Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson will throw its biggest open house yet to celebrate being named the 2014 Outstanding Tree Farmers of Maine and northeast region of the United States.
The daylong free event will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, and will include nearly 50 different activities for visitors to choose from, including nature workshops, guided hikes, demonstrations, art displays, a game tent for children and forestry-related activities in honor of Tree Farm Field Day. At 2 p.m., the Live Edge Music Festival will kick off at the center’s new main building, The Barn. The live music and food will last until 6:30 p.m.
“We’re hoping to get hundreds and hundreds of people to come out,” HVNC co-founder David “Tracy” Moskovitz said. “It will be our biggest open house and showcase for everything we do here and a chance to show our appreciation to the community and the whole state.”
The festival will include live music by Luxury Sedan, Red Bird and Primo Cubano, as well as food by Jyang Lee Kitchens and the Sheepscot General Store; beer by Allagash and Geary’s breweries, served by The Liberal Cup; and games created by Aaron Weissblum, a local game maker and artist.
Located off Egypt Road in Jefferson, HVNC was founded in 2007 by Moskovitz and his wife, Bambi Jones.
“At first there were no signs for the place. We didn’t advertise,” Moskovitz said. “Little by little, people discovered it. We weren’t sure how we would like it — strangers walking around the place. Turns out, it’s been great.”
Since then, they have acquired seven parcels of forest to expanded the center to 1,000 acres. With the help of many volunteers, they’ve constructed an extensive trail network — nearly 30 miles — for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
“It’s pretty unique for this part of Maine because, in this 1,000 acres, there’s no cellar holes, there’s no stone walls. It’s always just been forested,” Moskovitz said.
Moskovitz and Jones moved to Maine in 1978 as part of the back-to-the-land movement, at a time when many city dwellers migrated to the countryside in search for a rural lifestyle. The pair have been practicing sustainable forestry ever since.
Through HVNC, they’ve been able to share their knowledge with others through workshops and educational signs they’ve placed along the ever-growing trail system.
“This has just always been in our interest,” Moskovitz said. “We’re just totally outside kind of people.”
For their efforts, Moskovitz and Jones were awarded the 2014 Outstanding Tree Farmer of Maine. A month later, they were awarded the 2014 Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Northeast Region, which includes 12 northeast states, by the American Tree Farm System.
American Tree Farm System, established in 1941, is the largest and oldest woodland certification system in America. The system is made up of 44 active state committees certifying more than 21 million acres on 42,000 Tree Farms across the U.S. Landowners can join the state program through an inspection of their property and forest planning documents.
In July, they traveled to the National Tree Farmer Convention in Pittsburgh to receive the award and give a presentation on their sustainable forestry efforts at HVNC.
“We do low-impact sustainable forestry here, and we do in sort of the most careful way, with an eye toward water quality and wildlife — we create a lot of wildlife habitats,” Moskovitz said. “We do our forestry also with an eye toward education, so we bring people out and demonstrate the kinds of things we do and the kind of trail building we do that combines forestry and recreation as well as we possibly can.”
The center’s first director was Maine guide Gary Hayward, who in 2013 passed the torch to Andy McEvoy, a 2009 Colby graduate with a background in forestry and wildlife conservation.
HVNC now has about 500 members, many of whom volunteer on a regular basis to maintain trails, construct timber frame buildings, lead guided walks and workshops and fundraise for new projects. The center also hosts about 40 programs each year, from mushroom walks and painting workshops to biathlons and trail races.
Last year, the center’s register recorded about 6,000 visits, Moskovitz said, the majority of those visits being in the fall and winter, when cross-country skiers can enjoy at least 15 miles of groomed trails and a warming hut.
“It’s got great terrain, a lot of diversity in its habitat,” Moskovitz said.
“And that makes it really great for what we do here, which is trails and hiking and naturalist courses and some forestry.”
One of the most popular spots in HVNC is the family-friendly Warbler Trail, which travels under tall white pines to Crossbill Loop, a trail that leads to a wide boardwalk that brings walkers out into the strange world of Kettle Hole Bog, home of carnivorous plants, cottongrass and ancient black spruce.
For visitors looking for a longer visit at center, a yurt, two rustic cabins and two pondside campsites are available to reserve any time of year. HVNC is working to construct a third cabin, which will be on the shore of the scenic Little Dyer Pond.