Flora and Fauna of Mohegan Park

During my walk through the park, I heard Chickadees, Canadian Geese, and Mallard Ducks. I also saw and heard squirrels (some of which were quarreling over matters only known by them).

Some of the trees that I found in the park were Eastern White Pine, Red Maple, White Cedar, and Eastern Hemlock. There was some skunk cabbage emerging from the cold, snow-covered soil. The rhododendrons were also meticulously kept along the pathways, while vines covered the arbor-walkway over the dam. I only saw a few buds from the deciduous trees; most of the trees that lined the paths were shrubs and conifers.

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History of the Acquisition of Mohegan Park

Mohegan Park was intended to be created in 1896. In 1906, six private individuals agreed to donate 200 acres of land to construct the park, which they wanted to use as an area for Norwich residents to enjoy. Dr. John Rockwell was the first donor, giving almost 70 acres to the land; the other donors followed suit.

In 1908, the Board of Parks Commissioners chose the name of the space to be “Mohegan Park,” to recognize Uncas, sachem of the Mohegan indigenous people. By 1934, the land space grew to 350 protected acres. Most recently, in 1989, the city bought 31 more acres to add to the site, expanding the park to its current size of 381 acres.

Mohegan Park is one of Norwich’s largest land preserves and contains a beach, several pavilions, walkways, playscapes, fishing areas, and the office of the Norwich animal control. Local high schools and middle schools use the park for cross-country practices, while area residents frequent the park to walk along the trails, admire the scenery of the rose garden, and appreciate the park’s natural beauty.

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Map of Mohegan Park

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Mohegan Park – Spring Break Phenology

Mohegan Park is currently the largest forested area in my home city of Norwich, CT. The main center of the park is Spaulding Pond, from which a running track is centered around. The local animal shelter is located within the park along with a few playgrounds and rose gardens.

In 1963, the earthworks that held back Spaulding Pond gave way; it was furthered by 100 years of soil saturation and unchecked growth of shrubs and trees. The water and ice flowed from the park to downtown Norwich, destroying historic buildings, damaging the east side of the Turner-Stanton Mill and killing six people. This was then known as the “Great Flood of Norwich.”

The park also contains a smaller skating pond which has provided overflow protection from the dam since 1968. There are several natural communities within the woods, including deciduous tree species like Oak, Maple, and Eastern White Pine and small shrubs.

SOURCE: Moody, Thomas (2013). “A Swift and Deadly Maelstrom: The Great Norwich Flood of 1963, A Survivors’ Story.”

Norwich Bulletin Article about the Individual Stories of the Flood.

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Classifying Centennial Woods as a Natural Community

I would classify the pine stand within Centennial Woods as an Oak-Pine Northern Hardwood Forest. One reason why I would give it this classification is because of the Eastern White Pine, Birches, Maples, and Oaks that can be found within it. Within that category, I would call it a White Pine- Red Oak -Black Oak forest. Animals that frequent the area include white-tailed deer, grey squirrels, and chipmunks, all of which I have seen in my spot. Although this community is typically found in Southern New England, Vermont has pockets of it along the Champlain Valley. The bedrock is short and shallow with well-drained soils, thus providing optimal growing conditions for successional species like the Eastern White Pine.

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Changes in Hydrology and Substrate

The warmer weather has accompanied many changes to the Centennial Woods pine stand. Since the area is on a slope, I noticed that some of the organic layer was missing from the top of the hill but was especially present near the meandering stream. The trail was saturated with water, which I assume is caused by the freezing/thawing cycles of late winter. I hypothesize that the trail will become less clear as the water flows across the landscape and blurs the trail and the natural land.

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Biofinder in Centennial Woods

I found that, after using Biofinder, that most of the Centennial Woods area was classified as a conifer forest and not a mixed deciduous forest. There are class 2 wetlands across the highway and areas with “uncommon species present.” My stand within Centennial Woods is not listed as a rare natural community.

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Food for Thought

Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here that I received my bride; here my dead lie, pillowed on the loving breast of our everlasting hills.
I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

-Calvin Coolidge, 1928

Faced by conflicting views of my upcoming transfer opportunity to George Washington, I am consistently reminded of the natural beauty that exists around my room in University Heights, Centennial Woods, and on my walks to and from practice in the morning. The Vermont scenery is more than just beautiful, but rather reminiscent of the adventures in nature that I had as a child. I’ve called this place my home since I was ten and wanted to go to college here since before I could remember. Is it worth wanting to give up? Are the opportunities going to be better for my soul than the experience of walking in the woods and tracking snowshoe hare across the landscape? I am more than just conflicted, but rather “torn.”

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Yet Another Walk in the Woods

Sloan and I decided to spend some time this afternoon visiting Centennial. The snowfall last night made for some perfect tracking opportunities and a very refreshing end to the week. Although we spent a lot of time slipping around on ice, the sights were well worth it.

It appears that someone wanted to make a meal out of this tasty tree.

Dog tracks, easily the most identifiable and prevalent species on our walk.

The faintest snowshoe hare track, as indicated by the gait and size of the foot.

If you look closely enough, you can see the bore holes of woodpeckers.

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Hobblebush or Bust

Today was full of interesting discoveries at Centennial Woods. I identified this plant, with the help of Walt, as a Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides).  After researching more about it, I found that it is a small, shrublike plant, named after the hikers tripped on its vines.  Although the Hobblebush prefers high-altitude areas, it can survive in nutrient-poor lowlands.

Moral of the story: if you don’t know, ask.

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