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October 19, 2013

Family wants pipeline out of forest

Trust owners say proposal would be 'devastating'

HARPERSFIELD — Perched behind the wheel of his pickup truck as it rumbled along a rutty dirt road slicing through his family’s forest preserve, Bruce Kernan of South Worcester pointed to his right to a small cliff masked by a stand of trees.

“That’s where my mother’s monument is,” said Kernan, 60, a veteran forestry consultant, as the truck careened up a steep hill that would lead to a trail heading to Clapper Lake.

Clapper Lake is an 11.9-acre bog lake that is surrounded by pristine wetlands, including 35.8 acres of peatland. The lake and the site of the monument to Kernan’s mother sit inside a tract of land consisting of nearly 1,000 acres.

The land is known as the Charlotte Forest. Legally, it’s known as the Henry S. Kernan Land Trust property.

A retired forester, Henry S. Kernan, now 97, lives in a retirement home in Cooperstown. In 1946, he purchased what had been abandoned farmland after deciding it had potential to be converted into a woodlot preserve. The soils at that point, Bruce Kernan said, were not hospitable for the kinds of hardwood trees his father wanted to cultivate.

So Henry Kernan, a former forestry columnist for The Daily Star, planted hundreds of pine trees to help condition the soils in a way that would allow the land to sustain his plan for a managed forest.

Bruce Kernan said he and his four siblings decided they wanted to keep their father’s vision intact, which is why they created the land trust instead of dividing the tract up and selling it off in pieces, even though they could have made a lot of money by doing so.

In recent years, he said, they have had to contend with various threats and hassles involving the property, including insects and property-line disputes with adjoining land owners. But one threat he said they could not have foreseen was the $683-million project known as the Constitution Pipeline.

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