the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Monday, February 25, 2013

CR Properties open to the Public, Profile #3: Punkatasset Hill & Estabrook Woods in Concord

Conservation Restrictions mostly protect private land in Massachusetts.  Since nearly all of these are closed to public access, we ask you to respect the landowners' privacy, and not trespass upon them. 

However, cities, towns, and other land trusts often grant CRs to The Trustees of Reservations, as an extra layer of protection for their conservation land - and most of these are open to the public. These conservation areas provide beautiful vistas, valuable wildlife habitat, protect our wetlands and water quality, and best of all, are open to recreation for everyone to enjoy!  Think of these Special Places that we do not own, yet permanently protect, as honorary additions to our 107 Reservations!

Punkatasset Hill and the broader Estabrook Woods - Concord, MA


 "I think that each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, either in one body or several, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, nor for the navy, nor to make wagons, but stand and decay for higher uses —a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation."  - Henry David Thoreau

When it comes to the Estabrook Woods, Thoreau's quote could not be more poignant. 

A short hop up the road from the better known trails of Walden Woods, north of the historic town center and the meanders of the Concord River, past the venerable literary history made tangible at The Old Manse, and the hallowed Revolutionary battlegrounds of the Minuteman National Historical Park, lies Concord's largest intact wilderness respite.  It is a place where Thoreau spent much of his time, ruminating on nature, its creatures, and our place within those systems, drawing inspiration for a plethora of his famous writings.  It is a place where a hiker can get pleasantly lost for hours surrounded by bird songs and the soft whisper of forest breezes, and at over 1,000 acres of permanently protected forest it is one of the largest undeveloped forests in the metro Boston area!

Mink Pond in the Estabrook Woods, looking out over a beaver lodge.  Expect to see wood ducks, kingfishers, hawks, herons, woodpeckers, chickadees, and more in and around this scenic wetland complex.  Maybe even some mink!
At the core of Estabrook are 670 acres owned by Harvard University, home since 1967 to a biological field research station of their Museum of Comparative Zoology.  Forseeing threats to the natural functions of the forest if subdivisions encroached too heavily, Harvard had made an assurance that they would preserve Estabrook if 400 additional acres could be protected around it.  During the 1990s, a coalition comprised of citizens, organizations such as The Trustees of Reservations, the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT), and The Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), working alongside the town governments of Concord and Carlisle, finally succeeded in doing just that.

Today, The Trustees hold conservation restrictions on over 620 acres of land surrounding the Estabrook Woods core - over 310 of these acres on land owned by the towns, about 180 on private land owned by citizens, about 110 on land owned by The Middlesex School, and approximately 20 acres of land owned by CLCT.  The map above shows boundaries of land under CR with The Trustees, with the large forested area in the middle making up the Estabrook Woods forest core owned by Harvard.  

Veer right to Two Rod Road, left to the old ski area - either way to natural splendor!
Just as Thoreau once did, members of the public can enjoy a stroll, starting from either of two public trailheads in Concord.  Perhaps best known, but difficult for the uninitiated to locate down what appears to be a private driveway, (between #851 and 873 Monument Street) is the access to the Punkatasset Hill and Sawmill Brook Conservation Area, owned by the Town of Concord.  A fine map of the Punkatasset Trails can be seen by clicking here, and looking to the top right corner of the page!  Punkatasset boasts a scenic mix of open pasture (some of it leased to local farmers for their livestock's use) and pine forest around Hutchins Pond, with a small former ski slope, and paths leading to the top of the namesake hill, one of the highest points in Concord, where the Revolutionary troops mustered in 1775 before facing British forces at the North Bridge.  The trail exiting the property's northeast section, labeled "Two Rod Road," (previous post, click here!) will bring you on your way up an historic cart path, through the Estabrook Woods, on the remnants of the earliest road between Concord and Carlisle.  We'll see you three miles later on Stearns Street in Carlisle, where you'll pop out at The Trustees' and Carlisle Conservation Foundation's co-owned Malcolm Preserve!  That is, if you don't find yourself lost on one of the many side trails!
The Estabrook Woods stand as a triumph of cooperative land conservation between private landowners, private institutions like Harvard and the Middlesex School, land trusts like the Trustees, CLCT, and CCF, as well as local town governments.  Every season is beautiful and bucolic in these woods, just a short distance from the bustle of the more frequented natural and historic sites of Concord.  Stay tuned for a second post with information and maps for the Davis Conservation Corridor, on the Carlisle side of the Estabrook Woods! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Strengthening the defense of our conservation restrictions through TerraFirma

