Submitted by Jaci Edwards,
for the Jenks Nature Trail Working Group
Stroll around the Jenks Nature Trail, that welcome patch of shady green in front of the high school and library, and you’re walking in one of the oldest historical artifacts in Bedford, an arboretum with roots going back before the turn of the last century. Those two stone walls running parallel to the High School mark part of the original cow run that went from the Fitch Tavern barn across The Great Road toward Hanscom Field. At the time, the Jenks family lived in what is now called Fitch Tavern and their farm encompassed much of what is today’s Town Campus, as well as the St. Michael’s land and the Reuben Duren Way development.
Charles W. Jenks (elected the Town’s first Tree Warden in 1898) “planted numerous saplings” along the cow run–which, according to oral family history, he got from the Arnold Arboretum–creating an arboretum of his own.
The once-flourishing arboretum was lost to neglect over time. In 1963, a group of Town volunteers developed a plan to bring it back. Today, the volunteer Jenks Nature Trail Working Group—which includes current and past members of Bedford’s Selectmen, Library Trustees, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Historic Preservation Committee, Arbor Resource Committee and the Department of Public Works (DPW)– is hoping to finish the project by revitalizing the arbor stock and adding signage.
The DPW installed the first identifying sign in April 2011.
And now, with the very generous support of the Bedford Cultural Council, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Department of Public Works, we’ve started to add informational labels on the trees.
As in most arboretums, the signs all include the Latin name italicized in the top line and the common ENGLISH NAME in the second. The third line varies. It includes the tree’s place of origin, whether it is a New England native red pine . . . a non-native Scotch pine. . . an invasive Norway maple . . . or when it was planted
Now that the weather’s agreeable and leaves are on the trees, think of passing some quiet time outside in the heart of your town. Enjoy that you’re walking where the cows once ran. Check out the bark on the red pine and compare it to the Scotch pine. See how similar they are, while still being so distinct. The Jenks Nature Trail is a lovely place to make new history for yourself—or to take your own stroll down memory lane.