D Acres Reaping Recreational Harvest

  • D Acres executive director Josh Trought, second from right, leads a group mountain biking outing this summer in Dorchester. The non-for-profit permaculture farm recently held the grand opening for a new network of multi-use trails open to the public.

  • D Acres executive director Josh Trought, second from right, leads a group mountain biking outing this summer in Dorchester. The non-for-profit permaculture farm recently held the grand opening for a new network of multi-use trails open to the public.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, October 09, 2017

Dorchester — Celebrating 20 years as a not-for-profit, small-scale organic farm and environmental stewardship center, D Acres of New Hampshire is increasingly focused on an ancillary initiative to maintain quality outdoor recreation outlets for its visitors and residents.

Its latest project suits those goals nicely: a newly built, 3/4-mile multi-purpose switchback trail on the base of Streeter Mountain, featuring 300 feet of elevation gain and spanning a practically luxurious 5 to 6 feet in width.

To be named the Phloem Trail — maps and signage are still in the works — after the plant tissue involved with photosynthesis, the route is part of a growing network of trails amid the farm’s 200-acre property suitable for beginner and intermediate mountain biking. D Acres staff is also hopeful it will be utilized for varying forms of non-motorized use such as hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

The project — which required about 300 volunteer man hours over several weekends this summer — also includes a new mountain bike skills area featuring a series of berm jumps near the entrance to the network. Major improvements were also performed on a pre-existing 3/4-mile loop trail, and the pathway from D Acres’ main homestead to the network entrance was made more visible.

About 30 mountain bikers were introduced to the enhancements after the farm’s monthly first-Sunday breakfast on Oct. 1. D Acres executive director Josh Trought was thrilled with the positive turnout and feedback it received.

“People really had a blast out here, kids of all ages. And when I say that, I mean adults, too,” Trought said. “That’s what we were hoping for, because this project was all about promoting healthy lifestyles and providing fee-free recreation and a place for the community to gather. To do that, you have to be accessible for people and provide a quality experience. I think this project does that.”

Trought brought aboard trail builder Greg DiSanto, a member of the Pemigewasset Valley chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association. Over the last several years, DiSanto has helped spearhead a number of new trails and improvements in the Plymouth, N.H., area.

Along with the requisite hand tools — two-sided blades, grubbing hoes, lots of rakes and shovels — the group utilized a mini earth-moving excavator to help sufficiently contend with the abundance of roots and rocks within Streeter’s soil. Evidence of the obstacles rest along the edges of the Phloem Trail, some of the rocks stacked into cairns by volunteers.

Helpers from an array of mountain biking clubs and area schools, ranging from Plymouth State University to the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, lent a hand to bring the trail to fruition.

“It required a lot of hands, a lot of work to get at all the roots and rocks to make sure it would be an enjoyable ride,” Trought said.

In accordance with D Acres’ steadfast environmental principles, the group was careful to minimize impact by avoiding areas susceptible to erosion and working around natural water-flow routes. That meant carving out zigzag patterns where it might have been more intuitive to go upward, which also helped moderate the final product’s level of difficulty.

“It was a matter of constantly working with the flow of the way the forest shifts and where the water goes,” Trought said. “That’s another reason I think Phloem is an appropriate name.”

Though DiSanto had previously built trails only with manual tools, the utility of the mini excavator didn’t elicit too many surprises. “There were a couple snags where maybe we didn’t realize there was so much ledge in a particular area and had to work around it,” said DiSanto, a Glastonbury, Conn., native and graduate of both the University of New Hampshire and PSU. “Other than that, it was pretty much what we expected. I’m definitely happy with the way it came out. It’s a nice, wide trail with no roots that can be used all four seasons.”

The double-track width should allow mountain bikers and walkers to comfortably share the route, Trought noted, and he hopes it proves appealing for more than those on two wheels.

“It’s really for everyone. It took a lot of effort to build but not to use,” he said. “It’s only a 6-7 percent grade max, so it’s a moderate walk for anyone who wants to get outside and get their boots, skis or snowshoes on the ground. We had that in mind while building it, that we wanted something that would be a quality experience for all of these different user groups.”

The Phloem Trail is a step toward D Acres’ long-term vision to build its trail network into a legitimate go-to recreation destination, not only to attract visitors but to benefit residents of the surrounding area.

“If you think of all of the beautiful forest and natural resources that are here, there’s no reason why it can’t be like an Aspen (Colo.) or one of these towns in Switzerland that is built around an expansive trail network,” said Trought. “Youth flight is a statewide issue in New Hampshire. The more stuff like this gets built, the more people will say, ‘Why leave? I love it here.’ That’s what we’re going for.”

For more information about D Acres in Dorchester, visit www.dacres.org or call 603-786-2366.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.