The Trustees of Reservations significantly increased our ability to defend the conservation restrictions we hold by recently enrolling in the Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC, a new charitable risk pool owned by participating land trusts that insures it members against the legal costs of defending conservation. It is available for all Land Trust Alliance member land trusts with conservation easements or fee lands held for conservation. Terrafirma is part of the Land Trust Alliance’s national strategy to build a formidable defense in ensuring conservation permanence and was designed in consultation with insurance specialists, attorneys, and land trusts across America. This is the flagship resource to permanently protect conserved lands, and it marks the first time that a conservation group has created a captive insurance service.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Conservation in Action along the South Coast of Massachusetts

The Trustees of Reservations enjoyed a productive and successful 2012 in the South Coast. Our land conservation team protected more than 515 acres in eight towns across the region and contributed to the passage of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Fall River. Partnerships, community-wide commitment to open space, and generous, conservation-minded landowners comprised the recipe for success in 2012!

Specifically, The Trustees longstanding local partnerships with the Westport Land Conservation Trust, Seekonk Land Conservation Trust, and Rehoboth Land Trust created the foundation for half of the acreage protected. The Trustees’ ongoing effort with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to protect core parcels in the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve also made great strides in 2012, adding more than 200 acres of important habitat and natural landscape to this 13,600-acre swath of protected land.

Photo courtesy of Ed Howe
Eleven of the 15 projects were donations or deep bargain sales, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of landowners to their communities and their land. These generous landowners are true stewards of the land and have the foresight to protect their properties for the enjoyment of generations to come. Highlights include:
  • Protection of three working farms covering 80 acres in Seekonk, Westport, and Dartmouth
  • Acquisition of 200 acres in the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Acquisition of 40 acres adjacent to the East Over Reservation in Rochester and Marion
  • Assisting with the adoption of the CPA in Fall River, which will provide funds for the city to protect and create open spaces, historic resources, recreational areas, and affordable housing
  • Expansion of the Westport Land Conservation Trust’s Old Harbor Wildlife Refuge from 87 acres to 137 acres through the donation of conservation restrictions and trail easements enabling the public to enjoy the land.
Please join us in celebrating the spirit of partnerships and the continued commitment of communities all across Massachusetts to protect their special places!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Trustees' staff and volunteers a big part of the upcoming MA Conservation Conference

The 23rd annual Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference on Saturday, March 23rd in Worcester features several workshops led by TTOR staff and volunteers, including: 1E. Baseline Documentation and 2D. Remedying Violations (Conservation Restriction Program); 2C. New Roles for Land Trusts (Land and Community Conservation ); 2E. What is Good Stewardship Anyway? (Property Management); 3E. Deer Hunting on Land Trust property (Ecology Program); and 3G. Legal Round table (TTOR Board of Directors).

It's a great conference that's informative, nearby and fun, where you'll get a chance to meet old friends and make news ones, and learn from the leading experts in the conservation field.
To learn more and register, click HERE. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Three new properties conserved in Westport

Continuing with our 11-year partnership in Westport with the Westport Land Conservation Trust (WLCT), Community Conservation Specialist Chris Detwiller recently completed projects that permanently conserve three beautiful properties through the donation of conservation restrictions.

The first two properties, owned by the Bryan and Jansen families, feature 50 acres of woodlands abutting WLCT's 76-acre Old Harbor Wildlife Refuge. Both CRs include trail easements that will expand the Refuge's trail system and allow the public to access a total of nearly 140 contiguous acres of protected open space, including the 11-acre Sherden CR protected by TTOR and WLCT in 2011. Prime Forest Soils are found throughout the entirety of both properties, and multiple vernal pools have been documented.

Field on the Reed Conservation Restriction
The third property is a spectacular 15-acre property located on the East Branch of the Westport River, owned by Douglas Reed. The property features 900 feet of frontage on the river, stunning views, active farmland, and BioMap Core Habitat and Critical Natural Landscape. Protection of the property also expands on contiguous protected farmland and open space through its connection to the adjacent 80-acre Donald Tripp Farm, protected by an Agricultural Preservation Restriction.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Expanding "On the Land" to include more conservation projects as they happen!

