Ewell Trail: Thumbs Up

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I like to think I have a healthy appreciation of trails.

In 2006, I was a caretaker for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, which means I spent the summer on the state’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, talking to hikers, sleeping in rustic shelters, and doing trail work.  At the end of the season, I set out to hike the entire length of the 272-mile Long Trail, with the goal of finishing within a month.  About 100 miles in, I found out I was pregnant.  End of my Long Trail hike!  (I’ve been back a few times since the kiddo arrived and have knocked out another 60-ish miles).

So when I tell you the brand-spankin’-new Ralph C. Ewell Trail is top-notch, well, I mean it.

My entire family headed up there last Friday, which was a brisk and sunny afternoon.  We started at the Beech Hill trailhead and entered the woods, gradually descending via carefully-cut switchbacks.

Rockland resident Derek Ewell headed up the trail cutting effort this past summer and got significant help from Justin Ewell, the Water Department, which allowed access to the land, and numerous other volunteers. According to discussions on RocklandNews.com, the trail took two months to build, which is jaw-dropping to consider.  (The Rockland News link also has a detailed accounting of the volunteers).

The bridges are beautiful and made from oak blow-downs fastened with cedar planks.  I have seen plenty of bridges on trails, but Ewell has gone above and beyond to combine sustainable construction methods–using materials already in the forest–while adding to the rustic character and beauty of the trail through amazing craftmanship.

Although the trail begins in a suburban neighborhood, it doesn’t take long until you feel far, far away from civilization. The character of the forest morphs as you decline in elevation, passing old stone walls and woodland scenes that are best described as “majestic.”

The trail is a multi-use for people and non-motorized bikes.  Ewell and his team have built numerous mountain bike obstacles like the Log Ride at the start of the trail.  If you’re walking, make sure to wear sturdy shoes so you feel confident on the inclines and uneven terrain.  And I cannot wait to try out the trail with my snowshoes.

Ewell and the Beech Hill Conservation and Trail Club have major plans for the area.  They hope to extend the trail system to connect Hanover, Rockland, Whitman, and Abington.

This place is a gem. Thank you to all who have contributed to this project and who are continuing the hard work of trail building and maintenance!

What: Ewell Trail

Where: The top of Beech Hill on Beech St., Rockland. There’s a picnic area and sign marking the Ralph C. Ewell Memorial Greenway. Park on the side of the road in front of the small white and blue building.

Distance: 2.6 miles round trip

Trail description (courtesy of Brian White at Rockland News): The trail is 1.37 miles from the top of the hill to the edge of the old abandoned Camp Susan. This comes out on Rte. 58 in Whitman where there is an old entrance to the camp. Turn right and go about 3/4 mile to Claytons Store. On the return trip stay straight on the Camp Susan trail past the new trail and come out across from 642 Beech St. Turn left and go up the hill .5 miles to the starting point.


Hartsuff Park– GREAT news! Plus, haunted hayride info.

After Rockland News picked up my last Hartsuff Park post, the comments on the message board came fast and furious.

The swimming hole

Derek Ewell, who did amazing work building a 1.5 mile multi-use trail off of Beech Street with Justin Ewell, volunteered to spearhead a Hartsuff cleanup and beautification project, as well as establish a permanent group of people who will help oversee the park. Derek has been networking with town officials to get the effort off the ground.

This is phenomenal news.

At the same time, the School Department has been working to transfer Hartsuff to the jurisdiction of the Parks Department. School Committee Chairman Mark Norris said on the Rockland News message board that his committee will officially vote on the transfer, and Town Meeting must give ultimate approval next May.

So, on behalf of Rockland, I am extending MAD PROPS to Derek. Of course, a successful effort must include many volunteers, so please pitch in whatever talents you have to make Hartsuff great again.

I’ll post more info as it becomes available. The Scouts’ haunted hayrides are next weekend and since volunteers have been hard at work trucking in all the planks and props, the Hartsuff effort should heat up in November.

And speaking of the haunted hayrides, here are the details:

Thursday, 10/27- 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Friday, 10/28- 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, 10/29- 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, 10/30- “Not So Scary” hayrides for little kids,1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Kids are welcome to dress in their costumes

Admission: $8

Group rates of $70 for 12 people ($6 for each additional rider) are available but must be purchased in advance. Contact Brenda at 781-982-1859 or SBMorano@verizon.net for tickets.

