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Posts tagged ‘Gate 52’

The Dying Trees

If you run a WordPress blog such as this, you can access a statistics page which will provide you with all sorts of interesting information, such as how people got to your site.  I’m occasionally surprised and given to some self doubt.  One of my more popular posts was “Things to do on a rainy day” in which I presented a variety of ways of photographing wood on the side of an old bar(n) in Vermont.  I have a feeling that my title threw off a bunch of parents who, desperate, tried to google their way through a rainy day and probably found instructions for photographing wood to be less than helpful.

Sometimes though, you see something quite powerful.  Recently one of the Google searches that led someone to this blog was titled “Why are the trees dying at Quabbin Reservoir?”  That got my attention.  In fact, the situation isn’t quite that dire.  They are not all dying, thankfully, but the Red Pines are, due to Pine Needle Scale.  Pine Needle Scale is an invasive species, joining us from Pennsylvania and parts south, that is nearly always fatal to a Red Pine.  Increasingly, you can see its impact at the Quabbin forest.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

This was taken at Gate 52, inside Quabbin Park.  If you look carefully, you’ll notice a small deer feasting off the vegetation on this small island which lies just off Little Quabbin Island.  (This is what the folks at National Geographic call a “scale element.” It’s a tool to help the viewer get a sense of size.)  Here’s another view, this time of Little Quabbin Island itself.

What you see are small clumps of dying trees amidst otherwise healthy hardwoods. Each individual clump by itself doesn’t look so alarming. The real impact though, probably the impact that drove the sad Google search is experienced through a view of the big picture.  Here’s a small version of a very large panorama.

The real panorama, full size, is posted at Gigapan here.  Have a look.  We live in an amazingly small world, from an environmental perspective.  Some of you may have followed the story of the Mountain Lion that was unfortunately killed by a car in Connecticut.  In the Boston Globe this morning, it was reported, in “New England in Brief,” that the Mountain Lion was actually from the Black Hills of South Dakota, by way of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  It was tracked by authorities using DNA samples, presumably from its scat.  This was not a captive animal escaped.  This Mountain Lion made the journey in the wild.  It is one of the longest journeys ever recorded by a land mammal.

While taking this panorama, we were joined by one of the most beautiful birds we’ve ever seen in the wild, a Scarlet Tanager.

Of course I had the wrong lens on at the time, one of my strengths when it comes to wildlife, but you get the idea.  This little guy and his buddies will be leaving soon, for their winter home in Central America.  It is a small world indeed.

Artillery Practice at Gate 52, the Quabbin Reservoir

I beg your pardon?  Must be some mistake.

No, not really.  In fact, during World War II the Reservoir (which was still in the process of filling) was used for a variety of forms of target practice.  Gate 52 is actually inside Quabbin Park, just west of the Goodnough Dike.  It’s a short walk from the Gate to the Reservoir itself but along the way, you will see platforms for, you guessed it, artillery.

Thankfully, the stewards of the Reservoir have seen fit to leave them be.  Perhaps as a reminder.  Your next question may then be, “is it wise to pump artillery shells into public drinking water?”  Didn’t those things contain all sorts of chemicals?  I don’t have enough details to respond to the question.  J.R. Greene says the following in his wonderful book, Historic Quabbin Hikes.  “The shells were fired into the flooding valley and their effectiveness (and the gunner’s accuracy) were checked.  Many guns made at the Springfield Armory were tested here.”  Here’s the powder house where ammunition and firing powder were stored.  There was a war on, after all and I don’t say that sarcastically.  The way we make decisions is influenced by a host of factors. And we’re always making trade offs.

The reality is that we know so much more about the vulnerabilities of the environment now than then.  Lead for example was everywhere, particularly in paint.  What we didn’t know is how easily children could be poisoned by that lead. Many were and some died.  Policy leaders in governments at all levels have made it much more difficult for our children to be exposed to lead in the same way, thankfully, though the danger still exists.  In this case, the Reservoir is so vast, that perhaps it could absorb whatever toxins might have been involved.   I think the lesson here is that we need to be respectful of what we don’t know.  Hubris is not indicated.

This is the end of the trail at Gate 52.  Old State Rt. 109 which used to run from Belchertown through Enfield to Ware goes underwater here.