The Crowningshield property is a 108 acre farm with a mile of riparian frontage along the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River, a wild trout stream in the nearby Town of Heath, MA. When a farmer was interested in reviving the old farm, he approached the Franklin Land Trust (FLT). Because the property has steeply sloping pastures and a woodlot that is landlocked by the West Branch it was a poor candidate for working land funding.
Two fly fishermen among the FLT staff visited the property. They were surprised to see that the West Brook was shaded by mature riparian woods and rushing through a series of steep riffles and deep pools. It looked to them as prime wild brook trout waters. Follow-up research confirmed that the stream supports wild brook trout, has high water quality, sports a healthy macro-invertibrate community and falls in a regionally significant sub-watershed. That brook was the most important resource on the property.
The FLT took the matter to the Deerfield River Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited (DRWTU) for advice. Well, that chapter is relatively new and didn’t have the kind of funds needed to help the FLT purchase the property, so they brought the matter to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of TU. The Council supported the project and based upon a Council match of $2 for every $3 pledged by the chapters, they raised $45,000. Even our local Taconic Chapter got into the act and pledged $1,000. As a result, the FLT was able to secure the 108 acres and, with a conservation restriction, opened it up to public access. Now, any angler can enjoy the mile of pristine trout stream.
Richard Hubbard, Executive Director of FLT summarized the effort: “Just when we thought that we had run out of funding options, we came to the realization that we needed to look beyond our normal path for conserving land and focus on its incredible fishery.” Hubbard said. “From our very first meeting with the MA/RI Council, we have been impressed by the enthusiasm that TU has brought to this project and its willingness to make significant financial and organizational commitment towards the conservation and future management of the Crowningshield Farm”.
Energized by the experience of working together to protect the farm, this new partnership portends the opportunity for even greater impact. Building off of their new foothold in the waters of the West Branch, the partners envision a multi-layer conservation project that would protect more than 1,000 acres of forested landscape that keeps wild trout streams cold and clean.
The partners hope to engage landowners along the upper West Branch and its tributaries in creating a permanently protected landscape with more than 6 miles of wild trout water at its heart. John Troiano, MA/RI Council Chairman described the effort, “Legacy projects like this don’t come up very often. In the very short time available, it seemed impossible. We made the commitment to do it and then figured out how to make it happen”.
Many thanks to Bruce Osterling, Chairman of the Projects Committee for Greater Boston TU for the above information.*****
The Berkshire Ducks Unlimited Annual Banquet & Fundraiser will take place next Sunday, June 7 at Mazzeo’s Ristorante, 105 South Street, Pittsfield. Doors open at 4 PM and dinner is at 6 PM. Tickets cost $35 for individuals and there are various sponsor packages. DU is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, DU has conserved more than 13 million acres across the continent. Click onto http://MA.ducks.org, local events for more information.*****
The 23nd Annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby, will take place next Saturday, June 6 at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield, MA from 6:00 AM to 12:00 PM. No fishing license is required (free fishing weekend in Massachusetts). The derby is open to the public and its purpose is to raise money for the Jimmy Fund – Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Children. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Jimmy Fund in memory of Harry A. Bateman a former member of Central Berkshire Bowman & I.U.E. Local 255 who was well known throughout Berkshire County and who became a victim of cancer in 1992.
15 trophies and prizes will be given away to the winners of the fishing derby. There will be a special category for those fishing with a bow & arrow. All fish must be weighed in at 12:00 p.m. and can be caught at Onota Lake from a boat or the shore.
The fee, which includes food and beverage, is $10 for adults and $5 for Children 14 years and younger. There is a ticket raffle and many other great prizes. Advanced tickets may be purchased at Avid Sports, Dave’s Sporting Goods & Onota Boat Livery. Registration required before fish can be weighed in. *****
The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Westfield River in Huntington, Chesterfield, Cummington, Windsor and Savoy and the following lakes and ponds: Plunkett Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, Windsor Pond, Richmond Pond, Otis Reservoir, York Lake, Goose Pond and Onota Lake.
Correction from last week’s column about the Wild Acres fishing derby: According to Heather Traversa, her children Rebecca Stimpson, and Casey Wassilie along with their cousins Mike and Mark Stimpson are the ones who caught the tagged fish in the 13 trout that they caught. They are not related to Steve Fones. Steve’s granddaughter Jordan Hamilton caught the trout with the help of Jack Stimpson and it was Steve himself that caught the bass. My apologies to all.