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The Trustees of Reservations

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trustees of Reservations and Holliston Open Space Committee's conservation accomplishment - 86 Acres adds to Holliston's Adams Street Town Forest!

A quick exit off the frantic pace of Interstate 495 in Milford brings you to Route 16 - here you have a choice - turn in to that certain sign of Massachusetts civilization - Dunkin' Donuts - and the shopping plazas next door, or turn east toward Holliston.  Unless you need a bite to eat or some retail therapy, we are proponents of the second choice (or both!), which shortly leads you to a quick, indiscrete left onto Adams Street, into a block of deep and rocky, rolling forestland where the hum of the Interstate begins to seem like an illusion.  A thick canopy of trees envelops the narrow road, punctuated by pleasant homes and horse farms, and just a mile up the road you reach a sign inviting exploration - and also commemorating the Town of Holliston's conservation-minded foresight to secure an additional 86 acres of land for their Adams Street Town Forest! An important addition to the overall protected landscape in the Charles River headwaters area of Holliston, Milford, and the river's source at Echo Lake in Hopkinton.  The Charles River headwaters is one of the largest protected blocks of open space between MetroWest and Boston, ensuring the source water quality of Metro Boston's river jewel.  This community conservation accomplishment was achieved by the Holliston Open Space Committee working with multiple tools including Community Preservation Funds, working tirelessly to acquire a state Municipal Self-Help grant, and working with Community Conservation Specialists at The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) to ensure the land will be protected for public use and enjoyment for everyone, forever. A Conservation Restriction (CR) recently recorded on the land in September 2013 and held by The Trustees ensures just that. 

The protected land acquired from NSTAR sits in a much larger protected area of land around the Charles River headwaters. 
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) has provided Massachusetts municipalities with a unique funding source for community projects.  This Act allows towns to vote whether to opt in or not to the CPA, and if so the municipality institutes a nominal tax (1-3%) on real estate transactions, the funds from which are stored in a local Community Preservation Fund that opens eligibility to receive additional money from the state's Community Preservation Trust Fund.  Cities and towns may spend their CPA fund money in three areas - open space and recreation, historic preservation, or affordable housing projects to benefit their communities.  In 2001, Holliston voted to institute the CPA at Town Meeting, and so the town created its Community Preservation Committee to administer the local fund with autonomy.  Click here to learn more about the CPA, and whether your community has adopted it!

Wenakeening Woods, Protected in 1992, and a property under a Trustees conservation restriction!

Holliston's relationship with The Trustees stretches back to 1992 and the protection of the 100+ acre Wenakeening Woods with its trails and wooded wetland habitats.  At that time, TTOR worked with the town, local citizens, and the Avery Dennison Corporation to accept the corporation's back land as a gift, a process that resulted in the founding of the Upper Charles Conservation Land Trust, a successful regional land trust created in that year, to be the owner and manager of Wenakeening Woods.  The Trustees holds a conservation restriction over Wenakeening Woods and it remains open today for public use and enjoyment.

The protection of the 210-acre David R. Fairbanks Property was the 2nd cooperative project in Holliston with TTOR.
In 2002, another opportunity presented itself in Holliston - 210 acres of land south of the town forest, long beloved by its owner, the now late David Fairbanks, was offered for sale to the town.  Holliston was now well-equipped to meet the purchase price through several mechanisms, including their newly-adopted Community Preservation Fund, a decade-long relationship with The Trustees, and a talented and proactive Open Space Committee.  The million-dollar purchase was accomplished with CPA funds (the town's first open space use of the fund!), state Self-Help grant funds for municipal conservation purposes, and a contribution by The Trustees.  The David Reed Fairbanks conservation area sits just south of the town forest, and is permanently protected by a CR held by The Trustees and the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). 

NSTAR Electric Company had owned these latest 86 acres in question as surplus land for decades, never having found a use for them.  In 2007, NSTAR offered the land for sale.  Like much of the recreational woodland that so many of us take for granted, no formal protection was in place at that time to prevent these lands from future development.  Furthermore, these 86 acres were directly next door to the town's existing Adams Street Town Forest, and already contained some trails enjoyed by public users, such as George Johnson, at that time the chair of the Holliston Open Space Committee, who felt "they were a natural fit for permanent protection."  Mr. Johnson and the Committee sprung into action to formulate a proposal for the town to purchase the land.  Community support for purchasing the land from NSTAR was accomplished through town meeting vote in 2007, a community vote of faith that the state Self-Help Grant (now known as LAND grant,) which the Open Space Committee applied for, would come through (it hadn't yet!) to fund it! The remainder of the $1 million-plus purchase price came from the town's Community Preservation Fund and Open Space Fund.  The Trustees came through once again to hold the CR on the 86 acres of land purchased from NSTAR, while the town owns it as an addition to their popular town forest.   

