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 of 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 wonderful 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, 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, consulted with distinguished academics and arborists from esteemed arboretums, defined a clear set of goals, cleared untold tons of invasive plants and vines; selected trees that are beautiful up close and from a distance (and an enhancement to the appeal of the North Barn event facility); purchased, planted, watered, and labeled nearly 80 trees; mowed overgrown fields on schedules intended to control invasives plants while not disturbing ground-nesting birds, amphibians and pollinator habitats; maintained close-mowed paths that lead walkers from tree to tree and to scenic overlooks; bridged wet areas with planks; installed comfortable benches at picturesque locations; and designed and installed a welcoming kiosk and engaging educational signs that 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 its special events facility, 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!).
It has been a true labor of love and we are so pleased to see the work being rewarded in this manner. In addition to the “Tree Team,” special thanks go out to the Garden Club of Hartford, who nominated the Holcomb Tree Trail for this honor; to the Granby Board of Selectman for supporting the establishment of this Tree Trail on this beautiful site; to the Granby Public Works Department, headed by Kirk Severance, for its cooperation and help with materials; to Put and Nannie Brown, who introduced the Garden Club of Hartford to the Tree Trail by hosting an event there last year; and to the Granby Land Trust, who supported the Garden Club of Hartford’s nomination of this community treasure.