Learning more about the Pulpit Rock Subcommittee

The Pulpit Rock Subcommittee is an arm of Bedford’s Conservation Commission. It was established in 1990 to lessen the work load of the Conservation Commission and to provide a focused effort on the Pulpit Rock Conservation Area (“the Pulpit”).

The Pulpit is Bedford’s largest parcel of publicly owned conservation land and has the geologic feature Pulpit Rock as its centerpiece. This local forested open space is here for the benefit of all. Two groups are now involved with taking care of the property. The primary caretaker is the town of Bedford through the Conservation Commission, which has the direct responsibility associated with the ownership of the property. The other, more recently, is the Bedford Land Trust (BLT), which assists by holding a conservation easement and by monitoring the property.

The conservation area was established in 1982 thanks to a town vote to pay half of the approximately $100,000 needed to purchase the initial 143.6 acres parcel of land. The other half of the purchase price came from the U.S. Department of Interior in the form of matching funds administered through the State of New Hampshire.

During the 1980s, the conservation commission was directly involved with maintaining the property. In 1990, the conservation commission established the Pulpit Rock Subcommittee (PRS) to help with the responsibilities of ownership, including maintenance and planning for the future. A list of the subcommittee members is published annually in the Bedford Town Reports.

Each year, the subcommittee holds a spring workday. The workday is the most visible activity of the PRS as volunteers go out and work on the trail system – clearing away debris, removing another year’s growth into the trails, and repairing bridges. This year, the workday will be held on June 3 (or on June 4 in the event of rain).

A less visible aspect of the subcommittee has been to help plan for the future. At the request of the conservation commission, the PRS developed a Master Plan that was approved in January 1995 and modified in 1998. Recognizing the fact that the recreational use of the property would increase, much of the Master Plan was focused on preparing for this increased recreational usage. Specific goals of the plan were 1) to identify and facilitate the acquisition of nearby parcels of land that would enhance the Conservation Area, allow for the expansion of the trail network, and improve access; 2) promote the recreational use of the property in a manner that is compatible with indigenous wildlife; and 3) promote the educational potential of the area.

Following the guidelines of the Master Plan, Subcommittee members approached local land owners in order to make them aware of our desire to add acreage to enhance the Conservation Area. The goal was to help facilitate the acquisition, and this has been met with a great deal of success (see figure). The total amount of acreage of the Pulpit Rock Conservation Area has increased from 143.6 acres in 1990 to about 343 acres today! The Master Plan itself also served as a tool to help facilitate this acquisition by alerting other town committees, such as the Planning Board, of the need to acquire these important adjacent parcels.

Specific thanks go to the landowners who donated land. These include the Campbell heirs, June Hoyt, Verna Szkutnik, and Dorothy Reynolds, who sold the initial 143.6 acre parcel in 1982 and subsequently sold or donated additional parcels; Regal Real Estate, which developed “Pulpit Estates” from the remainder of the Campbell property as a cluster development; Richard Anagnost, who is presently developing “the Preserve,” also as a cluster subdivision; and the Martin family of Amherst. (See the figure that identifies the general portions of the Pulpit that came from these different sources.)

Committee members who have approached land owners include Barbara Tufts, Clark Gott, Richard Moore, Susan Tufts-Moore, and Ray Landry. Mervyn Taub, then Chairman of the Conservation Commission, approached the Martin family of Amherst and facilitated that acquisition.

This expansion of the Conservation Area has allowed for the expansion of the trail network and improved access to the trail system. The total miles of trails have increased from 2.1 miles in 1990 to 4.8 miles today! (See figure.) An increased number of potential future access points to the trail system have been determined as well. And, thanks to Richard Anagnost, a second parking lot was created that provides access to the trail system from Pulpit Road. The expansion has also included a campsite that is located near New Boston Road for possible emergency access. Recreational use of the property is limited to foot traffic in order to minimize human impact and to allow for a more natural experience. Additionally, the Pulpit trails are part of a larger trail system that connects to the south with miles of trails in Amherst, including a connection to Joppa Hill Farm, another of Bedford’s conserved properties.

The Pulpit Rock Subcommittee throughout the years has sponsored guided educational walks through the property discussing topics such as the geology, wildlife, trees, wildflowers, and history of the area. More recently, walks have been organized by the Bedford Land Trust. The PRS has overseen numerous Boy Scout Eagle projects that have been designed to educate or physically to enhance the Conservation Area. A summary of these Eagle projects by Matt Moore is displayed on the back side of the kiosk at the New Boston Road parking lot.

We now are approaching a quarter of a century since the 1995 Pulpit Rock Master Plan was written. Many of the goals have been met. But what will the next 25 years bring?

Enjoy this wonderful nearby resource! And don’t forget, this year’s workday will be held on Saturday, June 3rd, starting at 9 am at the parking lot on New Boston Road, with a rain date of Sunday June 4th starting at 1 pm. Volunteers are always welcome!

– By Richard B. Moore