Amidst the Whine of Trucks – The Little River Nature Trail
The fact that so many in the city know nothing about this fascinating trail is, I think, so remarkable. The lucky birder and occasional hiker who take the time to cross its length will be surely rewarded. The assumption, of course, is that because Route 95 is so close, wild life shies away from its length. There is nothing more wrong in this idea. Though the noise of trucks whining their diesels and the swish of cars is never far away, animals have thrived in this environment. The best way to visit the trail is also the easiest. There is room for four to five cars on the Hale Street entrance with enough of a turnoff that relative safety is assured. There are future plans to place an observation deck and real parking across the street at the Wet Meadows Conservation Area but right now, the cars are easily visible and safe on this busy stretch.
When taking the trail, the first thing spotted is the water backed up in a wide marsh. Accommodated by a beaver that has been playing cat and mouse with the DPS, this water backs up almost all the way to the old Route 95 roadbed. The straight path itself goes until it curves onto the beginning of the abandoned road and for a short time, one has to share the way with bikers until arriving at the Ryan Mackie Observation Deck. (An Eagle Scout Project)
This overlook gives an excellent close up look at a beaver’s dam and if you are lucky you may spot a muskrat or hear the “slap, slap” of the beaver’s tail. A Great Blue Heron or an egret can sometimes be seen fishing away in the water. Normally, the beaver is not here. That’s because directly across from the observation deck is the beginning of the path into the woods. At the first bend, veer off into a stand of pines and you will see a magnificent beaver’s home close by you. Don’t be afraid you’ll disturb him; he’s safely in his home or swimming in his wide pond.
Now don’t make the common mistake and think the old Route 95 roadbed is the nature trail. Doing so and you’ll miss some of the magic that the curving path will provide on this trail.
Taking the path, you will be passing through fields and woods and walking near marshes that give birth to one of the Little River’s tributaries. Eventually, you’ll come very close to the Little River as it runs under the roadbed and out into the woods. It’s a beautiful place with aquatic plants along its banks. Eventually, you will take a sharp turn into the woods again and up onto the westerly leg of the abandoned Crow Lane. This wagon path is reported to be haunted so don’t feel alarmed if you get the feeling of being watched. Hurriedly passing on, the trail rejoins the fields below and continues in a meandering way past many birds and wildlife. You may even spot a pair of foxes who regularly run through this area. You again pass into the forest and the path runs onto higher ground until you can spot the old quarries that were dug out for the Interstate. Once past a pine forest, you will abruptly drop down and rejoin the path that runs up to Storey Avenue.
Remarkable as it may seem, this nature trail is teeming with life. There are beavers, deer, fishers, fox, muskrat and wild turkeys not to mention a parade of birds that call the LRNT home. It is a remarkable path so close to civilization and yet so isolated.
The trail is named after Albert G. Decie II, a resident in the adjacent Russell Terrace Street near Storey Avenue. He and another neighbor, Gloria Braunhardt strived to gather enough signatures to place the preservation of the abandoned Route 95 roadbed as a city priority. Originally planned to be a four-lane road down to factories and residences; he recognized that the quality of life of the average Newburyporter would suffer greatly. The trees are a sound buffer that prevents the highway noise from funneling into the center of the city. The area is also home to one of the major river streams of the Parker River Watershed. This ‘Little River’ doesn’t stay a little river during acute storm events. Removing the natural habitat would open for downriver flooding endangering farms, the Great Marsh which is a nursery for ocean fish; and causing great harm to the downriver industrial park and the Quail Run residential neighbor. Successful in their efforts, the city voted in a non-binding resolution to preserve this sensitive area.