NASHUA - A blue heron poised
motionless on a canal bank Tuesday morning in Mine Falls
It waited until a small group of men were within
a dozen yards before it lifted awkwardly - looking more
reptilian than avian – and swooped across the man-made channel
that carries water that once powered the city’s industrial
“They look prehistoric when they take off,”
commented Jeff Littleton, an environmental consultant walking
the park as part of a natural resources inventory his company
is undertaking for the city’s conservation
More than the wildlife observed – which on
this morning included mallard and wood ducks, squirrels and
chipmunks – it was the wildlife suggested by the park’s rich
habitat that seemed to excite Littleton most.
habitat included forests, flood plains, marshes and vernal
pools that could harbor a variety of fowl and amphibians,
including common and uncommon species of
At one place, he dug his hand into a mound
of moist, sandy soil – perfect, he said, for nesting
Particularly interesting was the Cove area, an
oxbow pond formed into a backward “C” with the open end facing
the Nashua River.
“These little places can be
biologically rich,” Littleton said.
rich areas – including land the city now owns or might someday
like to own – is the point of the natural resources
Littleton’s consulting company, Moosewood
Ecological Services based out of Harrisville, was hired for
$8,640 to conduct the survey, according to city officials. The
survey is meant to be the basis for a conservation plan and
would include private land the city might one day buy
outright, or purchase conservation easements to maintain as
The conservation commission has money to
buy land through its budget, which is funded by land use
change taxes. However, land purchases must be approved by the
board of aldermen.
Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Environmental consultant Jeff Littleton looks at the soil while checking a hole in the
trail during a walk through Mine Falls Park in Nashua on Tuesday.
Commission Chairwoman Linda Bretz said
the inventory would serve as a guide as the city sorts through
properties that would be the most desirable to buy.
natural resource inventory was last done in the early 1990s,
when the city’s long-range planner at the time essentially
compiled by hand what now would be done by Geographic
Information Systems technology, building “layer upon layer
upon layer” of information that showed topography, streams and
forests, said Kathy Hersh, the city’s Community Development
Like that study, the Moosewood inventory will
be done largely on computers, using GIS technology and aerial
photographs the state has already taken as part of a flood
control project, said Littleton, who also teaches
environmental courses at Keene State College and Antioch
University New England.
“You can glean a lot out of the
spatial data and the aerials,” he said.
his staff includes a researcher and a GIS expert.
Additionally, he can draw on the expertise of a network of
scientists, including geologists and plant experts, he
Besides the computer mapping, the survey will
also be conducted through several of what Littleton called
“windshield surveys,” or site visits to support what the maps
show. Tuesday’s visit to Mine Falls was one such windshield
“I’m actually confirming what aerial
photographs have shown to me,” Littleton said.
as Mine Falls, what they’ve shown is how much a “goldmine” the
park is to the city.
“It’s quite a treasure for a town
this size to have 325 acres along the river,” said Peter
Temperino, a conservation commission member who accompanied
Littleton on his two-hour walk through the eastern portions of
Mine Falls, including trails along both the canal and the
The survey confirmed to Littleton the presence
of fragmities, an invasive plant species, as expected. But the
walking tour uncovered something not expected – pitch pine
near a stand of taller white pines.
Pitch pine, a type
of pine that appears in pine barrens, is fire resilient and
often grows in fire-scarred land, Littleton said.
also noted the park includes a variety of pools and marshes in
close proximity, which would allow the interbreeding of a
variety of fowl and amphibians.
Genetic diversity is as
important as a diversity of types of wildlife, he
“You need to have a big mix in the gene pool,”
Littleton will present an update on his
survey to the conservation commission in November.
final report will be presented to the board of aldermen during
a meeting in early January.
Patrick Meighan can be
reached at 594-6518 or email@example.com.