Steele Trail - Fox Den - Brook Loop. Forest management at work and a trail that's calling for mountain bikes.
This 2.3 mile loop features a waterfall and several narrow boardwalks. It is also connected to the extensive 7.4 miles of trails found at Smith Preserve if you're looking for a longer journey. Dogs are allowed here and the trails are rated as easy, moderate. A limited portion of the trails are accessible for all. For more info, please contact the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.
There is plenty of parking across the street from this trailhead, located at 76 Guinea Road in Kennebunkport. Cross the street to find the large stone trailhead marker, then follow the Steele trail until you reach the Fox Den trail on the right. This is the start of the loop, which will wind around, connecting you with the Brook Loop trail.
I learned a bit about the Forest Management Project happening in this preserve, by reading signs along the way. Here is a summary for you:
Forest management is the ecologically sensitive, sustainable harvesting of trees. The idea is to "help sustain a healthy, vigorous forest". Thinning older trees in the canopy helps other trees to grow. It also creates gaps in the forest so light can reach the young trees. The harvesting process is selective - legacy trees are left standing. These older trees are vital to wildlife because they are often hollow with large crowns, allowing them to provide nesting sites for numerous species and produce mast for wildlife to eat. And if you were wondering, mast is the fruit of forest trees and shrubs, such as acorns and other nuts.
Why would this preserve need forest management? Well apparently, there was a fire in '47 that burned organic matter from the forest floor, resulting in low nutrient soil. The soil fertility has been slowly rebuilding, but needs a little help. Since the forests are dominated by few species, they are at risk of attack from pathogens. According to the signs, "Harvesting of trees in a planned way will increase the species diversity of the forest." I guess this will lead to a healthier forest for trees and wildlife. There you have it. The things you can learn from a sign in the woods.
Enjoy this trail!