Richard J. Bonier
“This forest is preserved through the care and foresight of Dick Bonier and his family,” is inscribed on Dick’s bench, celebrating the Bonier family’s gift in 2018. For over fifty years, Dick Bonier walked a daily morning path through this beautiful 20-acre fragment of the oak history forest that used to cover most of New England. AVIS has improved and added to the loop trail, constructing boardwalks to allow casual visitors to stroll through the partly wetland forest that features majestic pine, birch, shagbark hickory, ironwood, maple, oak, fern, wintergreen, skunk cabbage, and other species.
This loop trail is filled with contrasting textures: the moist soil underfoot, the mosses and ferns along the trail, the shaggy shagbark hickory bark, the smooth gray “muscles” of the ironwood trunks, and the delicate curls of birch bark. The dying white ash trees along the trail show damage from the Emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that is killing ash trees across the country. As you look, you’ll see that woodpeckers have peeled back sections of bark, exposing the bore-holes that these insects leave behind. Dying trees create an opening in the tree canopy, allowing more light to reach the soil and begin the cycle of regrowth.
Dick’s Trail is accessible from Monahan Lane, where there is ample parking at the trailhead. The path follows a bubbling stream as it falls northwest and downhill towards the Merrimack River. Some edges of the reservation are still lined by the centuries-old stone walls built when the land was likely part of the historic Bailey farm. At the furthest reach, where the stream passes out of the reservation, is a large, flat granite boulder that bears marks of the ancient iron “plug and feather” method of rock quarrying used when West Andover farms were settled during the eighteenth century. The gift of this healthy forest, given within Dick Bonier’s lifetime, was the result of his planning for many decades and suggestions from Harold Rafton.
Once apart of the historic Bailey Farm said to encompass 700 acres along the Merrimack River. This property was given to AVIS in 1983 by Helen Collins Dooley in memory of her parents, Joseph Morris Collins and Margaret Scannell Collins, and her grandparents, Morris Collins and Mary Schofield Collins. At one time, the grandparents owned 25 acres of farmland along Pine Street.