China School's Forest
A Working and Learning Forest
At China School's Forest, we’re proud to offer a unique outdoor experience designed to show the forest as a dynamic ecosystem. This town-owned property is open to public day use. Trails and outdoor classrooms demonstrate a variety of forestry management applications and feature several natural habitats.
The North Loop is closed until downed trees can be removed. Hopefully this will be completed summer 2021. All other trails are open, including the main trail to the powerlines. New interpretive signs were added in summer 2020.
As spring "marches" along, we continue to work on a variety of projects at the China School's Forest. Over the winter, we shared two different story walks and will put out another one later this spring. Students and families are enjoying them and it is fun to see the photos being linked to our facebook page.
In March, local resident, Susan Cottle, completed a Maine Master Naturalist capstone project, creating a new TREE ID TRAIL in our forest. The trail runs from the entrance by the football field/CMS up to the Stone Wall Story Learning Station. More signs will be added throughout the spring and summer.
Other forest friends used their creative energy to make forest gnomes and decorated them for several holidays. It has been fun to search for them in the forest!
As folks walk the trails, we would encourage you to help clean off the sticks and branches that fell over the winter. We hope to have a spring work day - there are always lots of projects that need to be done as a group or individually including cutting up large fallen trees, repairing some outdoor classroom areas, moving dirt to improve drainage and more. Volunteers are always needed and MUCH appreciated. If you enjoy the trails, we would encourage you to step up and help be a trail steward.
Spring 2021 Update
Summer Programs - 2019
China School's Forest Updates
Each outdoor classroom area has an interpretive sign that helps visitors understand a particular forest feature.
SILVICULTURE is the art and science of managing forests for desired outcomes, based on the biological requirements of the trees.
This area shows four different forest management treatments – each ½ acre in size. These four sections were created in the winter of 1991-1992. When you glance around, what do you notice? Are all the trees the same type, size or age? Which treatment is most likely to improve our forest and regenerate more healthy trees for future harvests?
The Seed Tree Outdoor Classroom demonstrated one type of regenerating a forest stand. The original stand was harvested in 1985. The soil was scarified (or roughed up) so the seeds could germinate. Since 1985, these trees have been left to grow.
In March 2020, this area was thinned, leaving behind quality white birch and eastern white pine. An area east of the trail was left untouched as a research project. These two areas, thinned and unthinned, will be compared over the next 20 years to demonstrate what happens with thinned and unthinned forest.
Riparian areas are habitats along the edge of a water resource such as this stream. The strip of trees act as shelter and travel corridors for wildlife. Leaving this area undisturbed during forest harvests, helps lessen the effects of soil erosion and sedimentation in the stream.
At the Wildlife Pond, visitors can learn about wetland habitats, including animals and plants. Prior to 1995, this area was a small stream that often dried up in the summer. A causeway was added for logging, and the pond was created. This is a great place to learn about macroinvertebrates, insect and amphibian life cycles and pond habitats.
This station shows a section of rock known as a BEDROCK OUTCROP. Bedrock outcrops offer a view of the rock that underlies the soil, our continent and our planet. Geologists rely on bedrock outcrops to understand the geology of Maine, including the areas covered by soil.
Using a shelterwood method of silviculture, selected trees are harvested in stages over many years. The "best" trees are left to provide seeds and shelter for the younger trees. This area has a diversity of tree species, sizes and ages. Over time, the mature trees are harvested, leaving more of the site’s resources of soil, space and water for the immature trees to grow. Shelterwoods can be useful for growing high-quality trees used for lumber and provides suitable habitat for snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer and many bird species.
The Reading Tree
The Reading Tree is a large tree house built around the trunk of a large eastern white pine. The tree has multiple large trunks because an insect called a white-pine weevil attacked the tree when it was young, creating the multiple trunks. Trees like this are often called "wolf trees" or "pasture trees" because of their large branching pattern. Come and sit in this tree house and enjoy the peaceful forest. It is a great place to read a book!
In December 2019, the roof was replaced by local contractor, Blane Casey Building Contractor, Inc. and materials were donated by Ware Butler of Waterville. Thank you!
