The Delcarte Conservation Program – An Open Space Jewel for Franklin
By Sydney Keane
If you’ve lived in or visited Franklin over the past 23 years, it’s likely that you’ve spent a fair weather day enjoying the DelCarte Open Space Area. This 136-acre swath of land was donated to the town by Ernest DelCarte after his passing in October 2000. Known to many as the Franklin Reservoir, this now conservation land includes two ponds, a boat launch, a playground, and several trails protected from development. As such, several species of plants, mammals, and fish thrive in this vast ecosystem; however, this includes a number of invasive species like variable milfoil and water chestnut.
To truly take the best care of this conservation land, the Franklin Conservation Commission and the Franklin Conservation Dept. has taken on a number of initiatives, most notably an ecological and management 2016 study on the ponds. This lengthy study was released in early 2016 and included an assessment of the various species and resources in the area with maps and a nutrient budget. The study also gets into a number of approaches to both short-term and long-term habitat improvement for increasing the biodiversity in the Delcarte Open Space Area. This included one project through which the Franklin Conservation Commission worked in tandem with BETA Engineering, the Environmental Protection Agency, and wetlands scientists to determine the best approach for handling invasive vegetation with herbicides. Highly competitive plants like these limit a diverse ecosystem by reducing resources available to other species, in this case, other plants with roots on the bottom of the ponds.
The ponds are a major focus of conservation with the species that make up the wetlands being of major interest to the 2016 study, but the greater DelCarte Open Space Area as a whole offers connection to countless land and aquatic species alike in thriving, protected ecosystems with little human interference. This is also part of what makes this space ideal for visitors looking to be immersed within nature, so long as they abide by the rule of leaving the area as they found it.
For recreational purposes, there are a number of options for visitors such as fishing, boating, birding, and jogging; the main expectation of visitors being they do not disrupt the nature living around them. An online guide available through the Town of Franklin website offers an overview of the entire area including its three trails: the Triangle Trail, the Circle Trail, and the Square Trail. The guide also includes a description of several birds, plants, and animals that inhabit the space, indicating which are invasive and offering brief descriptions of each.
Since opening to the public, the open space area has been under constant care from the Conservation Commission of Franklin looking to add improvements for both the public and the native species alike. Some of these projects have included the building of the playground and the addition of a boat launch for people looking to take canoes on the pond. Along with the trails, boating in the ponds is a great way for visitors to become fully immersed in the nature around them without disrupting the balance of the surrounding ecosystem.
Located at Pleasant Street and Greystone Road in Franklin, the DelCarte Conservation Area is worth the visit whether you grew up going there or have never been before. When times are hectic and pollution is affecting the daily lives of people in both urban and rural areas, we are lucky to have a sanctuary so nearby to go to breathe in fresh air and connect with nature from a respectful distance.