Our only lot in Shapleigh, this 12,62 acre forested property is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Back and Walnut Hill Roads. The back boundaries are marked by intermittent stonewalls. There are three entries along Walnut Hill Road, with off-road parking at the upper access. The latest 2011 timber harvest along with almost yearly firewood cutting has resulted in a rich, young forest covered with a number of large red oaks and white pines that could be harvested. The forest is mostly a dominant mix of red oak, white pine, red maple and hemlock. A number of the larger pines have thinning or declining tops, a condition that probably has resulted from the drought-prone shallow soil on this property. Balsam fir and red spruce are found in the wetter areas. Beech, white oak and white birch occur in smaller numbers on higher ground. Single specimens of yellow birch, black ash, shagbark hickory and hop hornbeam were seen. About an acre and a half of the northwest corner of the lot along Back Road is occupied by a fairly dense hemlock grove. Various pockets of shrubbery, ferns, and herbs form the understory, with little if any invasives.
The middle of the lot is mostly elevated above either end so water moves into wetlands on both sides. Most of the land is covered with a shallow soil of fine sandy loam over a bedrock of mica schist. There are two major outcrops of schist along with some smaller ones along Back Road. Most of the stones in the walls are mica schist; some are sulfidic schist. There are very few granitic boulders. Water that collects in shallow depressions in the bedrock creates ephemeral wetlands that are scattered across the land; some are vernal pools of as yet undetermined significance. The lot drains to a culvert that passes under Walnut Hill Road. An enclosed, open topped spring is located halfway up the Walnut Hill Road boundary and was reserved for the use of the former Ross school house, now a residence at the intersection. Underground flow apparently also occurs at the western end of the Morrow property where it emerges in a wetland.
This Reserve is part of much larger block of undeveloped forest land that provides habitat for wildlife. This property is near the Walnut Hill Focus Area of the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Beginning With Habitat Project. The wetlands and pools within this Focus Area are inhabited by populations of Blanding’s turtles (endangered), spotted turtles (threatened), ringed boghaunter dragonfly (endangered), and ebony boghaunter dragonfly (special concern). The northern black racer snake (endangered) is found in the dry lands. Since the Morrow land has many features of the focus area, it is quite likely that some of these species could be found there. It should be noted that the Three Rivers Land Trust has a preserve in Shapleigh within the focus area at the Sanford end of Walnut Hill Road.
Logging trails have been mapped and are being considered for trail improvement. The varied habitats and regenerating forest offer a number of opportunities for management research and study. A self-guided “Nature Discovery Trail” could take advantage of the logging trails and natural features of the site to provide recreation and education.