The Working Waterfront

Getting outside is critical, and never easier

North Haven public lands are treasured in COVID crisis

Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2020-12-03
Last Modified 2020-12-03

As I write this, COVID 19 has arrived on North Haven. Today, the town office announced that we had 11 positive cases, and that testing and contact-tracing continues. The store is closed for in-store shopping, we’re remote schooling at least through the end of November, and emotions are high as people fear for their loved ones and worry that they, too, might be infected.

It’s illustrative of just how easily and quickly this virus can spread, even when basic precautions are in place in public settings. It’s terrifying.

Against that backdrop, the features of North Haven that sustain us through trying times come into sharp relief. The store offering curbside pickup, the ease with which we can now transition in and out of remote school, the brilliant sunsets, CSA delivery—all remind us that we’re together and resilient.

Twice the path emerges into fields with unfettered views of the water…

Exploring the trails maintained by North Haven Conservation Partners has been a sustaining activity this fall as well. The 11 properties it manages, most of which are accessible to the public, offer tranquil woods walks, water access, and stunning views.

The hiring of a new executive director, a spate of trail-clearing, and beautiful new signage have made the trails all the more appealing. My favorite board member (my husband Bill) told me that the impetus for the work was the knowledge that more community members than usual would be accessing the trails during the pandemic.

We certainly have, although we don’t often see others. Our two favorites are the Mill Stream preserve and the North Shore preserve. Each trail offers something completely different, a surprising diversity of landscape for such a small island.

The Mill Stream preserve makes a loop through the cedar-filled woods on the banks of the Mill Stream, a gloriously swimmable tidal river about which I’ve previously rhapsodized. Ramshackle bridges cross narrow streams, and moss cushions the sides of the path in shades ranging from emerald to mint. It’s common to find urchin shells, dropped by birds, in seemingly unlikely places.

Twice the path emerges into fields with unfettered views of the water and wildflowers through the summer and early fall. The trail itself is an easy walk, though roots and stones frequently cross the path.

Bill and I walked the Mill Stream preserve the day after our wedding, seeking its peaceful beauty after all the excitement, and it was one of the first hikes we did with Penrose as a toddler.

In contrast, the North Shore preserve is a little bit of a drama queen. After a short walk through a field, including a research project on buckthorn management, a brilliant stand of white birch makes a breathtaking display any time of year. A short walk farther down the trail leads to a stunning ocean view, with a picnic table for maximum enjoyment.

On a late summer visit, we watched seals chasing a huge school of fish from our perch. A side trail leads down to the long, rocky beach with plenty of craggy basalt for kids to climb on. Back on the path, a short stretch of cliff walk with a rope handhold offers a little excitement before looping gently back around through a tree tunnel to the start of the trail.

There are other trails on the island to explore, some of which are maintained by the town or property owners, each uniquely beautiful and satisfying. But this month, I wanted to use my little platform here to express my gratitude to the North Haven Conservation Partners for the access they offer to the beauty that surrounds and reassures us. Get out there, bring a mask, and see for yourself.

Courtney Naliboff teaches theater, music, and writing on North Haven, and plays in the band Bait Bag.