Post and Photo by Craig McArt
More than one trail stretches northward from Eastman into Enfield’s Henry Laramie Wildlife Management Area. The familiar one leads to Cole Pond, but another one of similar length begins at Butternut Pond and takes you to Halfmile Pond. Halfmile is a small, narrow fingerling of a pond, about a quarter-mile long—call it a half-mile around to justify the name. NH Fish and Game stocks this 8-acre pond from the air with trout.
The trail to Halfmile Pond generally follows a stream flowing from Halfmile into Butternut Pond. Rising steeply at times from Butternut, the 1.5-mile trail ascends to the eastern side of Halfmile Pond and terminates at a nice lunch spot on its eastern shore. Following a sketchy shoreline trail after lunch, one can continue a short distance to a landing at the northern tip of the pond, where there may be a boat or two. From here, a trail, blazed in part with red paint, stretches another mile to Smith Pond.
Smith Pond is of Shaker heritage. High in the hills above their village in Enfield, enterprising Shakers built a dam and four dikes around a group of spring-fed marshes they called “lily ponds.” The earthen and stone dam was 11 feet high and 150 feet long. The project, constructed in the early 1800s, transformed the lily ponds into a pristine, 63-acre reservoir called Shaker Mountain Pond. Through an impressive system of canals and more dams on the hillside below, the water was distributed to the Shaker Village settlements by the shores of Mascoma Lake to power their shops and mills.
Abandoned by the Shakers long ago, the system fell into disuse. By 2007 there was seepage at two of the dikes, and the dam was in such poor condition that the NH Department of Environmental Services scheduled them all to be torn down to remove the hazard. Smith Pond was slated to revert back to its original lily pond marshes.
At this point, Greg Baker, who had purchased the lone building that fronted Smith Pond in 2001, began a relentless effort to conserve the pond. With no state funds available for repair of the dam and dikes, he and the other owner of pond frontage, Paul Cavicchi, funded a rebuilding project. Despite many frustrations and setbacks, they eventually overcame bureaucratic stumbling blocks and the concrete trucks rolled in. Greg gives much credit for this to the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who interceded with the state on his behalf.
Smith Pond has been maintained, although we came very close to losing it. But there is more to the story: Smith Pond is the centerpiece of a 995-acre woodland that lies between two large parcels owned by NH Fish and Game. The Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT) has agreed to purchase this parcel from Paul Cavicchi in order to create one contiguous forest block of over 5,000 acres. Bolstered by two grants from the state, $325,000 from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and $362,500 from the Department of Environmental Services, the UVLT will need to raise the remainder of the $1.5 million asking price over the next three years.
If UVLT’s campaign is successful, the regional land conservancy will own the property for long-term stewardship, restoration, and conservation education. UVLT hopes to improve access from Route 4A by creating a parking lot and trailhead there, and will work with the Shaker Museum to develop interpretive information about the Shaker land use history. Signs and blazing that were affected by past logging activities will be replaced. There will be public access to this beautiful pond which has 12 islands and is host to a nesting pair of loons, to the nearby “grand canyon of Enfield,” and to its two falls. UVLT’s stewardship promises to conserve this pond and forest in perpetuity while welcoming the public to observe and enjoy nature there.
To learn more about the Upper Valley Land Trust, go to UVLT.org or contact John Roe at UVLT at 603-643-6626.
Craig McArt is a former chair of Woodlands and Wildlife and board member of the Grantham Historical Society who is presently serving on Grantham’s Open Space Committee. He is a retired industrial designer and professor.