Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: MassWildlife conservation easement acquisition finalizes coverage of Steadman Pond

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MassWildlife recently acquired a conservation easement on 7.6 acres of land in Monterey, according to Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden's March report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.

A small easement to be sure, but this project is part of a continuing partnership with Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) known as the Steadman Pond Conservation Easement. This piece fills in the last gap in a large conservation area and adds complete protection to Steadman Pond.

As with all MassWildlife-held conservation easements with BNRC, the area is to be "open to hunting, fishing and other passive recreation."

The 13-acre Steadman Pond, which is owned by BNRC, is a fishing and swimming attraction within a 790-acre reserve adjoining the much larger Beartown State Forest. The pond, which has a swimming dock, is home to bass, beavers and migrating ducks. Nearby woods and fields harbor deer, bobcats, scarlet tanagers and pileated woodpeckers.

The land is situated on Monterey Road, approximately 1.2 miles south of the intersection with Tyringham Road. While climbing the road from Tyringham, look for a parking turnout on the right (western) side, just beyond the Monterey/Tyringham town line. The pond is a short walk, two-tenths of a mile down a mowed lane from the parking area.

According to BNRC, the pond was likely a marsh with periodic beaver activity until some time in the early 1900s when a stone dam was built at its northern end to create a source of hydropower for the Stedman Rake Factory down the hill in Tyringham.

The pond, which has a depth of about 15 feet, is fed by a stream at its southern end, according to BNRC. The outflow makes its way to Hop Brook in Tyringham. Although weed growth is common in summer, it has long been a popular swimming hole for area residents. Visitors can go for a swim, use the raft or bring along a canoe or kayak. BNRC advises you to be prepared to carry your boat from the parking area to the water and make sure it is clean to prevent the spread of invasive species. Swimming and boating is at your own risk.

The surrounding woods and pond were donated by the Hudson and Howard families. The land was conserved in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Monterey Land Preservation Trust. There are no marked trails in the forest but there are wood roads, which were last used for logging in 2005. These roads, along with other paths, may be overgrown and difficult to follow, but they are open to hikers, hunters, cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

According to BNRC, Steadman Pond is beloved by locals. It is a place many appreciate as a quiet sanctuary.

No one appreciates this peaceful place more than Sarah Hudson, who, together with her brother Barclay Hudson, made the gifts that conserved Steadman Pond and its surroundings.

BNRC has no real enforcement power, but it endorses Sarah Hudson's wish that Steadman Pond remain a motorized and electronics-free zone, a place of respite and reflection.

Largemouth bass are abundant in the pond, along with bluegill, yellow perch, otters and great blue herons. Evidence of beavers can be found in newly chewed snags and teeth-sawed saplings along the shore. They have built a lodge along one edge of the pond. The pond is also home to northern water snakes, a non-venomous and harmless species.

The woods and fields around the pond support white-tailed deer, bobcats, pileated woodpeckers, scarlet tanagers and wildflowers. Most of the forest area consists of mixed hardwoods and hemlocks.

I first heard of this pond when UMass assigned me and my future wife, Jan, to that site to collect water samples in the 1980s, (We were/are still volunteers in the Acid Rain Monitoring Program). We didn't know who owned it at the time but felt it was such a beautiful little spot. There once had been a poster there but it had deteriorated.

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There was no way for us to sneak to the pond to collect the water sample. The only way to get to it was to walk down a lane through a sloped open meadow of about two-tenths of a mile. We must have stood out like beacons and we couldn't walk fast enough to get in and out of there. We were constantly looking over our shoulders and listening for police car sirens coming to nab us. Fortunately, it never happened over the many years that we collected there.

On Oct. 23, 2008, we were there attending the celebration of the combined acquisitions of more than 800 acres of wildlife conservation easements by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Among the many dignitaries attending was Gov. Deval Patrick.

The 800 acres, which include Steadman Pond, is a short distance from other conservation lands under the protection or owned by the following groups: BNRC, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Trustees of Reservations, U.S. National Park Service and the Monterey Preservation Land Trust, and which totals some 13,344 acres of continuous land permanently protected from development.

It was there on that day that we learned that the meadow that we used to sneak across was owned by the Hudson family who lived across the road. They probably were watching us all of the time. Incidentally, DFW also purchased a conservation easement on 350 acres, which the BNRC purchased from the Hudson family in 2004. But it did not include the conservation restriction on the above mentioned 7.6 acres.

Don't you know, now that we can legally cross the property to collect the water samples, UMass discontinued collections from that site.

That pretty little spot holds many fond memories for Jan and me. It was there in 2015 that the BNRC received the Francis A. Sargent Award from the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board for its conservation of the commonwealth's natural resources and for its contributions to the sporting community.

Getting back to the 2008 ceremony, I wrote about it in my Nov. 2, 2008, column titled "A wonderful day for a wonderful place." Please allow me to repeat my ending comments from that article:

"Each time the (Acid Rain) collection was completed and it was time to move onto the next site, we would pause a bit and take in the beauty of the area. Inevitably we would experience sadness. This place, with its pretty pond and Beartown Mountain serving as the background, had to be worth a fortune and we were absolutely sure that someday it would be carved up with several high-end houses or condos constructed on it. We believed that all of the wildlife would someday be displaced and the pond would be subjected to run-off and chemical pollutants from the development.

"How wrong we were! Imagine our joy as we walked through the field on that October day en route to the pond and the ceremony which was about to take place. The thought of this beautiful place being preserved in perpetuity was a dream, just too good to be true."

The same feelings hold true today.

Spring trout stockings

The following bodies were stocked with rainbow trout through Wednesday last week: West Branch Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Middlefield and Huntington; Farmington River in Otis, Sandisfield and Tolland; Deerfield River in Conway, Shelburne and Deerfield; Richmond Pond, Laurel Lake, Goose Pond, Lake Buel, Onota Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Greenwater Pond and Plunkett Reservoir.

Eastern Brook Trout were stocked into the Chickley River in Hawley, and Clesson Brook in Buckland and Ashfield.

Direct questions or comments to Gene Chague at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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