Cooper North Pasture Preserve Trail
Distance: 7,920 feet (1.5 miles) (2.41 km)
Environmental Conditions along the Trail: Highest point within the trail network, forest meadow, highland forest with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees.
Trail Conditions: Gently rolling terrain, occasional forest meadow, adjacent to and eventually crossing via a bog bridge a large vernal pool within sight of the trail. Terminus in the south is across a hay field to Hale Street.
Until recently, Cooper North Pasture Conservation Area, zoned industrial, was slated to become a large addition to the Lord Timothy Dexter Industrial Park. A large road was to be injected into the forest and bridges would have been built to jump over the marshes between high grounds.
Fortunately, through the aggressive action of the Citizens for Environmental Balance and the Open Space Committee and an initiative by the citizens of Newburyport; the real estate company offered the land to the city for purchase. Money from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) was used to bond the purchase of the land.
This land is not just for conservation and the open fields are actively used for agriculture such as haying. This is also a very active birding area and visitors in respect to the animals and farmers need to stay on the trails and not wonder indiscriminately through the field or the forest.
There are actually three entrances to the trails. One starts where the farmer enters in from Hale Street and is a bit soggy at different times of the years. There is just enough room to squeeze two cars parked off of Hale Street. There are future plans to install a parking area there safely away from the road traffic but in the meantime, this is all that is available. There is another entrance to the trail diagonally across from the W. E. Sweeney Farm entrance but it is difficult to use without parking and with little in the way of a shoulder for pedestrians to even get to it. Either entrance will take you to the main trail. The third trail is at the end of Crow Lane next to the landfill. There is plenty of parking there and requires a short stretch of the Crow Lane Trail until you intersect with the main path.
Going back to the small turnoff on Hale Street, directly across from the parking area is a small entrance to the forest. First entering the woods, this is where the majesty of this area becomes very apparent. There is a very large vernal pool just yards away. A hurricane-like storm a few years ago toppled a large amount of massive pine trees. To avoid damaging the pool, the trail weaves round about until it reaches a shallow end of the pool where a temporary bog bridge made of a few boards has been installed.
Once past this area, the trail comes to a crossroad: left to the future boardwalk, straight ahead for a westerly trek or right for a more northerly direction. I would recommend taking the north route.
It is important to note for the uninitiated, that what may seem a “dead” forest is actually alive with many birds, small ground mammals and very elusive animals. Walking and then being very still ever so often, and soon your ears may pick up the many movements as animals move about all around you. If you get the feeling that hundreds of eyes are watching you, it’s not your imagination.
The open fields are never far away and being “inside” the forest provides you a natural blind to spot deer, turkeys, field birds or other animals enjoying the grasses.
Taking the trail, one will eventually climb into a small hidden valley where you may surprise creatures with your sudden appearance. Crossing this valley, you will begin to climb steadily perhaps encountering a wild turkey along the way until you intersect with the Crow Lane Trail.
Ignoring this trail, turn left and follow the path until you cross a high plateau of open pasture. Filled with blackberries, this field is a favorite for many fowl. Once you cross this open space, you will be reaching the highest place on your trek near some colonial rock fences overlooking a wide expanse of forest.
From this point on, you begin to drop down steeply until you reach a stand of small trees where deer tend to linger. Walking along, you will soon reach the southwesterly end of the large vernal pool and keeping to the trail you will soon wind up at the crossroads again.
Of all the trails, the sense of primeval nature, the stillness of the forest and the occasional huge trees makes this trail one of the most enjoyable to visit. The density of the forest guarantees chance encounters with interesting creatures….if you’re quiet enough!