Exploring Plainville: Eagle Scout Nature Trail

Located on Everett Skinner Rd. just north of the Plainville Athletic League (PAL) fields, the Eagle Scout Nature Trail features a wooded swamp, a small pond, a pine grove, a vernal pool, and a brook (called the Old Mill Brook). A wooden sign welcomes visitors to the parking area.

The property is owned by the town and managed by the Plainville Conservation Commission. As the name suggests, Boy Scouts have contributed over the years to the site by installing bridges, marking trails, and trimming fallen trees.

Birds

This property attracts a variety of song birds at all times of year. Resident birds include the Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker. This is a fairly reliable location to hear and sometimes see Hairy Woodpecker and Brown Creeper. If you walk quietly along the stream, you may spot a secretive Wood Duck.

Migrant summer nesters include Pine Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, and Northern Waterthrush. On several occasions in the spring, I've heard a Winter Wren singing enthusiastically along the brook, though I don't believe this species remains here to nest.

Other Animals

The Old Mill Brook is a good spot to observe animals and their sign.  Muskrats can be seen in or near the water, though they can be quite secretive.  In winter, look for the tracks of Mink, Fisher, or Coyote in the snow.  Summer is a good time to see Ebony Jewelwing damselflies fluttering along the shaded stream.  The bridge near trail marker #10 is a particularly reliable spot.

Trees, Shrubs, and Plants

In June, be sure to visit the pine grove and enjoy the Pink Lady's-slippers that dot the ground. Earlier in the year, the trail along the stream features a variety of flowering species, including Three-leaved Goldthread, Partridge-berry, Marsh-marigold, and several species of Violets. Northern Spicebush – a native shrub – is also quite common here, sporting round, paired buds in winter.

Scan the ground near post #5 for Downy Rattlesnake-plantain. This plant grows in patches and has distinctive leaves (see photo below). In late July or August, you may even see some of the plants in the colony flowering.

Lastly, this is an excellent site to meet some trees. The trail features twenty numbered posts that were originally installed as part of an Eagle Scout project. Years ago, a descriptive brochure was available in a box near the trail head, but for now, let this list guide your tour.

1 Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
2 Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
3 Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
4 Cherry Birch (Betula lenta)
5 Flowering Big-bracted-dogwood (Benthamia florida) and Downy Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera pubescens)
6 Corner of Stone Wall – a reminder of former land use
7 (Painted on rock) Glacial Rock – a reminder of the ice-age
7 (Post Marker) Rotting stump of Cultivated Apple (Malus pumila)
8 White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
9 Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) near water
10 American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) near wooden bridge
11A Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)
12 Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)
13 Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
14 Poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
15 Glossy False Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)
16 Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
17 Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) succumbing to the shade of the forest
18 Eastern White Oak (Quercus alba)
19 “Bridge to Nowhere” overlooking Vernal Pool
20 "Fern Valley"

If you walk this trail, I'd love to hear about your experience.  What is your favorite part?  Leave a comment below.

5 thoughts on “Exploring Plainville: Eagle Scout Nature Trail”

  1. I have many favorite parts: the moss on the trees laying near the trail. The ferns. The Ebony Jewelwings flitting around the stream. The sound of the trickling stream & having the benches there to enjoy it. The Pine grove to walk through as the needles soften your steps. You can find red squirrel middens if you are lucky. Then there’s the Vernal pool. In the Spring it’s full of frogs chorusing & salamanders congressing. It is full of life all year. In other words, it’s a beautiful trail. Sorry I couldn’t think of just one.

  2. Join Ecologist Jack Lash for Nature in Your Neighborhood, Saturday July 9th from 8 AM to 10 AM at the Plainville Eagle Scout Nature Trail conservation area . Please meet at the Everett Skinner Road trail entrance. Mr. Lash will highlight the natural history, birds, animals,plants and accessible communities common to our area.

    This program will foster an appreciation of local natural communities and the vital role they play in maintaining the ecological integrity of our ecosystems. Participants will also be introduced to the important roles played by Mass Audubon, Conservation Commissions, Local Land Trusts, State Agencies and other groups in protecting our natural resources.

    This is a free program sponsored by the Plainville Cultural Council.

  3. Went on the hike Saturday. Thank you for sharing. Jack was great! Heard a scarlet tanager and a red-shouldered hawk. Saw red squirrel midden. Went to the vernal pool (which is dried up). Enjoyed the hike.

    1. Diane: Sounds like a great time. I have many fond memories of that trail… singing Winter Wren… Downy Rattlesnake-plantain… juvenile Barred Owls… Pink Lady’s-slippers… Pickerel Frogs… tasty Black Cherries. I joined the hike in spirit.

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