Lathrop’s Invisible Project

By Barbara Walvoord

On July 9, nine residents trekked through fields and woods to the far north section of the east campus along Bassett Brook. This land is largely invisible to most residents.  It lies beyond our trails and beyond the “Free Fifty” acres of forest from which we’ve removed invasives in the past.

Jeff Allen leads residents to see where he has been removing invasives

It’s still a basically healthy forest, quiet and beautiful, with maples and pines on rolling slopes along the multi-channeled Bassett Brook and its wetland.  But scientific research shows that the increasing presence of invasive plants like multiflora rose, shrub honeysuckle, and oriental bittersweet could significantly reduce the wildlife our land can support (

So we’ve begun a project to remove invasives, following science-based guidelines recommended by experts.  Resident volunteers have been trekking out with their loppers.  Professionals Jeff Allen and Land Stewardship Inc. are paid by resident donations, plus a grant from the Northampton Community Preservation Committee.  The Conservation Commissions of both towns review and permit our work.

What we saw on July 9 was heartening.  Where we had removed invasives, the forest was much more clear.  Trees formerly smothered and twisted by bittersweet could breathe again.

Resident Sharon Grace observes a tree twisted by oriental bittersweet, which Jeff Allen removed.

Thickets of multiflora rose had been reduced to piles of dead branches, around which native wildflowers, shrubs, and tree seedlings were re-emerging.

This land may be invisible to most residents, but it’s not invisible to the birds, butterflies, bears, turtles, and other creatures who call it home.  Our project helps ensure the native plants they need for survival. If you contributed  to the Lathrop Community Fund for the Land Conservation Committee, your funds helped support this project.


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