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North Salem Scouts Clear Invasive Vines At Baxter Preserve

Purdys/Troop 4 has begun a project to clear invasive growth from North Salem's Baxter Preserve. From left, Henry Balch, William O'Leary, Will Isler and Chris James.
Purdys/Troop 4 has begun a project to clear invasive growth from North Salem's Baxter Preserve. From left, Henry Balch, William O'Leary, Will Isler and Chris James. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The members of North Salem’s Boy Scout Purdys/Troop 4 spent a recent Saturday morning armed with loppers, clippers, saws and gloves, culling the invasive vines that have become a perpetual problem at North Salem’s Baxter Preserve.

The preserve is a 129-acre tract, donated to the North Salem Open Land Foundation in 1979. It has since become one of the most popular outdoor spaces in the region. It includes a high meadow, a large pond, the remains of an old racetrack, and many trails shared by hikers, equestrians and dog fanciers.

“The scouts’ major emphasis is on community service and leadership,” said Troop Leader Trip Balch. “In this case, the troop’s challenge was to come up with a project that was both sustainable and involved the community. They picked it, they planned it, and now they’re doing it.

“The boys wanted to do it themselves the first time, then try to get other people involved later. There’s no end-date because it’s an ongoing problem.”

After first getting permission from the North Salem Open Land Foundation and being assured they would not frighten any passing horses – or hikers – the boys had to learn the gardening skills, review basic first aid, and be able to identify poison ivy, absent of its distinctive leaves.

The purpose was not to destroy the poison ivy, but to make sure they avoid it. Then, under the guidance of stewards from the foundation, they began at the corner of the racetrack and spent a half-day clipping stems, with special emphasis on bittersweet and multiflora rose growth.

One of the essential practices in scouting is to “leave no trace,” so the boys left a little time to double-check their work.

Troop 4 plans to spend three or four hours at the preserve twice a year, once in the late fall and once in early spring. “It’s easier to get in there when there’s no foliage,” said Scout Henry Balch, “and it’s easier to identify what’s a vine and what’s the tree.”

To encourage community involvement, the troop plans to compile a mailing list, so that volunteers can join them on future outings. If you would like to be added to the list, write to troop4purdys@gmail.com.

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