George Johnson (Holliston Open Space Committee) and Andrew Bentley (TTOR) exploring the land.
Today, hikers and nature lovers enjoy this natural area, co-existing peaceably with mountain bikers - who love this overall landscape too for its steep and challenging landscape.  In fact the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA) actually owns 47 acres of protected land known as "Vietnam", adjacent to the Fairbanks land.  Hundreds of acres in the area are classified as Priority and Core Habitat by the state's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, attesting to the habitat value of the area.  The area's natural bedrock bluffs and abrupt depressions makes it a landscape dotted with vernal pools, and a springtime visit might serenade you with choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers, and maybe even glimpses of the secretive salamanders that breed in these fascinating, fleeting pools, while you wonder - is that the hum of 495 in the distance?  It couldn't be!

Miles of trails traverse this area, and we recommend anyone newcomer to the land to take a map (click here!) - otherwise you probably WILL get lost!  Just look at that thing!  It's an absolute maze in there!  

This most recent successful project builds on The Trustees' long tradition of directly protecting or partnering with towns and other groups to protect threatened land in the Charles River Valley.  This began with our oldest reservation, Rocky Narrows, on the shores of the river in Sherborn, in 1897, and now includes 15 reservations and 2,300 acres of protected land throughout the Charles River watershed.   

The Trustees have fifteen reservations in the Charles River valley, and have protected much more than just those Special Places with land protection tools like Conservation Restrictions. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Boxborough Celebrates Steele Farm conservation success with Local Heroes, with Legislators, and The Trustees!

Beautiful autumn colors at Steele Farm in Boxborough.
Last week, Boxborough residents and a lineup of special guests came together at Boxborough Town Hall to celebrate the permanent protection of town-owned Steele Farm, through a Conservation Restriction (CR) to The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) and Historic Preservation Restriction (HPR) to The Boxborough Historical Society (BHSI), a project completed in close partnership with the Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCT) and the Town of Boxborough. This celebration was well-earned, to recognize the hard work of local heroes in Boxborough to complete a six-year cooperative conservation project that was twenty years in the making!  The 36 acres at Steele Farm protect beautiful meadows that host grass-nesting birds, three National Registry historic buildings that reflect the agricultural history of Boxborough including the Levi Wetherbee farmhouse dating to 1784, and offer hiking trails that meander through fields and woods on Steele Farm and connect to other conservation areas next door.  For our earlier exciting news and description of Steele Farm, see our August blog post by clicking here!

The Trustees provided a 'Protected Forever' sign which will be adapted to commemorate the collaboration that led to the property's permanent protection. 
From L, Bruce Hager (SFAC) & John Fallon (VP of BHSI & Town Moderator), Alan Rohwer (BHSI & Historical Commission), State Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Jen Benson, and Duncan Browne (BHSI). 

The guests of honor were the members of groups like the Steele Farm Advisory Committee (SFAC), the Boxborough Historical Society (BHSI), Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCT), the members of the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator, and so many supportive local citizens, who all came together to make this project possible.  These dedicated groups saw this project through years of complex negotiation at the town level, to muster support for the farm's permanent protection - a process driven by passionate local citizens like Alan Rohwer of the Boxborough Historical Society, whose patience and dedication have paid off, despite what he described as a process sometimes feeling like "dragging a battleship across the desert!" 

Alan Rohwer (L) & Bruce Hager (R) accept commemorative hiking sticks, awarded to commemorate their roles as two of the Steele Farm "SF 3"! (not present was Arden Veley) 

