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Tires and appliances removed from conservation area



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Rick Ball, Ken Knowlton, Denise Naiva, Scott Rolfe, Carol Fairfield, and Ward Peterson give a thumbs up after clearing debris from the Tioga River Wildlife and Conservation Area. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
September 08, 2010
BELMONT — A tract of land that had long been used as a dumping ground for everything from tires to refrigerators is now worthy of a nature walk or at least it will be once one more pesky problem is taken care of.

The Belmont Conservation Commission recently spent a day cleaning up the Tioga River Wildlife and Conservation Area, which eventually will be available for "passive recreation." But Belmont Land Use Technician Richard Ball said that before they promote its use, he'd like to first get rid of the glossy buckthorn that permeates nearly a quarter of the 200-acre parcel of land.

Glossy buckthorn is an invasive species in the form of a large shrub or small tree. It produces small berries that are currently dropping, which makes it a bad time to get rid of it.

"Every time I walk on the property I find more of it," Ball said. "It becomes a monoculture. It crowds out native species that have better wildlife opportunities."

The Tioga River Wildlife Conservation Area is located on the Belmont/Northfield line. The town purchased it in 2004 from Phil Harker, who had been trying to develop it. Ball said Harker's last proposal was to build a motocross park, but the town stepped in and purchased the land for preservation. The land is zoned industrial and recreational trails are not permitted because of wetlands issues, but Ball said Harker had been pushing for that motocross park anyway.

"In his zeal he had done some logging," Ball said, noting that Harker had accrued several wetlands violations with the state.

He said Belmont bought the land and resolved the wetlands violations.

"Much of what we were going to do, it reseeded itself," Ball said.

The junk that the Belmont Conservation Commission recently removed was there for several decades, Ball said. He said it looked like people would dump their used tires and appliances there, and then loggers would bulldoze over the debris.

"We've always wanted to get rid of it," Ball said. "This summer's (weather has been) perfect for getting in there."

The commission members removed about 40 to 50 tires, a few refrigerators, a stove, a microwave, bike frames and construction debris. They used a farm tractor that was donated by Ward Peterson, a former Conservation Commission member and one of its founders. It took the group a little over three hours to clean the area.

"It gets rid of a place in town where debris has been dumped, and it gets us on the road to permanent conservation of the Tioga River Wildlife and Conservation Area," Ball said.

The next step is trying to eradicate the glossy buckthorn, and the town just received a grant for that purpose. Ball is now trying to find a company to do some hand pulling. The town is also trying to get a conservation easement, because currently it has just the deed to the property with no restrictions. An easement would offer "backup protection," Ball said, to ensure that the land is never developed.

What it will be available for is passive recreation, such as walking and picnicking, with perhaps some low-impact trails that would have to wind around the wetlands areas. That area of town is ranked the highest for potential wildlife.

"It's never going to be a motocross park," Ball said.

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