Photos by Phil Di Vece
The kiosk marking the Bearse Allen Preserve.

The trail leading into the preserve.

BRISTOL — Testing your knowledge of trees is part of the fun in visiting the Bearse Allen Preserve, a part of the Pemaquid Watershed Association. Located in the coastal community of Bristol, the 40-acre preserve features a self-guided interpretive trail.

Signage throughout the preserve identifies foliage, wildlife and tells a little about the history of the property. In the 19th century, a tannery was located here. Before walking the Bearse Allen Preserve, you can visit and download an interpretive map showing all 21 points of interest. Or you can read them as you explore the interconnected blue, green and yellow-blazed footpaths which together total about a mile.

Ten trees commonly found in Northern New England are marked with signs asking visitors if they can identify them. By lifting the top of the wooden display, you get the answer and other interesting information about that particular tree species.

Most people, me included, recognize the more common deciduous trees, oak, maple and birch trees by the shape of their leaves and the conifers by their arrangement needles. We guessed correctly on only six of them.

Four larger display panels explain PWA’s efforts at forestry management and sustainable timber harvesting at the Bearse Allen Preserve.

Carolyn Shubert, PWA Land & Water Program Manager, sad that District Forester Morten Mosswilde has been impressed with the forestry management there and the quality of the timber harvested. She stated the most recent timber harvest took place in 2014-15.

“Morten has taken several groups to the preserve to point out the informational signs and the best management practices followed in the timber harvest,” Shubert said.

During our 90-minute visit, we saw patches of rattlesnake plantain and clusters of Indian pipe stems, sometimes called ghost flowers because of their almost translucent white stems and blossoms.

The trails are easy to follow and suitable for all ages. This a great place to bring kids where they can test their knowledge of the outdoors. The signage includes one showing tracks for whitetail deer, wild turkey and gray squirrel.

Long ago this property was the site of a place where animal skins of all types were processed into leather. After the leather was finished, it was sold to craftsmen who made them into shoes, belts, bridles and other products. A home not far from the preserve’s kiosk dates from the 1780s and once served as the tannery office, according to the PWA.

A spur off the green-blazed trail takes you to the abutting NORGAL Preserve that’s a part of the Damariscotta River Association. Here you can hike Gale’s Trail, a short half-mile loop that circumvents a hill rising 160-feet.

The 45-acre NORGAL site is privately owned by the Quail Run Homeowners’ Association; the Damariscotta River Association holds a conservation easement allowing for public access.

At the traffic signal on Main Street, Damariscotta take the Bristol Road (Route 130) 7.1 miles south to Sproul Hill Road. Turn left here and travel 0.2 miles, then turn right on Austin Road. The Bearse Allen Preserve trailhead and kiosk are on the left; parking is on the right.

Phil Di Vece has resided in Maine since 1979 and written two books on Wiscasset history.  He works as a freelance journalist and an active retiree at L.L. Bean in Freeport.