Boxborough acquired Steele Farm in 1994 - however, the land was not donated to the town as protected conservation land, as it would have been if it was donated to the town's Conservation Commission, and therefore qualify for the substantial protections of town-owned conservation land under Article 97 of the Massachusetts constitution.  Municipal land in Massachusetts, even if it functions as conservation land, is not securely protected if it is not owned under the care of the Conservation Commission or other such protection-oriented municipal body such as a parks department, or unless there is a conservation restriction on the land - in other words, such surplus land can be converted to other uses.  The committee was faced with finding a solution to how the land would be conserved - and to muster local support!  The negotiated solution garnered citizens' and Board of Selectmen support through an annual town meeting vote, and the conservation solution was to donate a conservation restriction to The Trustees and HPR to the Historical Society that now ensures Steele Farm's permanent protection.  Such restrictions are permanent and this one ensures that the conservation and historic values of Steele Farm will not be lost to other uses of the land.  
At the celebration, Committee members were joined by TTOR CR Program staff, and even the talented former staff member, Chris Rodstrom, who drove the project forward for The Trustees from the beginning of TTOR's involvement in 2007 until his departure from TTOR in May of 2013.  State representatives attended as well - Jen Benson of the 37th Middlesex District, and State Senator Jamie Eldridge as well, to add congratulatory remarks.  Senator Eldridge had this to say about the success, "The conservation and historic preservation restrictions placed on Steele Farm represent a 20-year effort to protect this special property for Boxborough residents for generations to come. I congratulate all of the stakeholders involved."

Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Jen Benson came to praise the successful conservation project.

Boxborough was also host to a very special guest, Irene Del-Bono of the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), Division of Conservation Services, the governmental body which reviews and approves all conservation restrictions at the state level.  Ms. Del-Bono is the EOEEA staff member who conducts legal review of every single CR document from all corners of Massachusetts, and her reviews ensure a gold standard that each CR be legally sound to protect land forever.  Irene expressed her appreciation for the invitation to get out of her office and into a community to celebrate their conservation victory, and loved the opportunity to meet with some of the local heroes who make successful conservation efforts happen! 

Alan Rohwer poses with Irene Del-Bono, the EOEEA's Conservation Restriction reviewer.

Special thanks is reserved for the local groups who worked together to make this happen!  Duncan Browne, John Fallon, and Alan Rohwer of the Boxborough Historical Society; Rita Gibes Grossman of the Boxborough Conservation Trust; Bruce Hager, Jeanne Steele Kangas, Judi Resnick, Ed Whitcomb, and among former members David Birt, Eric Tornstrom, and John Skinner of the Steele Farm Advisory Committee; and Town Administrator Selina Shaw, are among the local heroes who saw this project through to completion!  On The Trustees of Reservations's end, Chris Rodstrom negotiated the project, Andrew Bentley saw this project through to completion, and the CR Program staff will visit annually and advise Boxborough on protecting its conservation values - sealing TTOR's collaborative promise that Steele Farm will be protected for everyone, forever. 

Steele Farm Advisory Committee celebrates their conservation victory! 
From L, Jeanne Steele Kangas, Ed Whitcomb, Judi Resnick, Bruce Hager.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wildlife Havens - on land protected by The Trustees of Reservations!

The latest pictures and videos from the Conservation Restriction Program's wildlife cameras are here!  We are pleased to share them with our blog readers and the broader group of Trustees of Reservations supporters (that's you!) who carry our work forward.

Eastern coy-wolf in the North Quabbin region: 

Fisher in action:

Bobcat along a stone wall in Central Massachusetts: 

Mama Bear is well aware that we are watching!


Mama Bear and Two cubs at play in the Western MA Hilltowns!!


And Climbing a Tree!


And rolling around!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Videos from CR Program Wildlife Cameras!

The latest from our Conservation Restriction Program wildlife cameras are not just pictures but motion pictures!  Check out these videos to see what happens on irreplaceable wildlife habitat protected by The Trustees of Reservations across Massachusetts.  

Bobcat on a daytime prowl:

Heron on a stroll:

Curious young bucks pose for the camera:

We're watching her and she's watching us!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Conservation in Boxborough - Steele Farm CR and Historic Preservation Restriction protects a beloved landscape!

The hot month of July saw the closing of a new conservation restriction and historic preservation restriction held by The Trustees of Reservations that protects and increases access to a beautiful historic farm in an area of high development pressure!  

