An educational, family-friendly way to get outside is nestled like a hidden treasure in the middle of Bristol. This special nature trail at PWA’s Bearce Allen Preserve was put in place in the fall of 2009 as a cumulative result of youth and adults in our community using their talents in a fun and meaningful way.
The self-guided interpretive trail features 21 numbered stations along an easy trail that spotlight points of interest about the geology, plants, and animals of the preserve, and forest management practices. In addition to the 21 interpretive stations, there also are ten tree species identification signs and four large display panels discussing timber harvesting, forest ecology and succession, forest fire ecology, and forestry practices. A guide describing the points of interest is available at the preserve’s kiosk.
You can download the interpretive trail guide here.
Changes over time
Past uses of the land as a tannery, grazing field, and timber farm, as well as local historical events, also are discussed along the trail. One of the stations focuses on the 1953 forest fire that swept through the eastern part of Bristol, burning the back part of the preserve. Fire is a natural part of a forest’s lifecycle and important to renew species diversity.
The comparison of early succession and late succession forest stages can be noticed in the different areas of the preserve. At one part of the preserve, there is a mature white pine forest that was untouched by the fire and nearby is a young forest filled with birch and poplar trees as a result of the burning. This interpretive station draws attention to an interesting connection between the history of the land and the natural environment.
The preserve underwent a stand improvement cut in the winter of 2014-15. Approximately 90 trees were removed in order to improve the growing conditions for the remaining trees.
Directions to the Interpretive Trail
To reach the preserve, take Bristol Rd (Route 130) 7.1 miles to Sproul Hill Rd on the left. Travel 0.2 miles on Sproul Hill Rd, then turn right onto Austin Road. The preserve and trail head are on the left, with a small pullout for parking on the right. The preserve is open to hunting, so visitors are encourage to wear blaze orange during hunting season.