edge of a grassy area. The numerous blue plastic sleeves encase planted wild cranberry, button bush, elderberry, nanny berry and dogwood seedlings. These plantings represent an effort to establish a riparian buffer of shrubs and trees along the edge of the wetland. West of the softball field, the path continues into a grove of black willow, emerging again into a grassy area with riparian plantings. A large fallen tree reveals an intricate root mass and a crater in the subsoil. A new plant community now flourishes in the sandy subsoil while the fallen trees’ horizontal branches now grow vertically. This tree fell 10 years ago and still thrives. North Western Trail currently leaves Silver Maple Point and skirts the

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grassy slope just west of the practice football field. It then reenters the woods, passing between a wild apple tree and a flowering dogwood. Just beyond a large fallen log, the trail junctions with a spur trail coming from Silver Maple grove. Look for a reroute in spring that instead leaves Silver Maple Point and follows the drainage channel towards the railroad tracks before turning north towards Silver Maple grove. This reroute incorporates the former spur trail into the Northwestern trail itself. The Northwestern trail includes some of the most damaged areas along our walking paths. Gashes in the slope sides allow for considerable erosion, invasive species proliferate and decades of dumping refuse now provide considerable opportunity for community service. Respond to this address for more information about community service opportunities.
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Railroad Culvert is the one spot where all of our runoff water drains into the Otter Creek floodplain. It is one of the science departments primary water sampling sites. There is not yet an official trail to this site but the aforementioned reroute is intended to remedy this. It can be accessed walking south from Silver Maple Grove, or following the drainage channel (can be very muddy) or from the railroad tracks. Silver Maple Grove is a remnant of the dominant forest type here before widespread agriculture transformed the landscape. Technically known as “Silver Maple Emperor Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest”, our small grove has been separated from the rest of its community by the railroad for more than 100 years. By virtue of the railroad tracks, our wetlands are no longer floodplain. When they do flood, it is from runoff rather than the Otter Creek flooding. The Northwestern trail continues along the lower edge of the slope, passing through thickets of Speckled Alder and Red Oiser Dogwood. A steep grassy slope and adjacent golf green looking area is the result of 2 truck loads of baseball infield sod dumped in the summer of 2011. We are watching the area with interest as the 2 different plant communities interact. Near its northern end, the Northwestern trail emerges from the wetland, climbing a slope through spruce trees planted by Mr. Tim Gilbert and students during the early years of Mill River. Walkers have the option of descending back into the wetland and

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following the trail past a storm water runoff culvert and a section of boardwalk. At the northern end of the boardwalk, the trail climbs the slope and ends behind the soccer kickboard near a damaged area. A continuation of the northwestern trail is planned to extend it past an old dump that predates Mill River eventually ending at the northwestern corner of the school property.
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Storm water runoff culvert: This culvert pipe starts beneath the drain in the teacher parking lot, passes under the athletic field and empties runoff water and pollutants from our roof and parking areas into the northern end of the wetland. This site is important for ongoing water quality monitoring. Data from this site compared to data from the railroad culvert show that our wetlands have had a measurable effect in reducing pollutant levels in the water that passes through enroute to the Otter Creek. Damaged Area: The area along the slope edge extending north from the planted Spruce trees is recovering from an ill-conceived attempt to reduce mosquitos by clear cutting some of our oldest and tallest trees. Mill River lost 11 40 year old trees during this episode which has similarities to what occurs naturally during wind related blowdowns in the forest. the area functions well as an example of ecological succession. The resurgence in hardwood growth was significant. Within 2 years, the area became densely overgrown with Black Cherry and Flowering Dogwood saplings sprouting from the stumps of the cut trees and a proliferation of Staghorn Sumac. Scattered amidst the regrowth are a number of White Spruce and Balsam Fir trees planted by students over the last 4 years. Northwestern Corner: This area is has been the focus of intense efforts in removing invasive honeysuckle and a dense tangle of dead trees. because of our invasive removal efforts, In the spring of 2013, the resurgence in native wildflowers was significant with much of the area formerly shaded by honeysuckle now open to sunlight and wildflower growth. Northern Windbreak: The coniferous trees along the northern edge of the athletic field were planted by Mr. Tim Gilbert and his science

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students during the early years of Mill River. Numerous opportunities exist here for invasive honeysuckle removal. This windbreak extends along the northern edge of the teachers parking lot. This thin strip of green has a gray birch tree and numerous small Black Cherry trees that exhibit fragrant white flowers in the spring. Mill River students have also planted lilac and forsythia along this strip.