A ‘Indigenous Edible Avenue' Along the Rail Trail

An opportunity for environmental education and appreciation with social distancing

Photo provided by Paula Estey
Allies and Partners

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and addressing the impact of COVID-19. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Almost in foresight two years ago, seeing that people were using our parks and rail trails in increasing numbers, the Women in Action Huddle of Greater Newburyport partnered with Friends of Newburyport Trees (FoNT) to create and maintain an “indigenous edible avenue” on the March’s Hill section of the Clipper City Rail Trail that the Parks Department and Director Lise Reid so generously gave us.

It has been an exciting project during this time of forced physical distancing.

To see its enormous positive impact, against a backdrop of masks and sanitizing lotion, is gratifying.

This year found our blueberry, cranberry, rose hips, and strawberries, among other indigenous plants, maturing nicely on this once-wild plot on the rail trail. Through the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers, the site has been tamed slightly, added to, frequently watered, weeded, and otherwise maintained.

Every volunteer session sees numerous families and individuals stopping to pick, talk, or praise. One day while I was weeding, a woman walked by and actually gave me a blessing, which stayed with me all day!

We see moms and dads explaining the plants and kids gleefully eating off the bushes and trees.

The edible avenue provides an opportunity not only for environmental education but also for much-needed social interaction, both with people and with our environment.

Kudos to our mentor Jane Niebling of FoNT, our designer Jean Berger of Green Jeans Landscape, and our volunteers Melissa Shea Mills, Deb Mass, Alice Mullen, Beth Blanchard, and artist Eva Maria Lee, who is creating a beautiful site map for us. Our official city sign is in the works and you will find brochures on the blue library bench next to the trail.

Many folks come when they can to help. Even though the growing season is winding down, we’d love to see you on the trail. We volunteer on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. Walk toward Low Street from the March’s Hill entrance of the rail trail. You can’t miss it.

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Paula Estey

Paula is a passionate supporter of the arts with personal talents as a poet, potter, painter, and performer. Her Paula Estey Gallery is home to contemporary artwork and dialogue between her talented roster of fine artists and the community, She started Women in Action - Huddle to foster more dialogue in the community with leaders on social justice to woman's rights to the health of our environment. Esty's curatorial skills have contributed to pop-up art salons to public installations to jurying.

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