Odds and ends

Phew! I’ve had a long day writing a complicated story for the Globe, and have been lost in a crazy world of revisions. Plus, my kid has been a handful tonight. So what do I after I put him to bed? Watch the Board of Selectmen, of course!

Tonight I present to you a collection of brief news items I’ve been amassed over the past week. There’s stuff in here from tonight’s very brief selectmen’s meeting, as well as the Oct. 3 meeting.

  • THREE/TRES AMIGOS GOT APPROVED FOR BOOZE TONIGHT! Once the owners get their liquor license approved by the state, the adult beverages will be flowing up town.
  • Are you taking the kidlets trick or treating? Halloween’s official Rockland hours are 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tomorrow is a great night to go out to dinner.  If you eat at the 99 between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., you can tell the waiter/waitress to direct a portion of the meal’s cost to the Rockland Education Foundation. Added: You’ll need a flyer so either email info@rocklandeducationfoundation.org or call Janet Cann at 781-878-0060 to get one.
  • China Taste in the AAA plaza on Hingham Street has a new owner and will soon have a new name: Bamboo Restaurant.  The restaurant’s legal representative said at the Oct. 3 selectmen’s meeting that there will be no major renovations but the menu will get an update.  Is that good news or bad news?  As someone who only eats Chinese when it’s free, I have no idea.
  • The Downtown Revitalization Committee is holding a hearing Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.  That’s right — there is a Downtown Revitalization Committee, and selectwoman Debbie O’Brien has been chairing it.  You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of it — there’s been scant outreach or publicity.  O’Brien said the purpose will be to solicit input from residents about what we’d like to see downtown.  I am most definitely attending this one.
  • If you have a pitbull, you better hide it!  Rockland apparently has a by-law banning them, according to Town Administrator Allan Chiocca.  He said residents are dropping dimes to Town Hall.
  • I have an amazingly awesome Hartsuff update coming very soon … stay tuned!

Hartsuff Park, how you make me weep (another sadly-needed rant)

After my Hartsuff rant last month, I’ve made a concerted effort to get back there a few times to give the place a fair shake, brainstorm ideas for sprucing it up, pick up trash, and let my kid and dog roam free. And you know what? The place is really growing on me.

My dog loves it there. LOVES IT! He runs around and splashes in the pond, feverishly digs holes, and explores the woods like it’s nobody’s business. My son loves it, too. He’s a sucker for swings and sand. But if you could measure Hartsuff love with some sort of cool machine, I’m guessing the dog would be off the charts.

We went to Hartsuff this past Friday and hung out for an hour and a half. On Saturday, my husband took our son and dog to the park. And this morning, we all went.  So imagine my horror when we came upon this image at the pond (the chair, not the dog):

A closer look:

Sometime between Saturday and this morning (Monday), a car or truck drove past the homemade “No Vehicles Allowed” sign and the caretaker’s house, and then went completely around the pond, as evidenced by the fresh tire marks in the sand. Presumably, the occupants got out, then dragged the lifeguard chair — which was still standing on Saturday and nowhere near where it is now — into the water.

You may be thinking, “Hey, what’s the big whoop?” And if this was an isolated incident, I’d agree — no big whoop, just some bored kids.

But I came across this thing after last week enlisting my son to help me pick up the garbage that is STILL THERE and left over from summer programs run by the Youth Commission. We weren’t nearly able to get all the trash.  I drew the line at picking up water-laden towels, discarded kids’ underwear, and shoes since I didn’t have any gloves and had to keep my trash bag light (there’s no garbage cans to get rid of trash, in case you didn’t read the first article).

The bulk of the trash is/was right next to the caretaker’s house.

Quick background on caretakers: The Rockland school system has caretakers who live on several school properties including Esten Elementary School, Memorial Park Elementary, and also Hartsuff Park.

According to my father, who served on the Rockland School Committee for a really, really long time, vandalism used to be a huge issue. So the School Department decided to offer people the chance to be caretakers on some of the school grounds. Caretakers get to live on the land for free, but are responsible for either bringing in their own trailers or buying trailers off of their caretaker predecessors. My father said the set-up has been beneficial; vandalism has gone down.

