Little Tom Mountain

Little Tom Mountain is a 73-acre (300,000 m2) nature preserve in Holyoke, Massachusetts and is managed by the Trustees of Reservations. The land was purchased in 2002 by a joint effort of the Trustees of Reservations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club from the holders of the former Mt. Tom Ski area. The Trustees and the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club have a cooperative management approach of the area and run an environmental education program together. In 2002, four entities joined together to acquire and protect the 396 acres on the eastern slope of Mt. Tom that had previously been home to the Mt. Tom ski area. This protection effort was led by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and ultimately included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, and The Trustees of Reservations. These 396 acres included the existing quarry site, which was slated to expand to 90 acres. The land transaction negotiations were lengthy and difficult, but were ultimately successful. Each organization/agency purchased a portion of the property as follows: Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) purchased 144.7 acres for $1.3 million, mostly along the northern side of the property abutting the existing Mount Tom State Reservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 140.8 acres for $1.1 million, covering most of the area previously managed for ski slopes.’ The Trustees purchased 73.5 acres of the hill called ‘Little Mountain’ or ‘Little Tom’, between the base lodge and I-91, for $300,000 and The Holyoke Boys & Girls Club purchased 21.7 acres at the base of the mountain, including the base lodges, wave pool, and other improvements, for $300,000 for use as a summer camp. Also, the quarry operation was allowed to continue, but was contained within a nine-acre area. DCR received an option to purchase the quarry parcel, which totals 16 acres, on or after August 31, 2012 or after two million tons of stone were removed. The four organizations have agreed to coordinate management of the 396 acres and will eventually develop a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the management goals and responsibilities of the partnership. The Trustees and the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club run an environmental education program and manage the area together.

The Mt. Tom ridge is part of the Metacomet Range. The bedrock underlying these ridges resembles a layered cake of alternating layers of basalt and sandstone. The ridge adjacent to Mt. Tom to the SSW is called East Mountain. The line of ridges crosses the Connecticut River at the north end of Mt. Tom, and continues with a bend to the NE towards the Holyoke Range. East Mountain and the Holyoke Range share many of the interesting and significant geologic and biological characteristics that are described in this document. The bulk of the Mt. Tom ridge consists of an exposed layer of basalt. From the air, the ridge looks like a vast, flat tabletop, leaning mostly to the east and a little to the south. The slopes of the former Mount Tom Ski Area, which are mostly on United States Fish and Wildlife Service land, descend this tilted tabletop roughly from west to east. The west edge of the Mt. Tom ridge is a sharp escarpment of cliffs and talus slopes. This feature gives rise to the common name traprock, which is derived from the Swedish word for step. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail follows the top edge of this escarpment, and has views toward the west. Away from the edge of the escarpment, the topography near the top of the main ridge is a landscape of small outcrops and ledges alternating with hollows, which sometimes hide vernal pools. To the east, between Mt. Tom, there is a much smaller and somewhat more rounded version of the main ridge. It is named Little Mountain on the USGS topographic map and is also commonly called Little Tom Mountain. The traprock layer at the top of Little Tom Mountain is younger than the traprock layer that makes up the main slope of Mt. Tom and the sandstone layer in between these two layers subsides below the surface of Little Tom Mountain. Don’t forget to check out this place in Holyoke too.

The former Mount Tom Ski Area property is a long trapezoid/rectangle, which begins at the top of the ridge at the west escarpment, descends the slopes of the main ridge, climbs over Little Tom Mountain, and ends close to I-91 at its eastern boundary. Within the parcel, DCR land is a fairly narrow strip along the northern parcel boundary, adjacent to the Mt. Tom State Reservation to the north. USFWS land is in the SW quadrant of the parcel, and covers most of the former ski slopes. The Trustees’ Little Tom Reservation is the northern half of Little Tom Mountain, of which the southern half is Department of Conservation and Recreation land. The quarry, which will continue its operation for several years, is west of Little Tom Mountain, at its base, and directly north of the Boys & Girls Club land. With the exception of the ski slopes and a couple of small fields, most of the landscape is forested. The forest on the main ridge is mostly deciduous, and on Little Tom Mountain it is mostly a mixed forest of hemlock, hardwoods, and some white pine. The ski slopes and some fields are in a non-woody old-field condition and the old field next to “the billboard” (a billboard overlooking I-91 at the northeast corner of Trustees land) is dominated by red cedar, shrubs, saplings, and swallowwort. The deciduous forests are for the most part typical, dry, fairly acidic, oak-dominated forests. Often they are relatively open forests, with a low, patchy canopy and an ericaceous shrub layer. Scattered along the main slope and in places on the southern end of the Little Tom Mountain ridgetop there are pockets of richer, more neutral soil, often associated with seeps, where a relatively sparse shrub layer and a more diverse ground cover of sedges, herbs, and ferns, and some rare plants occur – these are pleasant places to walk. There are a dozen and a half vernal pools throughout the property, a reservoir, several ponds, a stream which flows down the main slope and then north into Lake Bray, a number of intermittent streams, and numerous seeps. The large vernal pool at the top of Little Tom Mountain is a classic, perfect example of a confined-basin pool. If you are ever in need of a cabinet maker, click here.


34 Front St. Door #18, Springfield, MA 01151, United States

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