Sometimes I like to think about how this all started. Looking at our website under “Background and Beginnings” you can read that Mr. Norcross turned his lifelong interest in wildlife and the out-of-doors and focused it on his childhood “stomping grounds”: the wooded hills surrounding Monson and nearby Wales. In 1930, Mr. Norcross began to acquire additional acres of woodlands, farmlands and wetlands to add to the core 100-acre family woodlot/pasture-inherited from his father in 1916. His purpose was to establish the Sanctuary, known locally as Tupper Hill.
In looking through some of our archives I found that in 1966 Mr. Norcross had the staff begin giving motor tours (van tours) of the Sanctuary to see some of the gardens and landscapes that he created here at Tupper Hill. Visitation was by appointment only and relatively small in those days. In 1969, Mr. Norcross was glad to hear that the Sanctuary staff was planning a “Pocket Sanctuary”. The visitor center was located in the current greenhouse building and gardens included the Lime Flower Cobble, the Lime Fern Cobble, the Pine Barrens, the Cedar Swamp, Meadow Garden and the Circle Garden. Mr. Norcross liked the idea that people could visit the Sanctuary without an appointment, walk on the paths and be left alone. He pictured it as a Sanctuary “in miniature”, with plants from the whole Sanctuary represented in “the Pocket”. In 1970, there are notes about the staff moving two truckloads of Oconee Bells (Shortia galacifolia –see my last blog) into the gardens located along the new trails.
Classes were held for school children in the early 1970s as well. The staff began to use some of the new gardens for children’s tours, they also began providing classes like a bird feeder program, and recognizing animal tracks. A short film was made about the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary that aired on a New York City TV station for Earth Day in 1972.
Throughout the year I will re-visit the expansion of the trails and gardens here at Norcross. Our mission has not changed and our gardens are expanding, but sometimes it is good to remember where we started.