The Sherman Brook campsite sign reads campfires are permitted. The site's been twice burned over in the past decade: The 2015 fire that burned 300 acres was started here by an errant cookfire.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Although the East Mountain wildland fire rolled over close to 1,000 acres of forestland, it just left the Appalachian Trail a little crispy.
"Not much damage to the trail itself, though we had some damage at our campsite in the fire area," Appalachian Trail volunteer Cosmo Catalano Jr. said in an email correspondence. "The fire was a pretty low-intensity event, burning the top layer of the leaves on the forest floor and charring most of the smaller bushes and shrubs up to about 4 feet high."
The fire started Friday night off Henderson Road in Williamstown and moved into Clarksburg State Forest. More than 120 firefighters from 19 different communities confronted the blaze through the weekend, clearing dry surface fuel to force the fire back upon itself.
By Monday afternoon, the fire was 75 percent contained and efforts were reduced to mop-up operations on Tuesday.
Hikers were asked to avoid the Appalachian Trail section in Clarksburg State Forest as it was in the wildland fire's path.
"It was definitely anxious as we had no direct info from the incident command structure, only what we could read in the media," Catalano said. "The [National Park Service] and the [Appalachian Trail Conservancy] can issue closures and inform hikers through their social media outlets, but they were not in the information loop either. These things have complex jurisdictional geometries, and getting info to all the concerned parties can be challenging."
But he was happy to say the damage was not catastrophic and was similar to what was seen during a similar fire in 2015.
He said there was no damage to mature trees or the treadway and that the trail is still hikeable without added precautions, although hikers are still asked to avoid the trail for the time being.
"It's a bit of a surreal hike, since the forest floor is mostly burned black and there are no understory plants with any leaves on them," Catalano said. "The burned area visible from the trail extends 1.8 trail miles from just below Sherman Brook Campsite to Eph's Lookout."
Catalano said the AT campsites took the biggest hit. One of the three tent platforms was lost, but that is it.
He said these fires are quite normal and, though maybe not to this scale, can be expected in the spring when everything is so dry.
"Fires like this do happen, especially in the spring before the leaves come out. The sun heats and dries the leaves on the forest floor and the fire can spread very quickly," he said.
He added that nature has a way of healing itself and in a few seasons it will be hard to tell a fire even swept through at all.
"The damage is not permanent, within a few seasons, you won't be able to tell where the fire was, other than perhaps seeing a few charred logs on the ground," he said. "In a few seasons, the woods will look like they always have. All the roots have likely survived, and some plants will start to sprout again soon (especially if it rains)."
Catalano did warn hikers and others who enjoy the woods that this dry season is not over and with the lack of rain, many forest floors are still as volatile as a tinder box.
"I would say that most trail visitors are unaware of how combustible the woods are at this time of year. red-flag warnings are issued, but I don't think many hikers know about them or are aware of the potential," he said. "I have not heard how this one started, we know that the point of origin was not on the AT.
"The sun is strong this time of year, and even a piece of broken glass could concentrate enough heat to get things started in these conditions. Add in a bit of a breeze and things can expand quickly. Rugged terrain makes a quick response even more difficult."
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Clarksburg Trying to Decide Location for Pickleball Court
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials agree that a pickleball court would be a great addition to the town's recreational activities. But they don't agree on where it should go.
The Council on Aging raised the idea of a pickleball court to the Select Board few weeks back. Lauren and Robert Norcross, who became heavily involved in the COA when it appeared to be on the edge of dissolution, are advocating for the court to be superimposed on the existing basketball court at the town field.
The Select Board, on the other hand, have been considering using a section of the Community Center's large parking lot to prevent any conflicts with use of the basketball court or with the school.
At Wednesday's Select Board meeting at the center, the topic was back in play, but the sides hadn't changed. Chairman Ronald Boucher said he wanted Highway Foreman Kyle Hurlbut to take a look at the parking lot and see where lines could be drawn and get a cost on having it done.
The annual town meeting will be held Wednesday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m. outside at the Community Center.
The annual town election will also be held at the Community Center on Tuesday, May 25, from noon to 7 p.m. All candidates on the ballot are running unopposed.
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