Cascading Waters can be found at 135 Olean Street on the eastern edge of Worcester's northwest parklands, the Cascades. The Cascades are 350 acres of park and conservation lands along the borders of Worcester, Paxton, and Holden, Massachusetts. Home to countless species of plants and animals, the Cascades are open to passive recreation year-round.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stream is up

And sure enough, the stream is up to 5.2 this morning, running fast. The Cascades are flowing nicely.
Overcast out there; the barometer is at 29.53 under cloudy skies.
It is just hitting 50 degrees now.
We saw plenty of people out and about yesterday enjoying the lovely fall day. Today should be a bit cloudier, but you might want to get out now: rain is coming in (and it's quite a storm if you check out the radar map).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Culvert check

As I type this, the big DPW truck is checking the culverts up on Cataract Street. Thanks! Always good to avoid unnecessary flooding (the National Weather Service does have a hazardous weather warning for street flooding up)...And the Cascades are running nicely today!

It is raining again here, knocking down a lot of the yellow maple and hickory leaves. It doesn't appear to have slowed down the squirrels, however.

At 9 am, it is 48 degrees
The barometer is at 29.23 and steady

And just to clarify: even if there is no sign up and I don't see you? You still can't take an ATV over by Cook's Pond.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Signs & Cooks

Yesterday was fun.

In a driveby of the Cook's Pond property I caught in a fleeting glance a previously unnoticed "posted" sign.

As my brain was trying to process that at 35 plus MPH I also half noted the absence of the "No Motorized Vehicles" sign that went up last week as well.

I needed to do another pass for recon to confirm what my instant reactions thought they recorded, and sure enough, the poison ivy lost enough leaves to reveal another "posted" sign, and someone swiped the no-motorized one (aluminum nails still in the tree.)

So yesterday I grabbed a ladder, some clippers, and the bag of sign stuff and merrily headed out to rectify the situation.

The funny part is that folks take signs for two reasons:

1. Trophies for the den (not very helpful); or
2. As if there were magic in the sign and taking it down makes the restriction go away and the landowner suddenly agreeable (not very smart).

Well, if there be magic in the sign, know this, I got a bag full of them, and master screens for them at a sign producer in upstate New York.

If it is just a trophy, well, hopefully you only needed to steal that one.

In any case it was a warm and gorgeous day, and it was nice to be out on the property.

We will keep an eye on things, albeit a peripheral vision one.
Hikers and locals are most welcome to note and report missing signs and we will get right on it.

Stream's up

This morning the stream is up to 4 inches, as the snow (it snowed again up by the airport yesterday) melts in the hills.
The swamp maples are turning yellow (they tend toward yellow; funny, as they are also called red maples...the red is the stem of the leaf)

At 9 am it is 29.32 inches of mercury and steady under sunny skies
It's 42 degrees and slowly rising
One of our daily dogwalkers just went through.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snowy morning

The most startling aspect of this morning's weather is of course the snowfall, which contrary to all expectations, actually stuck! It's an odd scene out there today: having a few leaves on the trees for the first snowfall isn't unusual, but we still have entire trees that haven't even turned yet!

at 9 am, it is 36 degrees and rising (thus the snow has turned to rain)
The barometer is at 29.18 inches of mercury under cloudy skies
Fire danger is LOW (and probably falling)

We'll give the stream a bit to catch up with the snow before reporting on that.
Enjoy the weather!

First snow

Yes, folks, it is October 16, the leaves haven't even all turned yet...

And that is snow on the ground!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Golden day

The light is golden under the leaves today...beautiful out there right now!
It is COLD, though, so wrap up! While we did not have a frost here at the Lodge (the trees are good insulation), there was one out on Olean Street. It is definitely fall!

At 9 am, it is right at 40 degrees and rising (but not much and not fast)
The barometer is at 29.41 inches and steady under blue skies.
The stream stands at 3.2 inches from yesterday's rain.

