Echoes of Conservation in Stoughton

By Scott MacFaden, Director of Land Protection

A great blue heron ponders the shores of Glen Echo Pond.

A great blue heron ponders the shores of Glen Echo Pond.

Wildlands welcomed another community into our portfolio of Community Preservation Act (CPA) partners with a recent completion of an 80-acre CPA Conservation Restriction (CR) in Stoughton. 

Situated a short distance from busy Route 139, yet possessed of a feeling of remoteness, the Glen Echo property includes extensive frontage on Glen Echo Pond, a highly scenic and mostly undeveloped hidden gem straddling the Stoughton/Canton boundary, multiple vernal pools, woodland hiking paths, and rocky bluffs that afford striking views of the pond and the surrounding landscape. A small portion of the property extends into neighboring Canton. 

The town used CPA funds to acquire this long-time preservation priority in 2011. Prior to the town’s acquisition, the Glen Echo site enjoyed a long and colorful history. For much of the 20th century, it hosted the Glen Echo Resort which offered boating on the pond, band concerts, bowling, swimming, and for a time, benefited from a trolley connection to Route 139. In its heyday urban dwellers seeking relief from the summer heat flocked to the pond’s pristine shores. Following the resort’s demise, the Glen Echo site sat dormant for many years, awaiting its next incarnation. 

With its resort past now safely in the historical domain, the Glen Echo property has an exciting future as one of Stoughton’s premier open space reserves. Our CR ensures that most of the property will remain in perpetuity as protected open space available for a wide range of passive recreational pursuits, including hiking, nature study, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. The six acres not covered by our CR will eventually host facilities for active recreational pursuits, likely to include tennis courts and soccer fields. 

Congratulations to all of the Stoughton officials and volunteers who worked diligently to ensure that the Glen Echo’s next chapter as an open space treasure will endure for centuries to come. 

First CPA CR in Middleborough Completed

By Scott MacFaden, Director of Land Protection

A woodland path at Oliver Estate.

A woodland path at Oliver Estate.

Our last completed project of 2018 was also a first of its type, our first Community Preservation Act (CPA) Conservation Restriction (CR) in Middleborough, the 43-acre Oliver Estate CR. 

The town of Middleborough used CPA funds to purchase the 50-acre property in 2015. Situated at the junction of Route 44 and Plymouth Street, and just across from the town’s well-known Oliver Mill Park, Oliver Estate possesses considerable ecological significance. It includes over 3,000 feet of frontage on the Nemasket River, a major tributary of the Taunton River, multiple vernal pools, scenic woodland paths, and habitat for multiple state-listed rare species, including the eastern box turtle. The property is also historically significant, as it includes the historic Oliver Homestead and grounds, dating from the mid-eighteenth century. To learn more information on the Property’s fascinating human history, visit: http://discovermiddleborough.com/discover/oliver-estate

Our CR covers most of the property whereas a Historical Preservation Restriction held by Historic New England protects the seven-acre historic homestead portion. At some point in the relatively near future, the town intends to create a new trailhead parking area that will provide direct access to the property’s hiking paths. 

Since our initial foray into protecting land in the Taunton River watershed in the 1990’s, in addition to prioritizing land protection along the river’s mainstem, we and our conservation partners have also afforded priority to preservation efforts along the Taunton’s tributaries and in headwaters areas. The Oliver Estate project is a prime example of a tributary-based project. Thanks, as always, to Middleborough Conservation Agent Patricia Cassady for her invaluable assistance in advancing this CR to completion, and for all of her ongoing efforts toward preserving Middleborough’s natural treasures.  

LAND PROJECTS HEAT UP AS THE WEATHER COOLS DOWN

By Scott MacFaden, Director of Land Protection

Often a productive time of year for land preservation projects, this November proved particularly so for Wildlands. We completed a purchase in Plymouth and a land donation in Halifax that expanded two of our largest preserves, Halfway Pond Conservation Area and Striar Conservancy. 