Steele Farm Conservation & Historic Preservation Restriction - Boxborough, MA

Beautiful open meadows at Steele Farm provide great bird habitat and quality hay.
The 1784 Levi Wetherbee House is listed in The National Register of Historic Places.
Steele Farm in Boxborough is a bucolic local treasure that will inspire nature and history lovers alike.  We are excited to announce that its 36 acres and historic buildings listed on The National Register of Historic Places are now protected forever through a partnership between The Trustees of Reservations and The Boxborough Historical Society, adding to Boxborough's network of conservation land.  The town still owns the property, purchasing it in 1994 to preserve one of its oldest and most historic farms, beloved as a former orchard and Christmas tree farm, and a reminder of the area's deep agricultural roots.  The house was built by Levi Wetherbee, a member of one of the town's founding families, and traces its origins to 1784.  Evidence of apple orchard and dairy farming can be found in the function of the beautiful 1940s barn.  A 1904 ice house was re-located to the property in the 1990s from another farm in town, preserving another kind of historic structure that you just don't see very much anymore!  A network of trails loops around the farm and connects to the adjacent Beaver Brook Meadows conservation land - and Steele Farm's protection brings this block of conservation land up to 100 acres! 

The ice house and barn hearken back to a different era.

A cacophony of grassland bird calls can be heard in spring when the bobolinks nest, and resident mammals seen peeking out of the woods or drinking from the streams on the property.  The Trustees will watch over the conservation values of the property, while Boxborough Historical Society will ensure that the historic features are preserved in perpetuity.  The Steele Farm Advisory Committee advises the town on land management and will be spearheading the property's long-term management planning process.  In the meantime, Steele Farm is a popular spot open for public use and recreation (for trail map, click here!) and local youth organizations are encouraged to organize camping trips (must be approved by the town first!) there too.  Find it at 484 Middle Road in Boxborough and unwind for a bit.

Many thanks to the tireless work of the Steele Farm Advisory Committee, Boxborough Historical Society, The Town of Boxborough, and the support of the citizens of Boxborough, the Boxborough Conservation Trust, and former TTOR CR Program Director Chris Rodstrom, to realize this community vision of conservation for public use and enjoyment!  

Steele Farm in high springtime.

Steele Farm as viewed from above! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Farandnear Reservation - CR Wildlife Camera Program in action - and your chance for Volunteer Action!

Farandnear, one of our newest Reservations (click to read more!), is the name given by the Banks family to their land, now a Trustees' Reservation officially opening to the public in October, located in the classic New England small town of Shirley, Massachusetts.  If you're not familiar with Shirley it's just a stone's throw past Concord and Acton off Route 2 in northern Middlesex County and not too far at all from the city bustle at just over thirty miles from Boston.  You may know this beautiful and quiet town for the Bull Run which offers a lively restaurant and renowned destination music venue in a colonial tavern, the town's historic and well-preserved common, or if you're an Appalachian Trail buff you may know it as the home of the trail's visionary founding father, conservationist Benton MacKaye, a friend of the Banks family.  Now we hope it will become known, beyond a beloved community secret, for the natural splendor of Farandnear too!

Farandnear was named by donor, Professor Arthur Banks's, parents to describe Shirley's location, both far enough to be a two-day carriage ride at the turn of the 20th century yet near enough to be a seasonal home away from their urban home in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy.  Professor Arthur Banks donated a conservation restriction (CR) in 1995, and kept a reserved life estate for himself on his 80 acres, and we got to know him as a private yet unceasingly generous man who always allowed the public to come on his land and trails to enjoy nature until his passing in 2011 (Click here to read our 2011 memorial blog post to Prof. Banks)

By donating his land to The Trustees of Reservations, his legacy of community-minded generosity will continue. On October 5th, the grand opening of Farandnear will take place - in the meantime we invite you to get involved in helping to get this Special Place ready for official opening to the public with two volunteer workdays (click here!) on Saturdays, August 10th and September 21st!  
Farandnear joins the company of Cedariver in Millis and Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield, where the landowner and the land began their connection to TTOR with a permanent CR held by us, and eventually donated their entire property to become a Reservation.  That's not to mention the over 20 pieces of CR land given to us to become part of an existing Reservation, adding to such stunning places as The Crane Estate and Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich, Sherborn's Rocky Narrows, Dover's Noanet Woodlands, Petersham's Brooks Woodland Preserve, and Tyringham's McLennan Reservation and Ashintully.  And the 54 total Reservations that are additionally protected or connected by bordering or nearby CR properties.  This kind of generosity attests to the importance of CRs to our land protection work and the wonderful bonds that often form between CR landowners and TTOR through the relationships formed during the negotiation, annual monitoring, and perpetual stewardship of conservation restrictions on privately-owned land.