We've got some activity next door at the proposed development today; it looks like they're moving logs around.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Clearing out

Nice blue sky up there, in between the falling leaves. And they are coming down this morning, with the wind we have right now.
The recent rain has brought the stream level back up to 3 inches.
At 10 am it is 61 degrees and still rising.
Barometer is at 28.97 inches and steady.
And we're seeing some hikers coming through today!
Enjoy the long weekend!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ice damage survey going on

Nice article (with photos!) in today's Telegram and Gazette on the survey work being done by Professor Hansen and his class at Worcester State College. He's included two land trust properties (the photos were all taking here at the Cascades), the other being God's Acre up by the airport.

Rainy fall

We're having some highly seasonal fall rain here today. Who says New England doesn't have a wet season?
This brings the stream back up to 2.6 inches, and we'll expect that to go higher as the 400 acres behind us drains downstream. As you'll see from the photo below, we've got at least one downstream neighbor who will be enjoying the water!
At 9 am, it is 56 degrees and rising.
Raining like the dickens
Barometer is 29.64 and falling

We'll expect to see largely only the most devoted of dog walkers out there today. It is pleasant, if you don't mind getting wet!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Out with the old, In with the new!

Good news!!!

Working our way around the Olean Street edge of the Cook's Pond Conservation Restriction this afternoon.

Taking down the old signs...

and replacing them with the new ones.

It is great to see progress like this!

The only fly in the ointment was that today we had ATV's not only around the base of the Cascades, which is now elevated to a wetlands violation and may yet manifest as an regulatory enforcement order, but now they are trying to move into Cook's Pond CR where they are uninvited by the owners and prohibited by the conservation agreement.

There is always work to be done...

* * * * * *

Why, you might ask, is there a problem with ATV and motorbike users here?

A fair question.

The Basic Misunderstanding:

ATV and motorbike users, particularly the city ones, are spending many thousands of dollars on equipment without owning any land on which to use them. This is mistake number one.

Unfortunately, folks buy them with the intent of using them on lands they do not own, do not have permission to use, and frequently are clearly prohibited from using. This is mistake number two.

This two strikes and no balls starting point leaves the owners down in the count and makes the ensuing conflicting use questions hard to resolve as there wasn't a initial respect for the land or the rights of the owner(s) of the land and there is already a defensive and sometimes belligerent attitude.

Occasionally there is a third strike where the equipment is unregistered (owners avoiding taxes) and then the users drive streets and cross streets in the course of their use. But that isn't a conservation issue, just a law and order issue.

Ok, so fine, the equipment is out there, so what?

Approach to the Land:

ATV's and motorbikes CAN be used in a low gear, slowly, on an occasional basis in any given spot in order to allow older folks (particularly older hunters) and general maintainers of land (farmers) with tools and equipment access to corners of the property with a minimal impact on the land. I've seen it. This is generally how folks use the equipment when the land they use is their own. This is rarely how this equipment is used for sport locally however. Generally the users are young, riding fast, and running the same track over and over again wearing it away.

A steward of the land like a hunter or a farmer would give taking a ride a pass just after a substantial rainfall to avoid erosion. Generally the sport users have magazines and posters that show the users and their rides coated in a thick layer of mud attesting to their exploits. That mud is visual proof of destruction of the landscape. That this is encouraged in advertising is irresponsible and it only makes shifting attitudes to respect for the land that much harder.

Someone invested in the land and its long term health, like your average farmer, stays out of brooks and wetlands, and invests in establishing crossings with stones, boards, or a bridge to ensure the water quality and avoid erosion and the loss of valuable soil. Generally our local sport users head straight into the streams and wetlands without giving it a second thought.

Ok, so now the damage is done. What then?

To be fair there are impacts to any human use of the land. It is the scope and the extent of those impacts that determine appropriate and inappropriate uses. When a site is degraded and the natural system is damaged that is a point where the use is stopped and a solution implemented, and until the solution is implemented the area is closed.

With foot traffic damage to a hiking trail it may be possible to repair the damage with hand tools in a matter of hours.
With mountain bike damage it might take a weekend or even a week to repair the damage and try to harden the site to handle the renewed impact.
With an ATV or motorbike it frequently takes bulldozers, backhoes, and heavy equipment to try to reestablish the original conditions. The number of volunteer hours it may take to fix the situation with hand tools can in fact run into the thousands for a given small impact site. A whole property with damage can be mind boggling. One ATV on a rainy day can create months of repair work for volunteers. That immense disporporitonate impact on the land with a high powered motor is the crux of the problem.

