Out & About: Etna town-owned natural areas permanently protected

The Trescott Ridge Wetlands are one of two Hanover properties that are now part of a permanent conservation easement held by the Hanover Conservancy. The neighboring King Bird Sanctuary is also part of the easement. (Courtesy Adair Mulligan)

The Trescott Ridge Wetlands are one of two Hanover properties that are now part of a permanent conservation easement held by the Hanover Conservancy. The neighboring King Bird Sanctuary is also part of the easement. (Courtesy Adair Mulligan) Courtesy photograph

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 08-14-2023 9:29 AM

ETNA — The King Bird Sanctuary in Etna is quite the draw.

Stop by on a sunny (or even not-so-sunny) day and you’re bound to see birds, insects and other creatures on the grassy hillside.

That extends to people of all ages, including Etna Library patrons: The library regularly includes the sanctuary in its programming for children and adults alike.

“We are very appreciative of that space right there,” Etna Library Director Jeff Metzler said.

Now, the King Bird Sanctuary and the neighboring Trescott Ridge Wetlands — owned by the town of Hanover — are under a permanent conservation easement. The easement, which includes 17.4 acres of land is held by the Hanover Conservancy, a nonprofit organization and land trust. The town will continue to own the properties.

“When a piece of land is acquired by a public entity, a township for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is permanently protected,” said Adair Mulligan, executive director of the Hanover Conservancy.

Voters, for example, could decide to sell town land to a private owner. “Even though one would always hope that lands with natural resource value … are kept for the public to be open, that’s not something we can always count on unless it’s covered by a permanent conservation easement,” Mulligan said.

The town has owned the Trescott Ridge Wetlands since 1971, when the “bird roads” development was constructed. The King Bird Sanctuary was created by the Hanover Conservation Commission and Hanover Conservancy in 2011. The two groups worked together on the conservation easement.

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“The Hanover Conservation Commission jumped at the opportunity to work with the Hanover Conservancy to permanently protect the King Bird Sanctuary and Trescott Ridge Wetlands,” Whit Spaulding, chair of the Hanover Conservation Commission, said in a news release. “This easement protects wetlands vital to the Mink Brook watershed as well as upland and migratory bird habitat.”

The properties’ new status could also open up new grant funding opportunities and further additional land conservation efforts in the area.

“If there are lands nearby that we might be able to permanently protect, being able to say, ‘This land is very close to this already protected land,’ always is an asset in a grant application,” Mulligan said.

The Hanover Conservancy and Hanover Conservation Commission will also continue to partner together for events, including volunteer opportunities. King Bird Sanctuary is prone to invasive species, particularly buckthorn and Japanese barberry.

“The barberry is a real thing in there. It’s sneaky stuff,” Mulligan said. “It’s a perfectly beautiful place to go and do some pruning and some tinkering.”

The wetlands may be more important than ever before because of their role as the world’s “sponges,” as Mulligan described them. Wetlands absorb water and allow it to trickle slowly into water systems, which is particularly helpful during the rainy summer the region has had.

“The Trescott wetlands are valuable for that,” Mulligan said. “I think these days everybody should become a wetland hugger.”

The Trescott wetlands also are aesthetically pleasing and have trails that the public can meander through.

“Besides, it’s a really cool place,” Mulligan said, adding that it is a red maple and black ash tree swamp. “It’s got some magic to it.”

The same could be said for King Bird Sanctuary, where the Etna Library regularly hosts story walks, in which pages of a picture book are spread on placards along a grassy trail.

“I think with two libraries in Hanover, I think that our library and the Howe Library work really well together to bring different strengths,” Metlzer said. “One of the strengths of the Etna Library is the history of this part of town and the rural character of Etna.”

On Friday, Sept. 8, at 4 p.m., Susie Spikol, a naturalist and author of “The Animal Adventurer’s Guide,” will lead a program at the King Bird Sanctuary titled “The Wonderful World of Insects.” Children, accompanied by adults, will search for insects at the property, in addition to singing bug-related songs and playing bug-related games.

“We do try to make use of the space,” Metzler said. “It’s a treasure in this area, and to have it protected is very important.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.