Farandnear is a true wildlife haven, featuring a variety of habitats such as open meadows interspersed with early successional patches, mature mixed hardwood forests, areas of mature white pine forest, a beautiful hemlock ravine, and copious wetlands including streams, vernal pools, red maple swamps, an old cranberry bog, and a couple newly created beaver ponds which are beginning to provide snags (dead trees) for bird nesting, feeding, and perching.  Its location close to town-owned conservation land in Shirley and Lunenburg makes it part of a much broader wildlife corridor than its 80 acres alone!   So are you curious yet what critters might be found out there?  We were too!

Lunchtime for a great blue heron!
The heron responded to an ad for real estate in a new beaver pond.  Here's that awkward first meeting with the landlord! (Look down, just above the words "Rapidfire Pro"!)
The CR Program was lucky enough to apply for and receive a Norcross Wildlife Foundation grant to purchase several motion-activated wildlife cameras this Spring, thanks to a great idea hatched by CR Program staff and a land trust partner in the Berkshires.  This summer and going forward, we are placing them on CR properties with high wildlife habitat value across the state - our primary goals are to learn more about what wildlife uses these lands, share these photos with the landowners, and with the public via this blog and TTOR's Facebook page.  Since Farandnear is a CR property that is now becoming a Reservation, we thought it the perfect laboratory to test our cameras.  So far we have been nothing but thrilled with the results!  Thanks to the Norcross Wildlife Foundation for the grant, volunteer Lydia Rogers for a camera loan while we waited for ours to arrive and for her tracker's eye to help us place the first ones, and ecologist Bill Latrell of Heath for taking time to share his wildlife camera best practices to train staff and volunteers who will place the cameras on CR properties around Massachusetts! 

Our first photo of the year - a bobcat on a nocturnal prowl!
Beginner's luck, or wildlife paradise?  This post shows just a few great highlights of the shots captured at Farandnear over the past few months!  Other wandering critters included a family of ducks, raccoons in the nighttime mists, a grey fox, many curious deer, several hundred pictures (I am dead serious - this heron is particularly narcissistic and likes to strut around in circles for hours in front of the camera, day and night) of the heron, a bear which walked by so close that we got no clear pictures but could only conclude "Yes that was definitely a bear." and a few shots of the rare and endangered Sally Naser, CR Program Manager, coming to set up the cameras!  With wildlife cameras now set up in The Berkshires, Central Mass, and soon in Greater Boston and the Southeast, we hope to have much more to share with you soon!  I am holding out hope for moose, otter, or fisher cats in the near future!

Is this a bear?  Or is this a bear?  I'm going with it's a bear. 
In the meantime, we need your help at Farandnear to get it ready for opening in October!  Check out the flyer and link above (here's the link again! Click for the info page!) to find how you can help at our volunteer work days on August 10 and September 21st.  With your help this amazing property will be open in time for the height of Autumn! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tick Season is upon us - one CR landowner has a unique management approach!

You have likely already noticed them these past few years.  After a brisk hike or relaxing family outing on your favorite Trustees' property, you feel (or sometimes just imagine!) that telltale slight itch or discomfort, or see that speck crawling up the back of your son's or daughter's shirt, which, upon further investigation turns out to be our least favorite nasty arachnid parasite - a tick!  Or three!  Recent years have brought an alarming profusion of black-legged ticks, aka 'deer' ticks, and a spike in Lyme Disease, to our fair Commonwealth.  As professionals working largely in the outdoors, we are far too familiar with ticks of all varieties. 

Despite that we hope you don't let the ticks win, and keep you indoors! A little preparation and vigilance goes a very long way when it comes to detecting ticks: wear light colored clothing, check yourself often in the woods to see them and brush them off, and immediately change clothes (throw them in the dryer on high, too!) and check yourself carefully when you get home. Personally, I stay away from chemicals like permethrin or DEET, finding that light clothing and simple vigilance have kept me Lyme-free so far!  But you may want to consider those as well. 

One other piece of advice is to stay away from thickets of invasive Japanese Barberry!  A) It's thorny so you probably don't want to be there anyways; and B) Japanese Barberry patches function as escape habitat for white-footed mice, one of the primary host critters for ticks!  Recent scientific research has proved the connection between mice, ticks, and barberry, and our own experiences bushwhacking on CR properties in places like Milton, Westport, and New Marlborough, certainly corroborate it.  People often make a connection between deer over-population, ticks, and Lyme Disease, but with that note on mice, we'd like to insist that deer have been framed as the main culprit (click for the story!) for our recent tick inundation and increase in Lyme Disease! 