Forest Measurement Station
Foresters use a variety of ways to measure features in the forest. Our Wood Measurement Station features a cord of wood, and a demonstration of how dimensional lumber is cut from logs.
China Primary School Pavilion
The CPS Pavilion is a great place to enjoy a picnic or an outdoor lesson. Three picnic tables, several log benches and two tables help make this space suitable for a variety of uses.
Den Trees and snags are important features in a forest.
About 1/3 of our wildlife population depend on these trees. Birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians use these trees for nesting, roosting, cover and food supply. Foresters used to remove den trees and snags because of the potential for insects and disease. We now know that many birds eat the insects which helps prevent the spread of serious insects and disease problems to other trees.
Animal Tracking Pit
The Tracking Pit is located near the pond at the edge of a cedar swamp. If you look carefully, you just might see the tracks from one of the many animals that call our forest "home".
Red Pine Plantation
The Red Pine Plantation on is the only place in the China School's Forest where trees have been intentionally planted in rows. These red pines demonstrate one way to manage forests for wood products. By planting an area with one type of tree, it is easier to harvest mature trees all at one time. These trees were planted by students in 1998. If you look at the space between each whorl of branches on a red pine, you can see how much the tree grew that year. Some of these red pines grow over one foot a year!
This area underwent a pre-commercial thinning in April 2020. Over-crowded trees, non-red pines and unhealthy trees were cut and will decay over time, releasing nutrients back into the soil.
Bird Watching Station
The Bird Watching Station was created to provide a fun place for visitors to see and hear some of the many birds that call our forest home. Common birds include black-capped chickadee, common yellow-throat warbler, nuthatch, oven bird, robin and sparrows. In May 2019, China Middle School students painted wooden cut-outs of frequently seen birds and installed them so even when you can't see real birds, you can learn what they look like.
This outdoor classroom was created by an eagle scout and later a new roof was added by another eagle scout.
China Middle School Pavilion
The CMS Pavilion is located on the main trail adjacent to the middle school soccer field. This area features four picnic tables for small gatherings, outdoor class time or a picnic. A kiosk featuring a trail map is located nearby.
Throughout the forest, there are several large tree stumps. In the early 1900's, this area was farmland and many large pasture trees grew. Some of these large trees were removed in the 1980's and 1990's for safety reasons or to open up the forest canopy for other trees to grow. The remaining tree stumps are now covered with lichen and moss that are helping the stump to decompose and creating rich soil for the next generation of trees.
Located towards the back of the property, the logging bridge crosses a small stream near a beautiful hemlock grove. It is a wonderful place to sit and be contemplative. This bridge is located near our winter 2020 harvest areas. Interpretive signs have been put at both harvest areas to explain the goals and objectives of each plot.
Fairy House Village
Whether you call them Fairy Houses or Toad Homes, this area is a place to let your imagination free. Come build a home for our real and imaginary forest friends to enjoy.
This area is still in the development stage. If you have an interest in helping to create our pollinator garden, please contact us.
The Gathering Place
Created in 2017 by a local eagle scout, the Gathering Place is a great place for small groups to gather for lessons, conversation or just to take a rest along the trails.
Stone Wall Stories
Why is there a stone wall in the middle of the forest? Who built it and what does it teach us about Maine's past? This area was once farmland. Forests were cut and fields were plowed for crops in the mid-late 1800's. Fields were needed for livestock. Much of Maine has rocky soils left from glaciers long ago. The rocks were piled along the edge of the field, creating these stone walls. In the early 1900's, due to economic hard times and centralized "grocery stores", many farms were abandoned or the land was not used for agriculture. Trees began to reclaim these fields to create the forest you see today.
Maine Wildlife Trail
Created by students in Mrs. Maroon's 5th grade class, you will find a variety of wooden Maine animal silhouettes. This trail loop starts near the seed tree area. Brochures are located at the beginning of this trail to describe what you might discover as you walk along in the woods.
Our TREE TRAIL is coming soon. Stay tuned for more information!