I also asked my father if caretakers should be picking up trash.  He said “no” because their main function is to make sure school property doesn’t vandalized. (I asked Rockland School Superintendent John Retchless to point me to the person who oversees the caretakers but he didn’t respond, hence my reliance on family.)

Which brings me (finally) to my point.

It’s bad enough — inexcusable, actually — that the School Department/Youth Commission has not picked up trash that is now two months old.

And it’s bad enough that the caretaker has been walking right by trash and litter for God knows how long.  Sure, it might not technically be his job, but you’d think human decency would prompt someone to at least pick up the empty Honey Dew cups and soda bottles they drive right past every day.

But what put me over the edge this morning is that the one function the caretaker is supposed to perform — to discourage vandalism — wasn’t even achieved. Maybe the incident happened at 2 a.m. when the caretaker and his family were asleep. Maybe the caretaker retrieved the lifeguard chair this afternoon.

The vandal/s had to drive right past the caretaker’s house to get to the pond. If the caretaker isn’t aware of what is going on (for potentially legit reasons) and vandals are not discouraged by the presence of a caretaker, why do we have a caretaker? It’s definitely not for aesthetic reasons. The caretaker’s modular home that routinely has three cars (one unregistered) in the driveway doesn’t add to the Hartsuff ambiance.

There are other examples of vandalism, too. Take a stroll on the Hartsuff nature trail, and you’ll go right by Natural Light empties and charred logs from late-night parties. The party spot isn’t far from the caretaker’s house, by the way. Surely the festivities are audible over the short distance.

It’s time for the Rockland School Department to re-evaluate its caretaker program, and it’s time to re-evaluate how this property is managed. The mess that’s at Hartsuff could be easily remedied by some leadership — making sure people are doing their jobs, from the Youth Commission staff to the maintenance to the caretaker.

I’ve come to like Hartsuff a great deal. The late afternoon light is beautiful when it streams through the leaves and trees. The park, though small, is quiet, tranquil, and provides solitude. If the School Department and Rockland residents work together, Hartsuff can be an amazing resource. Let’s make it happen.

Restaurant news and random notes from the Rock

Hi there!

I just got home from the downtown revitalization meeting at Town Hall and I am buzzing from mental stimulation and excitement.  I get pretty emotionally invested in issues I cover for the Globe, even when they’re in towns to which I have zero connection, so this meeting, in my hometown and with interesting subject matter, great attendance, and lively debate … well, let’s just say it was great.

But since it’s late and I have about eight pages of typed notes to interpret into readable material, I’ll have to leave you in suspense for a bit and instead offer you this collection of randomness.

First and MOST important: TRIPLE NINE IS CLOSED!

Devastation. Sadness. Denial. Bargaining. I’ve been through all of these feelings since I first saw the sign out front that says “Coming Soon: Little Bangkok.”  I thought, “Oh, maybe they’re just revamping their image … I’m sure that’s it. Triple Nine SURELY can’t be leaving us.”

Not so.

Town Administrator Allan Chiocca said Triple Nine’s owners are in the process of selling the restaurant.

I’ve tried to get more info. I went into Domino’s next door but the guy working didn’t have much to offer. I called the leasing number posted in the building’s upstairs window. No one called back. And then I used Facebook to track down Paul, the son who used to ALWAYS be working. I sent him a message to ask for more info and tell him I hoped all is OK with his family. He’s in Thailand from the looks of it and he hasn’t responded.

All I know is that one week I was picking up fresh rolls and having my usual friendly chit chat with those great kids who helped their family at the restaurant, and the next week they’re gone.

RIP, Triple Nine.

Ah, Three Amigos. For weeks, I’ve been bothered by their lack of website and online menu, especially since I have been on a crazy burrito streak. I finally went in tonight to grab a takeout menu.

After saying “hi” to the red windsock man (see above), I went in and asked for a menu. Nada. They were just printed and will be delivered tomorrow, apparently. But the nice man working offered to lend me an in-restaurant menu if I returned it later. It was a nice gesture, but I declined.

He also said that the restaurant now has a website, threeamigosrockland.com. Woo hoo! Or, better yet, “¡Que chido!”

