Holcomb Tree Trail receives prestigious Civic Improvement Commendation

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Volunteers for the Holcomb Farm Tree Trail received a commendation from the Garden Club of America on June 15. From l., Walter Ford, Barry Avery, Put Brown, Shirley Murtha, Jack Lareau, Eric Lukingbeal and Nannie Brown. Photo by Cayce McAllister

It was not long ago that the East fields of Holcomb Farm, the 100-acre hill across the street from the main farm complex, was an overgrown pasture thick with oriental bittersweet, wild grapes, Japanese barberry, and multiflora rose.

Then in October 2018 members of the all-volunteer Friends of Holcomb Farm came together to reclaim the fields and create something beautiful there. Through countless hours of volunteer labor, they began to remove the invasives and create a place of scientific interest and dramatic beauty. Today, curved paths carry visitors along the trail, past newly planted trees and mature species, with stunning views of the valley below.

This month, the efforts of this group of volunteers were recognized by none other than the Garden Club of America, through a Civic Improvement Commendation, “given in recognition of the Friends of Holcomb Farm’s innovative ‘Tree Trail’ project that in the spirit of [Frederick Law] Olmsted creates engaging recreational and public education amenities.”

This national honor is the result of years of fundraising, careful planning and countless hours of volunteer labor. The Tree Trail Team was led by Eric Lukingbeal, Peggy and Jack Lareau, Walter Ford, Barry Avery, David Desiderato, Susan Canavan, Cat Kadrle, Heidi Lindberg, Walt Zultowski and Shirley Murtha with support from many others. The team consulted with distinguished academics and arborists from esteemed arboretums. It defined a clear set of goals and cleared untold tons of invasive plants and vines. The team purchased, planted, watered, and labeled nearly 80 trees.

Overgrown fields are mowed on schedules intended to control invasive plants while not disturbing ground-nesting birds, amphibians and pollinator habitats. Close-mowed paths lead walkers from tree to tree and to scenic overlooks. Wet areas are bridged with planks. Benches offer seating at picturesque locations. The team also designed and installed a welcoming kiosk. Engaging educational signs describe the farm and its various tree species.

The hard work of these volunteers has enhanced the property in so many ways. They beautified the hill, making it a gorgeous backdrop to the farm and the North Barn Pavilion. They created an outdoor museum of trees, where one can learn more about a range of species. They established a quiet preserve for recreation and respite. And they built a patchwork of habitats that attract a wide variety of birds—133 species and counting.

Special thanks go out to Put and Nannie Brown who introduced the Garden Club of Hartford to the Holcomb Farm Tree Trail by hosting an event there last year. In turn, the Garden Club nominated the Tree Trail for the Civic Improvement Commendation that was backed by the Granby Land Trust. The Granby Board of Selectmen and Granby Public Works Department, headed by Kirk Severance, supported the project and helped with materials.

To visit this community treasure, park at Holcomb Farm, 113 Simsbury Road, and walk across the street to enter the Tree Trail.