You can break the landscape as well as break the budget of the private owner, agency, or organization responsible for the proper care and stewardship of the land. It is why so many private and public lands are posted against trespass. It is why trail corridors are closed down.

In short illicit motorized use of conservation lands for sport is neither legal, ethical, neighborly, nor a responsible act.

That in a nut shell is the problem.

How to explain the impacts and consequences to someone who knowingly purchased equipment with the illegal use of that equipment clear from the outset is an uphill challenge. Respect often was not a part of the equation up to that point of conflict, and it is much harder to introduce it later on.

It is nevertheless the job of private landowners, conservation organizations, regulatory agencies, elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and concerned citizen's responsibility to confront these issues in order to safeguard the lands we are entrusting to future generations.

* * * * *

The ATVs and motorbikes expanding their use into Cook's Pond today is a real problem and one we will have to directly address.

Cook's Pond resident

From our neighbor Brendan, we get this great shot of a Cook's Pond resident. Yes, that is a beaver! Excellent!

Leaves are yellow

...largely yellow here...more red out along the street.
The stream level has fallen back down to 2 inches even this morning
At 9 am, it is 55 degrees and rising under clear blue skies
The barometer is at 29.18 and steady

And we've got a healthy crop of acorns out there!

Monday, October 05, 2009

A nice, if windy, day!

8:52 a.m. here at the Lodge.

Temperature is 57 degrees F.
Barometric Pressure is 29.09" of Hg and steady.
3" in the brook.
Fire Danger Class is LOW.

The weekend rains have recharged the brook, and the cooler temperatures and the rain have put the leaf drop into fast forward.

We still have a good mix of yellows and some reds along with the browns here at the Cascades (I was noting that the Bovenzi Conservation Park which received the ALB 'buzz cut' is largely, but not exclusively, a palette of browns.)

The ground is a little soft but muddy, so hike with a light foot!

A couple of reflections:

We are having a low level dumping problem at the trailhead to the Cascades Trail. Broken rakes, broken shovels, carpet chunks, and most lately a medicine cabinet dropped off by a passing motorist intent on dumping on public open space. Not precisely sure how to nab or nip in the bud this one. Hikers, particularly early morning hikers, are encouraged to keep an eye out on our behalf if you could please!

And on a more positive note, we are celebrating our having been blessed with spending the last three years here at the foot of the Cascades and one of her many trailheads. Three times now we have been able to watch the seasons unfold, the flood waters rise and fall, the hikers, bikers, snow shoers cycle through. It has been a fabulous time. When we first arrived there was no trailhead, no parking area, no signs, and no stone cairns. We had no idea that the brook could and would run under the house if given half the chance. There was no way to imagine that there would be a night of ice storm snapping and cracking to keep every living thing wide wake and quite aware for miles around. The giant snapping turtle that visited the house, the coyotes (one with a broken leg, one hunting a baby raccoon unsuccesfully), the wild turkey, the possum, the multitudinous skunks, the racoons (big and small), the elderly porcupine, the rabbits, the ground hogs, the mice the voles, the hawks (including one eating the unlucky bird at the bird feeder), the owls, the deer drinking in the brook, the squirrels grey and red (my personal favorites), the chipmunks, have all immeasurably added to the experience of living here in the wilder north-west section of Worcester.

The funny part is that you get the feeling you have only just begun to scratch the surface of what is going on in the natural arena, and you hope to share it all with others as it gives living a richer texture.

It is unknowable how long we will be here serving as caretakers, but we have enjoyed every bit so far and we can only hope to be able to enjoy any more that come along our way.

Happy Anniversary Cascades!!!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rainy Saturday

As of 8 am, the stream was already up to 2.6 inches (from 1.4 earlier in the week), and the rain is just getting started!
At 9 am, it is 52 degrees
And it's raining!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where did the rain go?

So back at the beginning of the week, it looked like we were in for another rainy week.
That hasn't happened.
We've got another day of clear skies here: barometer at 29.21 and steady
Temperature at 9 am is 46 degrees and rising
Not much activity on the trail so far today--it's a bit chilly--but it is a good day to get out there. The maples are turning.