Improving Visitor Experience at Hawley Bog







Hawley Bog Preserve is a spectacular example of a high-altitude New England bog. Its fragile wetland community includes a mat of peat, 30 feet thick, that floats on the open water. It serves as both a living classroom for nearby colleges and a popular hiking destination for local residents.

Unfortunately, by the summer of 2012 the old boardwalk that brought visitors out onto the bog needed replacement. The preserve’s owners, The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts and Five-Colleges, Inc., were looking for a locally produced product that was aesthetically pleasing and sustainably harvested. "Locally grown wood products help support local foresters and harvesters, and encourage family forest owners to keep their forest as forest,” said Wayne Klockner, Executive Director at The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “The Nature Conservancy has long believed that the forest products economy is an important part of the conservation equation.” Having supported development of the Commonwealth Quality program since its inception, Nature Conservancy staff chose a Commonwealth Quality business to work with them to turn their project into a reality.

The Nature Conservancy worked with ¬†Fred Heyes of Heyes Forest Products in Orange, Massachusetts to find a material that could last in the bog’s harsh acidic environment and withstand years of heavy use by school groups. Using Fred’s extensive knowledge of sustainable forest management and structural properties of native lumber, it was determined that white oak timbers best suited the needs of the project. After harvesting and milling white oak selected from a forest in Orange, Massachusetts, Fred turned over the fresh sawn lumber to the Nature Conservancy for installation at the preserve. With the help of the Student Conservation Association of Massachusetts, the boardwalk was restored before the end of the summer with minimal disruption to the fragile plant community of the bog.

By working directly with the provider, The Nature Conservancy could ensure that the wood they ended up with had a low carbon footprint, supported local business, and would fit their technical needs. Knowing that the business they supported was a certified Commonwealth Quality provider also ensured that the trees harvested for the project were sourced from a local forest and that loggers implemented best management practices to protect soil and water quality.

Having trail improvements constructed out of native materials also enables visitors to become more connected with the environment around them.  As the constructed elements become embedded in the surface of the bog, visitors will be able to get closer to the wild cranberries and songbirds that call the bog home for years to come.

This summer, The Nature Conservancy will be continuing its work with Commonwealth Quality wood as volunteers start construction of a 300 foot boardwalk to improve the trail network at the Roger and Virginia Drury Preserve in Sheffield, Massachusetts.