Gems within our borders in Bedford

Early winter brings with it thoughts of outdoor fun, whether it be of building snowmen, sledding, skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or walks in the woods.

All of these activities can be enjoyed right here in Bedford.

While there are other areas of public open space in Bedford, three town-owned properties come to mind for outdoor winter play and exercise. All three are protected by conservation easements held by the Bedford Land Trust. That means that the land is permanently protected as open space by a mutually agreed to contract between the owner of a property and Bedford Land Trust.

Benedictine Park on Wallace Road offers the highest public sledding hill in Bedford. Its 28 acres offer plenty of room for sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and walks in the woods. If you’re looking for a cardio workout, walk or snowshoe up and down the hill a few times. If you’re looking for an experience that combines hill and more gradual terrain, try the Perimeter Trail that hugs the park’s shrub/tree line, (next to the open meadows) and continues for about one mile’s length.

The Cobb Trail (yellow trail markers,) affords a woods walk of approximately one mile along the northern property line. It continues in an easterly direction until descending to Riddle Brook Branch, swings westerly, and emerges at the lower meadow back to open vistas. While on the woods’ trail or at the meadows, you may see tracks of wildlife in the snow, such as white tailed deer, red fox, fisher, weasel, chipmunk, woodchuck and turkey.

The Van Loan Preserve offers an approximately 1.1 mile loop through mostly flat wooded terrain. Its 68 acres are accessible across Wallace Road from Benedictine Park or from North Amherst Road near Muller Park. Parking is available at either one of these parks. Suitable for snowshoeing or winter hiking, trails offer views of: an old farm pond and dam with huge granite boulders, Riddle Brook and its pedestrian bridge, a grove of Hemlocks, and a wetland overlook. More than one beaver lodge has been established in wetland areas. In the quiet of this pristine land, it’s possible to observe evidence of other wildlife such as deer, coyote and rabbit.

The third property offering winter activities is the Bedford Village Common. Located at Bell Hill Road and Route 101 in Bedford’s historic center, this 6.2-acre community park offers approximately one-quarter mile of easy walking paths and a skating pond. Weather-permitting, the approximately half-acre skating pond will be open as determined by the town of Bedford. The pond, pathways and parking lot (off Bell Hill Road) are illuminated for use after sundown. Town officials will determine whether the ice is ready for use and the length of skating sessions. Visitors should use the parking lot off Bell Hill Road.

While this is not an all-inclusive list of public open space in Bedford, all three properties offer a connection with nature and an opportunity for winter fun. Printable trail maps for both the Van Loan Preserve and Benedictine Park are available at the Bedford Land Trust website at http://bedfordlandtrust.org/Properties.html.

The Bedford Land Trust is a nonprofit charitable organization holding conservation easements on 12 properties covering some 706 acres of land within the borders of the town of Bedford. For more information, call 228-1231 or email info@bedfordlandtrust.org.

Jeanene Procopis is a Bedford Land Trust trustee.