READING – It’s a celebration with a dual purpose. On Sept. 26 Reading will celebrate the 90th anniversary of its Town Forest. There will be bird walks, educational talks, and maybe even a couple snakes. But there’s another reason to join in. You can rip an invasive species from the ground and watch it burn. You may even hear the forest thank you for your efforts.
The Town Forest Committee met Tuesday night and the 90th anniversary celebration dominated the agenda. The Sept. 26 event will take place between 8 a.m. and noon. It will go on rain or shine.
Now about that invasive species. It’s called Buckthorn and it’s the enemy of our Town Forest. One of the events Sept. 26 is a four-hour pull-a-thon to rid the forest of as much Buckthorn as possible.
“It’s a useless plant. Animals don’t like it. It doesn’t have any timber value. It’s not even from here. It’s from Asia and North Africa,” said committee member Kurt Habel. “It can completely take over the Town Forest. The forest is carpeted with blueberries that are slowly going away because of the buckthorn. You can’t eat buckthorn berries. Blueberries are way better.”
According to Habel in some places in the forest it’s already become the dominant species. The hope is that enough volunteers show up at the council ring in the forest on the 26th to make a dent in the plant’s spread. After pulling the buckthorn it will be burned in the council ring.
Not all the events planned for the celebration involve getting your hands dirty.
There will be an early morning bird-walk with Reading’s Dave Williams. There will be two animal appearances, one including birds of prey and another from Cape Ann Vernal Pond with snakes. Mass Audubon is also involved with a presentation by Nick Rossi, indoors at Wood End School. If not inside Wood End, his presentation could be virtual. Geoffrey Ritterson, also of Mass Audubon, is expected to join with Reading Forester Phil Benjamin to talk about recent changes in the Town Forest. The Reading Public Library is exploring programs around the Town Forest. The committee has held discussion with the Reading Fire Department about a presentation on fire prevention in the forest.
This being 2020, there’s also a covid-19 plan. There will be mandatory masks and social distancing. The Board of Health has approved portable toilets at Wood End School for the event and the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation will supply the same at the council ring.
Other towns may have a lake (Quannapowitt in Wakefield) or a bike path (the Greenway in Stoneham) but the committee wouldn’t trade the forest for any of them.
“That’s really what a lot of this celebration is about. To make people aware of how lucky we are that in 1930 people had the presence of mind to create this Town Forest. We’re celebrating that and especially now in the middle of a pandemic, it’s a place to get out and clear your head. We’re very fortunate to have that.
“And it’s so close. It’s one thing if you have to get in your car and drive up to New Hampshire. The Town Forest is not the White Mountains but it’s sure nice to have something that’s so close.”
The committee is looking for volunteers for the event and anyone interested can email them using their web page at readingma.gov/town-forest-committee.