Reading, MA -– As many people finish their first full month of self-isolation, residents may begin to itch for a more fruitful walk than that from their kitchens to their living rooms. The question then becomes, where can one go but still maintain social distance from others? In this regard, the Reading Town Forest offers a welcome respite.
“There have been reports of a substantial increase in the number of visitors to the Town Forest since self-isolation began. People are looking for a break from being home. Spending time in nature is a great way to take one’s mind off the pandemic” said Bill Sullivan, Chair of the Town Forest Committee.
Established in 1930 and taking up 290 acres, the Reading Town Forest offers a variety of trails and conservation lands for visitors to explore. Maps of the trails can be found on the Trail Map Library of the Reading Town website, as well as an interactive map that allows residents to explore the forest and conservation lands on their smartphones or laptops. Walkable Reading, a local community group devoted to exploring Reading on foot, has also created a comprehensive list of the loops one can walk in the Reading Forest, as well as how long each route would take to explore.
“My favorite trail starts at Wood End School, to the George Perry Trail, to the Cranberry Dam Trail, to the Cross Country Ski Trail, to the Overlook Trail to the Council Ring, then back to Wood End via the Cranberry Dam Trail,” said Sullivan.
There are two major entrance points that visitors can use; one that is off of Strout Avenue, and the other that lies next to the Wood End Elementary School.
“I would suggest that first-time visitors to the Town Forest enter at the easiest to find entrance, which is at Strout Ave. Walk past the Compost Pile and turn left toward the Pine Ridge Trail. One can explore all day” said Sullivan.
Yet, even in the forest, one has to be sure to keep social distance. As many others turn to the Reading Town Forest during this time of quarantine and self-isolation, it is especially important to be aware of one’s surroundings and keep an eye on one’s pets.
“While the Town Forest consists of 290 acres, social distancing is important to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the trails are narrow so maintaining a 6-foot separation can be difficult. The Town Forest Committee encourages the use of masks when approaching other people. There have been some reports that the COVID-19 virus can survive on the fur of pets. Even if the risk is low, we would ask dog owners to hold their dogs when approaching others as some people may be concerned about virus transmission from dogs. And as always, please bring dog waste bags with you, pick up after your dog, and take the waste out of the town Forest. Dog waste damages the environment of the Town Forest and the Ipswich River” said Sullivan.
Reading residents have been exploring and helping preserve the Reading Town Forest for over 90 years, and during this time of quarantine, the natural beauty of the Forest and the conservation lands it encompasses offer a welcome escape from the mental and physical confines of quarantine.