Open grassland and pasture on Fox Lea Farm in Rehoboth.
Speaking of ticks, there is one CR property in Rehoboth that we love to visit, not only to catch up with its delightful landowners, but because we truly notice that there are a lot less ticks on the property!  Peggy Dunn and Jim Rheinberger run Fox Lea Farm, and grow acres upon acres of organic hay, as well as raising horses, sheep, chickens, and heritage turkeys.  One unique critter in which they specialize recently is the guinea hen.  While these are often seen on high-end restaurant menus, we insist that their function is much more utilitarian on the land than on your plate!  Why?  Because guinea fowl are known insect pest connoisseurs and exterminators - and particularly fond of ticks!

Guinea fowl hard at work hunting ticks and other insects!
Jim and Peg keep over forty guinea fowl on the property, sheltered in mobile coops.  These are allowed free range around the property, but find sanctuary in a penned-off area with two watchful canine sentries - two beautiful Italian Maremma sheep dogs watch over the fowl, sounding the alarm when predators like red-tailed hawks soar by, or coyotes or foxes come to visit.  Sadly, when the sheep dogs' watch lapses, tragedy can strike.  Just recently they lost ten birds to a fox, when the dogs went to get fixed - mostly males who had the habit of roosting in the trees at night rather than seek shelter in the coops which made them prime targets for owls and foxes. 

Maremma sheep dogs, Lily and Rio, guard the guinea fowl from birds of prey and other predators.
Horses and sheep round out the collection of animals at Fox Lea, and we have been lucky enough to visit right after lambs have been born, and helped feed them from bottles!  The latest news - one of our favorite four-legged friends, elder matriarch (age 12!) Buttons the ewe, just had her tenth and probably final lambing and gave birth to two healthy males. Buttons does not possess what you would call a "traditional" sheep appearance but this is part of her... charm. 

Buttons (R) is the elder sheep matriarch of Fox Lea Farm.  A "normal" looking flock-mate (L) accompanies her.

Landowner Peggy and volunteer intern Justina feed a lamb (not one of Buttons's) at Fox Lea in March.

Fox Lea Farm epitomizes what we aim to protect with conservation restrictions.  The farm boasts a scenic and low-impact working landscape which protects water quality in the Palmer River.  Its 70 acres are protected forever from development, allowing hay production and other agricultural uses, while protecting riparian (vegetated land by riverbanks) habitat for a variety of state-protected animals.  Working farm uses are allowed and encouraged by the conservation restriction agreement, and help preserve this tradition in southeastern Massachusetts from fading away.  It is stewarded by conscientious landowners who are using innovative methods to grow hay without chemicals (Peggy is a former research scientist whose compost fertilizing methods are home concocted, producing live cultures, and are natural, and environmentally sensitive), and are dedicated to protection and improvement of the land's conservation values in the present, setting it up for productivity and perpetual conservation.  While Fox Lea is private property, and not publicly open, in this case the conservation values listed above provide substantial public benefits.  The Trustees are proud to partner with landowners like Peggy and Jim to protect privately-owned land across Massachusetts forever, some of whom bust arachnid parasites through innovative means like guinea fowl!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Vernal Pool Workshop with Hilltown Land Trust & The Trustees of Reservations - this Thursday and Saturday in Williamsburg!

The weather may have turned our forests a bit dry these last few weeks, but vernal pools (aka "wicked big puddles" full of snowmelt and interesting amphibian and insect life!) are still holding water in many places across Massachusetts!  Trustees of Reservations' affiliate, The Hilltown Land Trust, in cooperation with The Trustees' Conservation Restriction Program are holding a Vernal Pool Exploration in two parts this Thursday and Saturday, May 2 and May 4.  Free and open to the public, we invite people to attend and learn more about the fascinating biology of vernal pools, and how you as interested citizens can help obtain greater legal protection for local vernal pools through documenting the life within!  

The large vernal pool we will explore covers nearly an acre on a beautiful ridgetop, supplying critical breeding habitat for amphibians and other pool life, and a cool drink for the deer, bobcat, bear, fisher, and other creatures that call the Western Massachusetts Hilltowns home!  This is also a rare opportunity to see a privately owned conservation restriction property up close, and we thank the landowners for allowing us to hold this fun springtime event on their land.  Also of note, Professor Scott Jackson of the UMass Department of Environmental Conservation will accompany the Saturday field day, to offer his expert knowledge on the amphibian egg masses, tadpoles and larvae, and invertebrates we are sure to find! 

