Children’s Woods

Wilderness within reach: Town of Jaffrey protects 142 acres within walking distance of town

“Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation.”
Henry David Thoreau, Journal. October 15, 1859

Thanks to the foresight of the Town of Jaffrey in New Hampshire, residents and visitors alike will have a wild park for “instruction and recreation” forever. Children’s Woods & Carey Park, with a combined 142 acres, are now protected with a forever-wild conservation easement donated by the Town of Jaffrey and held by the Northeast Wilderness Trust (NEWT).

Due to the acute crises of climate change and biodiversity losses, there is immense value as well as an urgent need to protect large tracts of wild Nature in remote areas where abundant amounts of carbon are stored, and to give wildlife the freedom to flourish. At the same time there is a critical need to establish accessible wilderness areas for human education and well-being.

Unique natural features and close to town

The Town of Jaffrey contacted Northeast Wilderness Trust because NEWT’s mission aligned with Albert Annett’s intention for the 26-acres he donated to create the Children’s Woods parcel in 1937. Like Thoreau, Albert had a similar vision to ensure there would always be a place for education and enjoyment of Nature while trees grow to their full potential

“2022 was an important year for the Town of Jaffrey as first we voted at Town Meeting to allow the Conservation Commission to pursue easements on town properties, and then the Conservation Commission voted in July to proceed with the forever-wild easement process,” Carolyn Garretson, longtime and former chair of the Jaffrey Conservation Commission, said. “Children’s Woods & Carey Park is a jewel of a property that has been accessible and used by school kids and the community for many years. Now this very special place can be enjoyed by community members both young and old, forever. Thanks to Northeast Wilderness Trust the property is protected for always.”

Forever-wild protection means Children’s Woods & Carey Park, located within walking distance to the center of Jaffrey, will one day be an old-growth forest accessible to many. “At Northeast Wilderness Trust we will be working with the Town of Jaffrey to incorporate educational signage in the park to share the importance of wild forests. It’s been a real inspiration to work with the Conservation Commission, who are dedicated volunteers committed to the land they steward,” Caitlin Mather, Land Protection Manager at Northeast Wilderness Trust, said. Forever-wild protection also means water quality is protected, which is good news for Jaffrey and the surrounding area as the park includes a headwater stream as well as a wetland that are both hydrologically connected to the nearby Contoocook River.

The property has old forest features like large trees and downed woody debris that offer habitat to the wildlife who make their homes in old forests. The tree canopy consists of pines, sugar maple, American beech, white ash, and basswoods. Signs of wildlife are common including nuthatches, green frogs, downy woodpeckers, chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers, who benefit from snags, which are standing dead or dying trees. The open water ponds and streams found on and adjacent to the property are home to beavers, river otters, small-mouth bass, white and yellow perch, herons and snapping turtles.

Children’s Woods & Carey Park Easement is part of a Northeast Wilderness Trust pilot program to connect communities of humans to protected communities of trees, plants, and wildlife. The intention of this program is to establish pockets of wildlands near human population centers so that wild forests are within reach benefitting a broader range of species, including humans. These projects will offer the chance for people to feel, smell, and breathe wildness close to home.

Photography by Caitlin Mather