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Every trail a vista to share

With rakes and clippers, Bill Harman and his team of volunteers keep Westford’s paths clear so all can enjoy

By Chris Lisinski

clisinski@lowellsun.com

WESTFORD — Bill Harman walked along a neatly carved path through the woods, occasionally pausing halfway through a sentence to crouch and pick up a stray wrapper or piece of rubber from the ground.

Cleaning up the town’s natural settings is, at this point, second nature to him — after all, every week for more than five years, Harman has organized a group of volunteers to spend an hour walking through Westford’s trails, clearing any debris so they remain accessible to others.

On Tuesday, though, the efforts took a new shape: Harman and his team of about 10 worked on a

Please see TRAILS/5

Bill Harman, a founder of the Westford Conservation Trust, goes over a map of the town’s network of trails during a visit to new trail behind the Nabnasset School.

SUN / CHRIS LISINSKI


He’s clearing trails and opening vistas

TRAILS/ From Page 1 brand-new trail behind the Nabnasset School, one that they played a key role in opening ahead of the school year.

He stopped well into the woods during a Friday walkthrough of the new trail and looked around before remarking on its beauty.

“You can barely make out the school,” he said.

Harman, 78, has lived in town with his wife for the better part of five decades. They were among the founders of the Westford Conservation Trust, a widely involved group across town, and remained active until about five years ago.

Once he retired and scaled back his work with the Trust, Harman settled on a new way to keep giving back to Westford’s environment: ensuring the trails that he loves so much remain beautiful.

The town has more than 60 miles of trail packed into its conservation lands and woods, winding around now-inactive granite quarries and quiet brooks. Harman’s knowledge of them is intricate — in conversation, he can rattle off details about specific boulders along one trail or the view from another. (He does not have a favorite, but he finds the Tom Paul trail that starts at town hall “especially wonderful.”) Every Sunday night, Harman picks a certain part of the area — sometimes on a whim, sometimes after he has heard a specific trail needs work — and emails about 100 people, telling them where to meet on Tuesday morning if they want to help.

Most Tuesdays, 10 or more people show up, Harman said, and they walk the trails with tools in hand, clearing downed branches and overgrown sections as well as any trash that has been littered.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, doesn’t matter if it’s snowing,” Harman said. “We just go out anyway. In any one year, that’s 52 trails that have gotten trimmed.” This summer, the group helped with a new sort of project: opening a new trail in town in the woods behind the Nabnasset School. The effort started years earlier thanks to locals Jeff and Alisha Hillham, Harman said, and picked up steam in recent weeks when the school’s administration got on board.

Volunteers outlined a suitable path with ribbon and paint, and this week, Harman led a team through the woods with rakes and clippers to carve a trail into the landscape. His hope is that the school will make it part of its curriculum, exposing students to the nature just outside their windows.

But either way, Harman will be out on another trail next Tuesday with whoever is free to show up, happy to give their time back to preserve something they love.

“It’s still fun for me to be outside,” Harman said. “It’s not really work. It’s just a nifty hobby.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.

Westford conservationist Bill Harman collects bits of trash as he walks the newly opened trail behind the Nabnasset School. “It’s not really work,” he said. “It’s just a nifty hobby.”

SUN / CHRIS LISINSKI

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