If you cannot make Part 1, please do feel free to attend Part 2!   RSVP appreciated - info on the flyer pictured above!  Event info also available on Hilltown Land Trust's Website and Facebook Page

Part 1 - Vernal Pools - Introductory Presentation
Where: Williamsburg Library - 2 Williams Street, Williamsburg, MA 01096
When: Thursday - May 2, 2013.  7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Part 2 - Exploration of a Vernal Pool!
Where: High Ridge Farm - Ice Road, Williamsburg, MA, 01096
When: Saturday - May 4, 2013.  9:00 AM - Noon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset - Organic Farm, Education Center, and Woodlands with public recreation access and miles of trails!

Spring has sprung on the South Shore - birds are singing, spring flowers are blooming, and tree buds are growing fat!  It's high time to explore local conservation areas for vernal pool life - the 'clucking and quacking' of male wood frogs can be heard, and nocturnal choruses of spring peepers are a comforting sign that it is Spring (finally!) in Massachusetts!  Did we mention?  It's also time to think about local food and farms - here's a fantastic farm that we protect with a conservation restriction, which welcomes the public to enjoy its 140 acres boasting miles of trails! 

Welcome to Holly Hill Farm! (photo credit: Holly Hill Farm)

Holly Hill Farm is a family-run, certified Organic Farm in Cohasset where you will find hundreds of acres of pristine forest to explore, not to mention a non-profit education center for youth and adults alike!  One could be forgiven for driving the length of meandering Jerusalem Road, with its stately homes and views of scenic Little Harbor without realizing that a working farm and hundreds of acres of peaceful mature forest to explore are just over the rise.  A rather inconspicuous sign and a glimpse of a rustic 19th century barn are the only indication of Holly Hill's presence, and just a small hint of what is a very compelling community resource.    

Holly Hill boasts a variety of habitats, including mature hardwood forest, open fields, and even a small salt marsh! (Photo Credit: The Trustees of Reservations)
In 1980, the White family granted conservation restrictions to The Trustees of Reservations on 120 acres of their beautiful forests, fields, and salt marsh, which had been in their family since the 1840s.  The land had not been in consistent cultivation for decades, until 1998 when Jean and Frank White returned to Cohasset to fulfill their dream of returning to the family land to start a small farm.  Working quickly, by 2000 they had attained Certified Organic status for their produce, and in 2002, they founded the Friends of Holly Hill Farm, their educational non-profit dedicated to the White's vision of providing hands-on farm and nature education for the community.  Although Frank, a dedicated lifelong educator, passed away in 2009, Jean and the Friends' staff continue the vision with a year-round schedule full of workshops, nature programs, and day camps that allow adults and kids to learn, have fun, and get their hands dirty in the process!  Click here for just a sampling of this year's youth programs, and check out their blog for the latest news from their farm!

Holly Hill's year-round programming hosts eager kids and adults alike! (Photo Credit: Holly Hill Farm)
True to the farm's name, the mixed hardwood forest is interspersed with a large and healthy population of American Holly trees, which reach the northernmost extreme of their native range in Cohasset! Impressive old red oaks, shagbark hickories, red and sugar maples, old field pines, occasional hemlock stands, and even beech stands round out the rugged landscape of the forest, which stands today as a reminder of the area's natural topography and natural communities.  Deep in here, among the holly, tall pines, and oaks, it is very easy to forget the area is abutted by modern residential development and roads!  The intrepid explorer can find vernal pools, streams, swamps, a beautiful ice pond beneath a sheer glacial ridge, and even an impressive miniature gorge along a babbling brook, running between bedrock walls. 

Holly Hill's historic ice pond.  (Photo Credit: The Trustees of Reservations)
They welcome the public anytime dawn to dusk, but you might want to hold out for the Saturday April 20 Spring Plant Sale this coming weekend to get a jump on your gardening!  Come visit during the growing season for organic veggies from their farmstand, for a program or workshop, to visit Nugget the horse in the barnyard, or just for a leisurely walk by the herons and wood ducks in the marsh channels, or past the ice pond, and up trails canopied by hollies.   Keep an eye out for resident wildlife in the woods too!   The adventurous among you could get lost for hours just on Holly Hill Farm, yet keep in mind that the 112-acre Wheelwright Park and Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary abut the woods to the south - sure to keep you coming back to explore the wonders of both impressive open spaces totaling nearly 250 acres!     

