on Open Space Management
demonstration at Towle Field Light-dappled trail in the Estabrook
the past 4 years, the Carlisle Conservation Foundation has sponsored
sheep grazing as a test in land management and control of invasive
species. From May to October, the wooly creatures, hundreds of them,
have visited Towle Field and the Spencer Brook Reservation. No conservation
and land management effort in Carlisle has been as popular and eye-catching
as the flock of sheep, peacefully grazing on these fields. We are
reminded pleasantly of our agrarian past. It is time to take stock.
Both fields look much better and healthier. The far westerly corner
of Towle Field, formerly often overgrown and weed-filled, is now
close-cropped with grasses thriving. Sheep grazing clearly reduces
thatch, allowing grass to grow which tends to stifle weeds. The
classic stone walls, in the past buried in poison ivy and impossible
to mow along with mechanical tools, are now visible. Invasive buckthorn
has been subdued, but not conquered.
a flock of sheep on these fields from May to October costs $20,000.
The expenses include the care and protection of the sheep, the shepherd,
the dogs, fencing, watering, and transportation. The generous response
of Carlisle residents to our fundraising appeals and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s grant for wildlife habitat improvement reduced
CCF’s net expense to approximately $10,000. Still, this represents
a large chunk of our annual budget of $25,000; CCF has concluded
that we cannot support this ongoing expense without sizeable contributions
from other sources.
next steps include: 1) the review and publication of the sheep grazing
study data collected by CCF and colleagues at Minuteman National
Park, and 2) working with Carlisle’s Conservation Commission
and other interested citizens to develop an effective, financially
feasible land management plan for Towle Field and Spencer Brook
Reservation. One imperative is mowing twice a year.
summary, a commitment of ongoing funding and regular management
is required to maintain open spaces as places to enjoy passive recreation
and rural vistas.