2014-10-03 / Front Page

Take a walk on the wild side

Kennebunk Land Trust continues Naturalist Walk series
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Most people have come across something unrecognizable while walking through the woods — a plant, a different type of pine tree, a fungus.

In an effort to increase local education of plant and wildlife, the Kennebunk Land Trust has begun offering free Naturalist Walks at its various preserves around town.

Kennebunk Land Trust is one in a handful of other land trusts across the country to pilot the naturalist walk program.

It functions as an extension of the Maine Master Naturalist Program, which Gordon Collins and Tony Ligouri both graduated from in June.

The program was founded in 2011 as a nonprofit organization with the goal to train interested Mainers to be volunteer naturalists at schools and other nonprofits throughout the state.

As part of the ongoing mission of the program, graduates are urged to dedicate a set number of hours per year to community service activities.


Scott Gasperin, above, points out a hardened fungus underneath a log that Josiah Towne, left, and his twin brother Isaiah Towne discovered during a Naturalist Walk in Alewive Woods Preserve on Sunday. The walk was led by Gordon Collins, right, and fellow Kennebunk Land Trust board member Tony Ligouri. At left, Collins explains that a goldthread plant, once it is dried, can be used to treat oral sores and irritation. Collins and Ligouri led members of the public on a 1-mile trek across the Alewive Woods Preserve on Sunday as part of Kennebunk Land Trust’s Naturalist Walk series. 
(Alex Acquisto photos) Scott Gasperin, above, points out a hardened fungus underneath a log that Josiah Towne, left, and his twin brother Isaiah Towne discovered during a Naturalist Walk in Alewive Woods Preserve on Sunday. The walk was led by Gordon Collins, right, and fellow Kennebunk Land Trust board member Tony Ligouri. At left, Collins explains that a goldthread plant, once it is dried, can be used to treat oral sores and irritation. Collins and Ligouri led members of the public on a 1-mile trek across the Alewive Woods Preserve on Sunday as part of Kennebunk Land Trust’s Naturalist Walk series. (Alex Acquisto photos) Ligouri and Collins are both on the board of the Kennebunk Land Trust, and they are leading the walks “under the auspices” of the trust, but as independent naturalists.

The pair hosted their first walk in July in the trust’s Secret Garden, located behind Evergreen Cemetery in Kennebunk.


Gordon Collins hands Isaiah Towne, 10, a piece of Indian cucumber root to taste as his brother, Josiah, looks on. Collins and Tony Ligouri are spearheading the Naturalist Walks on parcels of land maintained by Kennebunk Land Trust. The goal of the walks is to spur natural history discussions and education. (Alex Acquisto photo) Gordon Collins hands Isaiah Towne, 10, a piece of Indian cucumber root to taste as his brother, Josiah, looks on. Collins and Tony Ligouri are spearheading the Naturalist Walks on parcels of land maintained by Kennebunk Land Trust. The goal of the walks is to spur natural history discussions and education. (Alex Acquisto photo) The second walk, Sunday, Sept. 28, explored part of the 625-acre Alewive Woods Preserve in West Kennebunk.

“This is more of a conversation in the woods with a naturalist than a lecture,” Collins told those gathered at the trailhead as he passed around insect repellant. “It all works much better if we walk through the woods and learn.”

Each walk is loosely organized in the sense that Ligouri and Collins may venture into the woods looking for certain species; on Sunday it was birds. However, few were spotted, so the group focused their attention on the ground and asked questions about low growth and tree types.


Scott Gasperin explains how an oak tree withstood the Fire of ‘47 and, as a way of mending itself, grew around the scarred wood. Gasperin and other local naturalists led 13 people through one of the nine preserves maintained by Kennebunk Land Trust on Sunday. 
(Alex Acquisto photo) Scott Gasperin explains how an oak tree withstood the Fire of ‘47 and, as a way of mending itself, grew around the scarred wood. Gasperin and other local naturalists led 13 people through one of the nine preserves maintained by Kennebunk Land Trust on Sunday. (Alex Acquisto photo) Depending on the characteristics of the landscape Collins and Ligouri will be exploring, they invite guests or colleagues with particular expertise.

Because much of Alewive Woods were destroyed in the Fire of ‘47, resident Scott Gasperin acted as sort of a guest lecturer. Gasperin’s background is in natural resources management. Before moving to Kennebunk 14 years ago, he managed forestry activities for the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho for nearly a decade. He also specializes in the study and causation of wildfires.

After Collins illustrated to the group on the map where they would be exploring, they set off.

The group trekked for about 50 yards along the path through the early successional growth. Josiah Towne, 10, who was joined by his twin brother, Isaiah, veered off path to pick up a log and pull a plump, squirming white grub from underneath. “What’s this?” Towne asked Collins, who could not identify it, but pointed out physical characteristics that allowed it to carve away at soft wood.

Participants freely posed questions to the naturalists, who would often stop the group to point out a change in landscape or reconcile the landscape patterns with the history of the land.

About 100 yards in, the landscape changed noticeably, almost as if crossing a threshold. The new growth and underbrush had been replaced with almost uniform rows of red pines and pitch pines.

“What do you notice that’s different about this area,” Gasperin asked the group.

Several observations were voiced before he explained that new growth had come naturally after the fire.

The trees, uniformly spaced between 6 and 8 feet apart, had likely been planted “by some conservation group after the fire,” Gasperin said. “The idea was to reforest it.”

As the group continued on the mile-long path to Sucker Brook, which runs along the western portion of the preserve, Gasperin, Collins and Ligouri differentiated between plants, edible and poisonous, detailed differences in pine tree fascicles, attributed low growth to varying soil types and explained why some trees survived the notorious fire while others perished.

Collins pointed to a cluster of two-tiered leafy plants with four purple berries extending from the top of the flower. “This root has a very clean, fresh taste,” he said as he plucked the Indian cucumber root and pulled out his pocketknife. The twins volunteered to try it, both puckering their faces at the taste.

“The whole program is you expanding on the knowledge you learn,” Ligouri said as the group resumed hiking. To provide a service to the community is “why we chose to give these walks,” he said.

The pair plans to traverse each of the trust’s nine properties in town before, hopefully, moving to land outside of Kennebunk, Ligouri said. The next walk will be in November. For more information about the trust’s Naturalist Walks, visit www.kennebunklandtrust.org.

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