Come visit Nugget - Just don't feed him please!  (Photo Credit: Holly Hill Farm)
The Trustees of Reservations are proud to protect Holly Hill Farm with conservation restrictions.  The land stays in the family, and our CRs ensure that it can stay a thriving family farm, a fabulous community resource, and protected open space forever.

Keep following our blog here, and check us out on The Trustees' webpage to learn more about the work of the Conservation Restriction Program!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pakeen Farm in Canton: CSAs on CR-protected farms!

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an economic model that brings customers to local farms, as shareholders of a growing season's crops, who receive a weekly share of fresh, healthy, organically grown produce.  This innovative model not only breathes new life into the economic health and viability of farms, but the health of  local customers connected to fresh, local food.  What's more, in the age of development pressure and sprawl, a successful CSA helps keep land in agriculture, and maintains the traditional scenic landscape of Massachusetts.  As you may already know, The Trustees of Reservations runs CSAs at several farm-oriented Reservations: brand NEW for this 2013 season is the CSA at Moose Hill Farm in Sharon!! Our other four -  Powisset Farm CSA in Dover with an expanded scope in 2013!! ; one of New England's largest CSAs at Appleton Farms in Ipswich & Hamilton; beautiful Moraine Farm in Beverly; and at Weir River Farm in Hingham.

In addition, we are thrilled that our Conservation Restrictions (CRs) permanently protect five private farms running CSA programs from Boston (yes, within the city limits) and Metro Boston to the Pioneer Valley.  Last year we shared three of these farms on this blog - Tangerini's Spring Street Farm in Millis (blog post link); Warner Farm with its famous Mike's Maze in Sunderland (blog post link); and Alprilla Farm in Essex (blog post link).  This year, Pakeen Farm in Canton gets the spotlight, and you can look forward to reading about Boston's last working farm soon as well!

The colorful spread of Summer's harvest at the Pakeen Farm CSA.  (Photo Credit - Pakeen Farm)

Pakeen FarmCanton, MA - 117 acres of farm, woodlands, and wetlands, protected forever by a 1994 Conservation Restriction to The Trustees of Reservations.

Crop fields on Elm Street in Canton, at Pakeen Farm!
Since the 19th century, the Lyman family has tilled the soil and pastured animals at Pakeen Farm, on Elm Street in Canton, watched over by the Great Blue Hill, long before the modern hum and hurry of nearby Interstate 93 and Route 128.  Before the Lymans, this beautiful land perched above Ponkapoag Brook had been farmed since the 17th century.  In today's world, a 117-acre farm in a major metropolitan area is a place to celebrate, for the beauty and tradition it signifies when so many others have been lost - and with the hope that the CSA model can help our remaining local farms stay viable!  Jane Lyman Bihldorff and her son Dave are the fourth and fifth generation of the Lyman family to keep Pakeen Farm.  It was Jane who wisely worked with The Trustees of Reservations to ensure the land's permanent protection in the early 1990s, right around the corner from our very own Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate.  Jane diversified the farm's business initiatives to include Christmas tree sales in 2002, and with Dave's return home, they began a CSA program in 2009.

Fertile soil produces some beautiful vegetables!
Now in its fifth year, they hope to grow to 150 CSA shareholders.  Dave and his crew grow tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, kale, sweet corn, blackberries, rhubarb, flowers, garlic, and other crops on several acres at the farm.  A unique partnership with three Vermont farmers enables Pakeen Farm to supply an amazingly diverse array of fresh produce in season, and organic fresh salad greens, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and summer squash are just a few of the delicious vegetables made available through this partnership.

Bright and nutritious chard!
Want to help their CSA grow and contribute to keeping agriculture alive in Canton?  Dave, Jane, and the rest of the farm crew are eager to meet (and feed!) their fellow community members in and around Canton!  Pakeen Farm offers flexible options for CSA shares, and you can buy a Full Season, or a Summer or Fall Share, at two sizes - "Single" ($22/week) or "Family" ($32/week).  Click here for more information on joining! 

Bulls add to the Pakeen Farm scenery on our most recent CR Program visit!

Be sure to come by Pakeen in the Autumn as well, to pick up some festive Halloween pumpkins, and in December for a Christmas Tree grown on site!  Now is a great time of year to think about joining a CSA, when the air is warming up, and the earth is stirring into life.  At The Trustees, we love our roles both as farmers with our own CSA offerings, and as land conservation partners who protect places like Pakeen Farm forever.  We love nothing more than to see these farms thrive with their own agricultural ventures and CSAs!  

In several years, these trees will be ready for holiday festivities!