The employee said the menu on the site is a work in progress but you can get a pretty good idea of what’s available (like the burritos, thank god).

I was strolling downtown today to take pictures of vacant storefronts, and decided to check out some stores I’ve never visited. I went into the Brazilian food store, which is neat, clean, and has staples in case you find yourself needing rice, beans, seasonings, and Brazilian personal care products.

I also went into the Gold Mine Coin Shop next to the Banner just to check out “the scene.”  In my mind, “the scene” would be a sleazy pawn shop with druggies coming in and out to sell off stolen jewelry. I’m happy to say that the owner, Bill, is very nice and seems like an upstanding citizen.

When my son was looking at the DVDs, the owner asked which one he wanted and gave it to him for free. Later, when we got to chatting, he made a point to say he carefully catalogs everything that’s sold and holds onto inventory for 30 days before turning it around.

But the most illuminating part of the conversation was when he said that Baby Junque is closing down later this month and he’ll be moving into the building. He said he plans to sell ice cream there while running his shop, which now features collectible coins, a ton of tools, and various electronics.

Good luck to Bill.










Hartsuff Park: WTF?

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Whatever your age, I challenge you to think of a landmark more central to coming-of-age in Rockland than Hartsuff Park.

First, there’s elementary school ballgames and summer time fun at the “pond.” Later comes high school woods parties and the inevitable police footchases through the trees. Whether it’s hanging out or making out with your friends, the pines of Hartsuff have seen it all.

With this in mind, I decided recently to revisit Hartsuff after many years of neglecting this place. And I’m here to tell you that Hartsuff Park is not doing so hot.

Let me start back in August when my entire family headed there. My husband didn’t grow up in Rockland so it was his first visit. After spending ample time among leftover trash from the summer Youth Commission programs and gazing at the “pond,” he deemed the place “depressing.” And he was right.

Today, I took our dog and son to re-evaluate. “It’s been a month,” I thought. “Surely, the School Department has come to retrieve the leftover towels, socks, and energy drink containers that were still hanging out in August.”

Uhhhh, no. I was wrong. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but I want to add some thoughts.

I understand that tax-challenged Rockland runs its programs on a shoestring budget. I can kind of get behind the DIY tetherball poles at the playground and I’ll excuse the spray-painted “official” signage.

But what I cannot comprehend is why within the past month, no one from either the Youth Commission, which runs the summer programs at Hartsuff, or the School Department, which owns the property, has thought to send out a town employee to pick up leftover towels, shoes, socks, underwear, and water bottles from the summer.

Also, why are there no trash barrels?  If you are an adherent to the “pack out what you pack in” waste management philosophy because you’re either inclined that way or just too cheap/broke, put up a sign and tell people that’s what they should do.

Besides waste from the summer programs, Honey Dew was well-represented throughout the park along with cigarette butts and some broken glass for good measure.

Hartsuff Park can be so much better. Under the trash and neglect, it is charming and in many parts, beautiful. The swimming hole is a great place for kids in the summer. If improved, it could be a great place for myriad community events and would be a source of pride.

But like many things in Rockland, the park clearly suffers from the apathy of both its users and stewards. It doesn’t take a million dollars to clean up trash. Just a little bit of time and care. Next time I go, I’m bringing a trash bag.

In closing, I offer this description of the park (maybe someone can spray paint a sign with it?):  Hartsuff Park- A cozy, trash-challenged greenspace with a do-it-yourself aesthetic.

For a more charitable look at a Hartsuff Park visit, check out this blog post by John Galluzzo.  His excellent blog “Half an Hour a Day Across Massachusetts” is well-written, informative, and inspiring.

Still no power for 3,879 Rockland customers

We’re one of the households, so to get work done today, I brought my son to the Hanover YMCA, dropped him off in the playroom, and am using the wi-fi.  The place is absolutely nuts today.

Boston.com has this excellent list of power outages by community around the state, and that’s where I got Rockland figure. Brockton, Bridgewater, Norwell, and Pembroke are among the local towns that have also been hit hard.

If you’re in Rockland without power, be sure to post here or on Facebook to let us know when the lights are back on, along with your general location.

Hope everyone is hanging in there!