April 19, 2022

What’s New Outdoors at IMS

Spring Update
What’s New Outdoors at IMS

Now that spring has arrived in Barre, yogis are able to make more use of IMS’s beautiful outdoor spaces. Here, IMS Director of Operations Pete Baker describes recent updates to campus grounds and gives a preview of projects on the wish list for our woodland areas.

What work has been going on in the outdoor areas at IMS this past fall and winter?

The new trails and bridges in the west woods have had an update. So, if you’re standing on the steps of the Retreat Center, facing out, this is the wooded area across Pleasant Street, within “the loop” that yogis walk bounded by Pleasant Street, Mill Road, Old Stage Road, and Lover’s Lane.

Because the wetlands run through this area, there are a lot more water features here than in the east woods (the area to the back of the Retreat Center). So, we have added more bridges. For example, there is a new bridge over the beaver dam at Gaston Pond.

We’ve also added some non-skid strips to the bridges to make them safer for walking. We will continue to do this throughout the spring and summer. We added some railings to some of the more narrow, higher bridges to make them safer and easier for walking too.

In addition to bridges over streams we also had bog bridges installed in areas that are frequently muddy. These are simple bridges, two planks wide, that make it easier to walk through wet sections of trail during the wetter seasons. Now that we see which areas tend to get wet during the spring, we will be adding another stretch or two of bog bridges, but for now, they are all done. The new trails all have their signs up and yogis have been using them and it seems to be going well.

IMS hired a company to help us plan and implement all the trail work. They acquired the necessary approvals we needed to go ahead with the work from the local Conservation Committee. We needed this because the trail work was within and near wetlands.

What’s on the horizon for the outdoor areas at IMS?

We are working on a forestry plan that, hopefully, we will be able to put in place with a federal grant.

Part of this work will involve cleaning up the land directly across Pleasant St. that IMS bought several years ago. This area had been a chicken farm so there’s a lot of old farm equipment, structures, and other materials that needs to be cleaned up so that we can bring the area back to a more natural state. We’re hoping the grant will enable us to get all of that cleaned up.

Part of our plan also involves controlling the invasive plant species, such as bittersweet. We’d also like to add kestrel boxes and homes for other birds that are native to the area. We plan to plant native shrubs and other plants that are beneficial to the local wildlife. For example, we’d likely plant elderberries, blueberries, and other plants that provide food for the birds and insects. We’ll also add wildflowers and other plants that will be beneficial to the pollinators.

What projects are on the IMS outdoor wish list?

We have thought about creating a labyrinth in that new area too. There are a lot of nice features there such as some old barn foundations and stone walls that would make a beautiful park-like meditation space.

We’d also like to do a second phase of work on the trails. We’d like to have a trail that would go from the northern end of the trail system through the farm area and loop back to where the trail starts. These are pretty areas with a nice view, so it would be great to include them into the existing trails.

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For an interview with IMS donor Caroline Gabel, who has given generously to support IMS’s recent outdoor improvements, click here.

Check out some of the creatures—small and large—that our wildlife camera at Gaston Pond captured enjoying the new trail updates, here.