The Rosemary Littledale Rieser Trail and Sample’s Woods Project
Just in time to savor sunlight filtering through the pine woods and hear the sounds of frogs and birds from a mossy bog and a rushing brook, Norwich will soon have a new trail for walking and observing nature. Thanks to the generosity of 105 members of the community, the Norwich Conservation Commission, and the Rieser children – Abby, Tim, Len and Ken Willis – a conservation easement and designated trail is being added to the 11-acre property that borders Blood Brook, Hopson Road, and nearby Pine Tree Road.
The Rieser family has been an important part of the Norwich landscape since the late Rosemary Littledale Rieser (pictured below) and her esteemed physicist husband Leonard first took up residence in the village of Norwich in 1953. While Leonard immersed himself in academic life and administration at Dartmouth, starting in the Physics Department and progressing to Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Rosemary devoted herself to raising her family, tending to home, vegetable and flower gardens, enjoying the outdoors, and sharing her talents and thoughtfulness through volunteer community activities. She loved walking her dog and interacting with neighbors. Rosemary and Leonard were among the original signers of the Warner Meadows conservation agreement held by the Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT), and they further demonstrated their commitment to conservation by purchasing and maintaining the adjacent Sample’s Woods parcel beginning in 1965.
Today, a 24 member group owns and maintains the meadow on which a portion of the trail access easement will reside. In the years following Rosemary’s death in 2012, the Rieser children decided to honor their mother’s memory, love of walking, and devotion to Norwich by granting public access to a trail to be designated as “The Rosemary Littledale Rieser Trail”. To guarantee protection of the pine grove, wetlands, ski jump, and ecologically significant brook corridor, a fundraising campaign for $50,000 was organized in late March with a team assembled from local residents and friends of Leonard and Rosemary Rieser, the UVLT, and the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA). Over six weeks, this hard-working group raised the sum required with enough additional resources to support trail building and stewardship.
While the length of the trail is relatively short, the richness of the area speaks volumes to scenic quality, open space, abundant birdlife, beaver activity, historic significance, and environmental education. During the Earth Day walk and talk presented by UVLT and UVTA, Lindsay Putnam, an environmental educator at the Marion Cross School, explained how students learn, share, and begin to comprehend natural systems through science class outings she leads to the meadow and brook.
Another feature of this special spot is the naturally contoured ski jump, known to former Ford Sayre ski jumpers like Mike Holland, Walter Malmquist, and Buff McLaughry, as Sample’s Jump. Paul Sample, the local painter of familiar scenes around the valley, owned the land prior to the Rieser family and the jump bears his name. Visitors to the woods can view the jump takeoff and landing and imagine themselves flying through the air as many young boys did during the winters of the 50’s and 60’s.
The Rieser family’s 50 year ownership and care of this parcel is exemplary, and it is thanks to their vision for its future and the help of many generous and thoughtful friends and neighbors, that its future status and use will be permanently protected for all of our benefit. Like the Bill Ballard Trail and the Milton Frye Natural Area, it is wonderful to be able to recognize and celebrate a similar conservation spirit, that of Rosemary Rieser, with this very personal and public project. After an anticipated easement closing in late June, information about the trail, its status, and how to access it will be available at uvlt.org and uvtrails.org.