Kent Allen has been a man on a mission to restore the forests of Londonderry to their original glory. He and countless volunteers were busy as bees this year, toiling in the soil to cut back and clean up the Southeast area of the Kent Allen Forest in an effort to prepare of this spring’s endeavors. The main focus will be on getting the forest ready for Londonderry’s upcoming tricentennial celebration in 2019.
Some of Londonderry’s elementary students got their hands dirty by planting 12 trees off Pillsbury Road with Allen as a mentor. He planted four American Hazelnut trees himself, while Curt Laffin and Meredith Allen supervised the students from the North, South and Matthew Thornton Elementary Schools. The kids planted some walnut, chestnut and hickory trees, and may get to add some to their own school yards. In a review of this year’s projects, Allen said “three lots of nuts” were given to Superintendent Scott Laliberte for the schools to germinate for springtime planting. If anything grows, the students will be able to have some walnut, hickory and beech trees of their own to nurture.
Planting the new trees isn’t just for show, though. Allen reported that Greg Jordan, a forester from the UNH Extension Service, discussed ideas with members of the Planning Board to put down more mature flowering trees in the spring. These ones of trees are not only pretty, but some of them have a long history that dates back to the first settlers of Londonderry.
The Scot-Irish Presbyterians that founded the area in 1719 called it “Nutfield” for a reason. The land was covered in nut bearing trees like walnuts and chestnuts. The settlers us these tall, strong trees for food and furniture. However, the onset of cancers and blights and late 1800s decimated these local trees. Efforts have been made by scientists to create more impervious breeds of trees that are resistant to the illnesses of old.
The American Chestnut Foundation approved the use of Kent Allen Forest to try and re-establish the long gone species in Londonderry. According to Allen, TACF granted “six American Chestnut seedlings” to the area last spring. Those are some of the ones that were planted by the school children.
Looking forward, Allen and his crew plan to continue working on the trails in and around the forest so locals can enjoy the new trees. Recycled Asphalt Pavement had already been applied to the Morrison House and Outlook trails, thanks to assistance from the Department of Public Works. Allen hopes to have more RAP laid on the Adams Pond trail by Memorial Day. He also wishes to paint the crosswalks at the Common and the Morrison House by then as well.
The Kent Allen Forest is located off of the town common at the intersection of Pillsbury Road and Mammoth Road. The 12 acre parcel was originally part of Mack’s Apples. The Mack family donated part of the land in 1984, and the town bought the rest later on. Allen has been dedicated to preserving and beautifying the forests and cemeteries of Londonderry as its sexton since 2005. The town forest was renamed after Allen last May in a dedication ceremony where Town Manager Kevin Smith presented Allen with a plaque bearing his name for future generations to be inspired by every time they visit the forest.