The "On the Land" blog is expanding to include timely reports about The Trustees of Reservations conservation projects as they unfold while continuing to highlight interesting stories about the conservation restrictions under our care. We hope you enjoy this broader view of the full range of our conservation efforts!

The Trustees of Reservations carries out dozens of important conservation projects each and every year, and has permanently protected a remarkable 76,000 acres since it was founded in 1891. That's more than twice the area of the City of Boston, but accomplished through projects in every region of Massachusetts.

Our conservation work includes new properties that we acquire and open to the public -- those 109 reservations across the state like the new Westport Town Farm.

View of the Westport River from the Westport Town Farm
We also secure additions to existing properties -- land that connects to a nearby park, adds a better trail head, or provides a buffer to a fragile pond or scenic view. We call these projects "critical lands" because of their importance to the integrity of what we already own and to the role they play in improving the experience of our visitors.

The Trustees also acquires permanent conservation restrictions on privately-owned land (at present, 370 properties on 20,000 acres)  that contain the same type of exceptional natural areas, historic homes, scenic views, farms or water sources that you'll find on our Reservations.

Langwater Estate, Easton where TTOR is in the process of acquiring a permanent restriction

Finally, we assist state and federal agencies, cities and towns, and other land conservation groups to carry out their projects that result in permanently conserved land. While The Trustees don't hold any interest in the land going forward, our role is often crucial to the success of complex or expensive projects that require our expertise or funding.

We look forward to sharing these stories with you in the days ahead so you can keep up on the latest news from "On the Land" as it happens!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wildlife Tracking at Hawk Valley Farm CR, Lowell

Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust is hosting an event on a property protected with a co-held conservation restriction in Lowell. The wildlife tracking event is coming Saturday, February 9, 2013 8am-10am (see all their events at

Where: Hawk Valley Farm, 520 Varnum Ave., Lowell

Join another winter adventure at Hawk Valley Farm!  Explore this scenic jewel of Lowell. We are anxious to venture out to this historic property with its abundant signs of wildlife, including deer, fisher, fox, skunk, opossum, and more! Even without snow, there is still plenty to explore as a winter naturalist!  This free event was a huge success last year with so many exciting wildlife scenes and habitats to interpret. Please remember that space is limited, please RSVP. 978-934-0030 OR
Directions: Please, park at the Pawtucket Elementary School at 425 West Meadow Road, Lowell. Then take a short walk south on West Meadow Road, cross Varnum Avenue, and continue onto Varnum Terrace, where you'll see us excited to welcome you to this event.

Photo courtesy of Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust

Friday, February 1, 2013

Annual Winter Hike series on the Vineyard features CR Properties!

Last week, The Trustees' Islands educator Molly Peach led twenty-six participants to one of the most intriguing historic sites on Martha's Vineyard - the north shore's Brickyard ruins at the mouth of Roaring Brook in Chilmark.  See the Martha's Vineyard Times photos here!  Once a thriving industrial site, the building foundation remains and water wheel are largely grown over by brambles and grape vines, yet bricks can still be found on the shore, and the impressive brick chimney still remains, topped by a tenacious osprey's nest!  A dramatic vista of the chimney and the Elizabeth Islands as a backdrop can be seen from the sand cliffs of the Menemsha Hills Reservation, but the annual guided hike is the rare opportunity to explore up close on this private land. 

This was the first of four hikes which Peach will guide this winter, and continues a long tradition of annual hikes on private Vineyard conservation restriction properties, guided by The Trustees of Reservations.  These are titled the "Saving Special Places Walking Series", and three more walks are scheduled, in February and March.  We are very grateful to the landowners who allow these hikes on their amazing land each year. 

This time of year, you should let a sleeping turtle lie. Who knows the identity of this turtle?
Next up, on Sunday, February 17, comes a walk on another fantastic north shore conservation restriction property, featuring rare species and habitats, and a scenic north shore beach.  Savvy geographers may be able to identify Nashawena Island in the distance, the largest and one of the most unique CR properties protected forever by The Trustees!  

Across the oak canopy and Vineyard Sound to the Elizabeth Islands in a greener season!
The series concludes on March 17th, to the stunning heights of Squibnocket Point, and on March 24th to the peak of Signal Hill in Chilmark, overlooking Squibnocket and Menemsha ponds.  Space is limited, and the walks are very popular, so sign up soon (all three events linked here) to guarantee your spot! 

Beautiful Menemsha Pond.