Mt. Jasper Describes Ecological
and Cultural Treasure
June 17, 2013
by Barbara Tetreault
Berlin Daily Sun
BERLIN – The recently completed natural resource inventory for the city's 203-acre Mount Jasper property describe a property with natural, ecological, and cultural attributes that make it a treasure whose value goes beyond the city's boundaries.
John Severance and Elise Lawson of Watershed to Wildlife, Inc., presented the firm's findings to a small group that attended Thursday's public meeting on the plan.
The Mount Jasper planning board subcommittee will now use the inventory to develop a use ordinance and future management plan for the site for the full board to review. The board hopes to present a final plan to the city council for approval this fall.
The property is famous for the Mount Jasper rhyolite used approximately 9,000 years ago by the Abenaki to make tools. The mine on the southern slope is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lawson and Severance said over a quarter of the property, or 55 acres, falls within the Dead River wetlands complex supporting a diversity of fish, invertebrate species, and plant life. The property contains a number of vernal pools providing valuable breeding habitat for amphibians and species such as wood frogs. A nine-acre red spruce swamp was discovered in a natural bowl northeast of the peak at about 1,500-foot elevation. Severance described the bog as "a little jewel".
The report recommends maintaining buffers around the wetlands and vernal pools and using them as educational tools for local students.
The report said the most common forest type on the property is mixed hardwood with some white pine and red oak stands. Red oak dominates near the ledge overlook and Severance suggested thinning some to enhance views. But he said the mature oak trees should remain because they are an important food source for many wildlife including bear, deer, ruffled grouse and squirrels.
The report notes the property is known for the large rock outcrops near the summit that provide panoramic views for a relatively short hike. A new hiking trail from the Berlin High school property has proven popular and plans are underway to construct a trail to the summit from Cates Hill.
In addition to the hiking trail, there is a main corridor snowmobile trail on the property. The report recommends ATV use not be allowed on the site – a recommendation also made by state Archeologist Dick Boisvert.
Lawson and Severance said they commend the city for acting to protect the property. Noting the proximity of the high school, they suggested there were enhanced opportunities for using the property for education.
Mike Eastman and Andre Belanger said they are working with Subcommittee Chair Sally Manikian on interpretative signage for the property that includes Abenaki history and culture. The two showed a sample sign and logo with information
Eastman, a local expert on the Abenaki culture, said he would like to see a Mt. Jasper Stewardship Council, that would sell logo items like tee shirts and mugs, to raise money for signage and bridges for the hiking trail.
"I don't think the average person in Berlin understands what a unique asset they have in their backyard," he said.
Belanger said he would like to foster a sense of local ownership and stewardship for the property. He said as a native of Berlin, he appreciates having such a significant archeological site, noting the rhyolite was used for trading all over New England.
A copy of the report in PDF format is available here.
Map showing Mt. Jasper in in the lower left hand corner. Existing snowmobile trails are shown in red.
Existing hiking trail is shown in blue. Proposed high-elevation route is shown in green. New route for
snowmobile trail across the proposed high-elevation parking area is shown in purple.
View from the summit of Mt. Jasper looking down upon the city (BARBARA TETREAULT PHOTO).