Mink Brook Corridor
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Encompassing more than 40% of the land area of the town, the Mink Brook watershed is the largest in Hanover. It runs through the heart of town, visible at a large number of locations. Its headwaters rise in small rivulets that tumble off Moose Mountain. Its branches flow along Three Mile, Dogford, Hanover Center, and Ruddsboro Roads, and parallel to King Road. Mink Brook passes through Etna Village, crosses Stevens and Great Hollow Roads, and flows westerly just south of Greensboro Road, passing under Routes 120 and 10 to reach the Connecticut River. By the time it reaches the electric company sub-station at the foot of South Main Street, Mink Brook is greatly widened by the back-up of water from Wilder Dam.
In the early days of Hanover, Mink Brook was an important source of water power. Eleazer Wheelock, the first president of Dartmouth College, built one of the first water-powered mills near Buck Road. Etna Village used to be called Mill Village because of the numerous water-powered grain and other mills that operated there.
Mink Brook provides important wildlife habitat in Hanover - a sanctuary for a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many aquatic species. The northern reach of Rix Ledges, to the south of Greensboro Road and the brook, is an historic home to peregrine falcons.
Mink Brook passes through much historical farmland. A farm in Etna Village has special historical significance as the home of Laura Bridgman, a blind, deaf and mute girl who became a noted educational success story in the nineteenth century. A historical marker has been placed there in her memory. Land in the two Dana properties in the vicinity of the Dana and Ruddsboro Road intersection, and a few stretches between Great Hollow Road and Route 120, are protected.
The Bottomless Pit, an exemplary level bog and acidic seepage swamp, is zoned "Nature Preserve". The rest of the upland reaches of Mink Brook are unprotected from development. Further down the brook, the stretch from Route 120 to the Connecticut River is largely protected. The Mink Brook Natural Area, the Tanzi Tract, and the Wheelock Mill Site are owned by the town, but not permanently protected. The newly protected Mink Brook Nature Preserve is owned by the Hanover Conservation Council. The Mink Brook corridor has important potential for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and other recreation.
Land bordering Mink Brook should be protected for the public benefit in a continuous strip along its entire length from Moose Mountain to the Connecticut River. Focus should be placed on protecting a corridor where development is dense, adding some larger parcels of land to maintain open spaces, protecting important wildlife habitat, and connecting with other protected lands. Protection of a continuous corridor through the stream valley would involve at least thirty privately held properties and hundreds of acres of land. The Mink Brook Conservation Area includes the proposed Etna Walkway, described after the open space benefits of Mink Brook.
Remains of a dam on Mink Brook behind historic buildings in Etna Village. (Photo in print edition)
Open Space Benefits
- Water Supply - The hydric soils along the brook are important areas for ground water recharge. A stratified drift aquifer identified by the U.S. Geological Survey underlies Mink Brook.
- Surface Water - Mink Brook and its numerous named and unnamed tributaries comprise the most important watershed in Hanover. It is a "fourth order stream", subject to the provisions of the State Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Act.
- Wetlands - There are many wetlands along the brook - in its upper reaches on Moose Mountain, south of lower Dogford Road, a reach of about a mile just west of Great Hollow Road, and areas on both sides of Route 10 near the brook's confluence with the Connecticut River.
- Wildlife Habitat - Much of the area is undeveloped and thus provides undisturbed wildlife habitat. Deer, porcupine, pheasant, grouse, fisher and fox abound in this area, as do songbirds and birds of prey. Bear, moose, and mink are also observed frequently, as are otter occasionally. The westerly reaches of Mink Brook also are important fish habitat. Salmon have been stocked there in recent years. Trout are reported to reproduce in at least three locations.
- Biodiversity - The area is largely forested with mixed hard and soft woods species, but also contains numerous fields. There is a full complement of woodland plants including ferns and flowering species. The fields abound in wildflowers in the summer. "Fragmentation from development would impact natural features. Expanding protected areas adjacent to the Dana Property would increase protected forestlands and watershed quality of Mink Brook." (Natural Communities and Rare Plants of Hanover, New Hampshire, 1999). This area has not been actively studied for rare species. (See also Mink Brook Nature Preserve Habitat Assessment and Inventory, 1999).
- Productive Soils - There is a wide range of soil types along Mink Brook. Prime agricultural soils of state and national importance lie along the Ruddsboro, Etna and Greensboro Roads, as well as on the Mink Brook Nature Preserve. Numerous fields are still being hayed and used as pasture.
- Recreation - The Mink Brook area contains numerous hiking and skiing trails on private and public lands. Much of the area between Route 120 and the Connecticut River is protected and has many developed trails. There are also trails on private lands along the upper reaches of Mink Brook on Moose Mountain. The lower reaches are within easy walking distance of Hanover's most populous neighborhoods.
- Connections and Buffers - Protection of Mink Brook along its complete length would establish a greenbelt and trail running from the Connecticut River to Moose Mountain. Mink Brook passes through Etna Village, comes within sight of the Appalachian Trail (AT), and leads up towards the trail network on Moose Mountain. The Etna Walkway could also provide connections to trails in other areas.
- Class VI Roads - There are no Class VI roads in the proposed Mink Brook Corridor.
- Scenic Assets - The Mink Brook Corridor was cited in the High Priority List of the Scenic Locales report. Specific sites within the corridor that are particularly striking include farms on Two Mile Road and Greensboro Road, and waterfalls along Ruddsboro Road.
- Historic Sites and Cultural Landscapes - There are many historic farm sites and buildings in the Mink Brook corridor. Remains of several dams are visible in Etna Village and elsewhere. In the 1800's, these dams powered mills for grinding wheat, millet, corn, etc. for the farming community of Hanover. Only the Wheelock Mill dam site near Buck Road is protected.
- Education - The area provides an opportunity for observation of diverse wildlife habitat and landforms. Historic sites and cultural landscapes represent a cross-section of late 18th/early 19th century rural and village life. Winter in Monahan Valley on one of Hanover's oldest farms. (Photo in print edition)