Merryspring has almost 4 miles of trails on its 66-acre property. The Perimeter Trail (green) goes around the entire Nature Center. The Interpretive Trail (yellow) starts at the lower parking lot and takes you past several special features, both natural and man-made. The Homestead Trail (blue) follows an old roadway from the late 18th century. The North Meadow Trail (red) starts at the lower parking lot and ends near the highest point on our property. The Power Line Trail (pink) connects the north and south sides of the Perimeter Trail. In addition, there are numerous trail spurs leading to the Kitty Todd Arboretum, which is criss-crossed by a number of other trails. Enjoy!
The Interpretive Trail
Several points of interest are featured along the Interpretive Trail. Explore the Merry Spring, vernal pool, American Chestnut Foundation orchard, North Meadow, and more. An Interpretive Trail Guide can be found at the Ross Center.
The Merry Spring
A circle of stones marks one of the many naturally occurring springs that dot the Merryspring property. The park takes its name from this spring from which clean, fresh water flows continuously all year round.
Set upon a limestone dome, Merryspring’s surface is a permeable substrate through which ground water easily drains. After trickling through the earth, the water reaches an impermeable granite layer, where it begins to flow outward. When the water reaches the slopes of the dome, it emerges clean, clear, and filtered as a spring.
The land on which Merryspring now sits has been at times a quarry, a sawmill, a farm, and a homestead. When the back meadows were used as grazing land for sheep, this spring was used as a source of fresh, clean water for livestock and humans. More springs can be found on the western side of the property.
American Chestnut Restoration Orchard
This orchard of American Chestnut trees was planted in 1999 by the Maine Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation as part of its effort to restore these trees to the American landscape.
Once one of the most abundant and economically viable deciduous trees of the East Coast, the American Chestnut was almost completely wiped out by an invasive fungal pathogen from Europe and Asia, brought to North America in the 1920’s and 30’s.
The American Chestnut (Castanea dentate) stands apart from many other native trees with its distinctive foliage and fruit. The leaves are long and smooth with deep saw-tooth lobes. The spiny, green burrs that form in late summer drop and split open in fall, exposing sweet, edible nuts.
These American Chestnut trees have been cross-bred with a species of blight-resistant Chestnuts native to Asia. With each generation of seed produced from cross-bred trees, the newer trees are one-step closer to being resistant to the blight fungus, while retaining more and more characteristics of the original native American species. After planting, trees are eventually given the blight fungus in order to study their resistance to the pathogen.
For more information on this project, please visit www.me-acf.org.
The North Meadow
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Merryspring was a homestead site. Situated between Rockport and Camden, the area would have been suitable farmland close to the two commercial centers. What is known now as “old farm road,” a broad dirt path running from north to south on the property once connected the two communities. A rock wall bordering the road is made of stones displaced by plowing. Ancient apple trees once used for cider still flower in the spring, with many still producing fruit. An old cellar hole still exists where a house once stood. The four acres now referred to as the North Meadow were once a cleared grazing pasture before being repurposed as a lumber yard, and eventually set aside for Merryspring.
A long-term goal of Merryspring is to restore this meadow. Once a place abundant with bobolinks and other ground-nesting birds, the meadow is now overgrown with invasive weeds. A project is currently underway to restore habitat through mowing, seeding native grasses, and amending the soil. If the first test plot is successful in bringing back native grasses and wildlife, the same methods will be employed to the meadow on a larger scale.
Vernal Pool at the Pattison Woodlands
- With a hard rock bottom and surrounded by forest, this abandoned Rockland-Rockport Lime Company quarry hole became a perfect place for a vernal pool habitat to form. The rock bottom prevents pooling water from snowmelt and runoff to absorb into the ground. The trees surrounding the pool to provide shade to prevent the water from evaporating. A constant supply of downed limbs and leaves provides detritus for nutrients and shelter for the creatures that live in the pool.
In early spring, you may hear the “quacking” of wood frogs as they make their mating calls. By April, the pool is filled with the jelly-like egg masses of wood frogs and spotted salamanders. Later in the spring, the pool comes alive as wood frog tadpoles and spotted salamander larvae hatch from their eggs. Predaceous diving beetles, dragon fly larvae, and hellgrammites (Dobson fly larvae) are top predators in the pool, while small amphibious snails, red water mites, caddisfly larvae, and many other unique invertebrate species can be observed in the pool’s waters.
By early autumn, the vernal pool dries up. Certain species of plants thrive in the fertile, damp soil. Falling leaves provide next year’s pool with nutrients and shelter as detrivores break them down on the pool bed. Winter brings snow and ice to the pool. The yearly cycle begins again as late-winter thaws and early spring rains begin to fill the pool back up with water.
Kitty Todd Arboretum
- Before it was a Nature Center, the property occupied by Merryspring was once a homestead site, a sheep farm, and most recently, a sawmill and lumber yard. Many thousands of board-feet of mature white spruce, red spruce, and white pine were felled from these grounds. The resulting clear-cut let in sunlight and awakened the dormant seeds of many different species. Over time, birds, mammals, and the winds brought other wild seeds to the area When the property was purchased in 1974, Merryspring’s founders recognized this forest diversity and protected some of the best and most interesting trees for this Arboretum.
Today, the Kitty Todd Arboretum serves as one of the most diverse habitats at Merryspring. Here you’ll find 35 native Maine tree species among the dozens of other species of shrubs and wildflowers. It is also one of the best places in the park to look for wildlife! Keep an eye out for pileated woodpeckers, ruffed grouse, white-tailed deer, weasels, and a large variety of songbirds inside its 10 acres.
Scrubland Succession Habitat
When the power lines were installed, the forest was leveled. In its place grasses, woody shrubs, and young trees have established a habitat called scrubland. The scrubland is undergoing a process called succession.
The first plants to reclaim the felled forest were grasses and ground cover plants. After the soil became more stabilized, small bushes and shrubs were able to take root, forming a scrubland habitat.
If this trail were left alone, it would in time become a young forest. Because it is necessary to prevent overgrowth from getting too tall beneath the power lines, visitors will always be able to find plants indicative of succession here. Common juniper, bayberry, goldenrod, blackberry, and milkweed are several of the native plants that thrive in this habitat. Many species of small mammals and birds find shelter here.