In Scituate and Plymouth, partnership projects reached a critical juncture and a closing, respectively. In Scituate, town meeting voters approved the purchase of MacDonald Farm, a beloved local landmark on 1st Cliff, and the town of Plymouth purchased an 88-acre property that includes one of the town’s highest-elevation landforms, the striking Hio Hill. 

Early morning mist at Halfway Pond.

Early morning mist at Halfway Pond.

Halfway Pond Conservation Area Addition | Plymouth

A few days before Thanksgiving, Wildlands completed the purchase of an 11.4-acre parcel on Halfway Pond in Plymouth from the Waltham-based Advaita Meditation Center. This acquisition complements recent acquisitions we have made over the past several years near Halfway Pond and further expands Halfway Pond Conservation Area, one of our oldest, largest, and most beloved preserves. 

A rectangular-shaped parcel with varying topography, this property is primarily wooded upland and includes over 470 feet of frontage on Halfway Pond. It is integral to our ongoing effort to pursue ecological restoration efforts along the pond’s shore that will allow for the revegetation of native species. Wildlands now owns almost all of Halfway Pond’s western shoreline. 

A generous private donor supplied all of the funding for this acquisition. Wildlands is fortunate to enjoy the support of such donors who share our belief in the importance, indeed the imperative, of preserving our region’s natural heritage. 

A snowy owl at rest at MacDonald Farm.  Photo courtesy of Jim Petit.

A snowy owl at rest at MacDonald Farm.
Photo courtesy of Jim Petit.

MacDonald Farm | Scituate

On November 14, voters at Scituate’s special town meeting voted to approve the town’s purchase of MacDonald Farm, the last remaining undeveloped parcel on 1st Cliff and one of the few remaining along the town’s 21-mile coastline. 

MacDonald Farm includes 600 feet of frontage on Scituate Harbor, abuts other open space parcels and NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary headquarters, and is a significant component of the vista from multiple vantage points in Scituate Harbor. In decades past, saltmarsh hay and Irish moss were harvested from its shores.

The town will use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to acquire the property and, in keeping with CPA requirements, will grant a Conservation Restriction on the property to Wildlands following the closing. 

MacDonald Farm has been a long-time preservation priority for local stakeholders, including 1st Cliff resident and abutter Mary Jenkins, and NOAA. Mary co-sponsored the application we submitted to the Scituate Community Preservation Committee last summer and was integral to the process of advancing the application through the review and approval process that culminated in the town meeting vote. NOAA representatives, Ben Haskell and Anne-Marie Runfola, provided invaluable support throughout that review and approval process. Wildlands is pleased to have had the opportunity to join the project in its latter stages and collaborate with these local stakeholders, town officials, and volunteers toward advancing the preservation effort.  

Hio Hill Preserve | Plymouth

On November 29, the town of Plymouth acquired 88 acres off the east side of Old Sandwich Road in southeast Plymouth. The town used $1.1 Million in CPA open space funds and a $50,000 contribution from Wildlands to purchase the property, also known as Hio Hill Preserve. We were able to provide this critical complementary funding courtesy of a generous private donor. 

Hio Hill Preserve is entirely wooded upland, with notably diverse topography. Its most prominent feature is its namesake hill, one of the highest elevation landforms in all of Plymouth. Hio Hill’s broad summit plateau offers views of Cape Cod Bay as well as much of the surrounding landscape. It directly abuts other open space parcels, including town-held land, and sits just across Old Sandwich Road from a 450-acre open space assemblage comprising multiple town open space parcels and our Richard F. Wynn Preserve. It is partially within a Zone II wellhead protection area and helps protect a town drinking water well situated three-fifths of a mile to the southeast. 

Wildlands will hold a CPA Conservation Restriction on this outstanding new addition to the town’s portfolio of municipally-owned conservation land. 

Along the Winnetuxet River in Halifax.

Along the Winnetuxet River in Halifax.

Striar Conservancy Addition | Halifax

Courtesy of the Stevens family, the last of our November projects included the donation of a 3.6-acre parcel along the lower Winnetuxet River in Halifax.  Comprising primarily riparian wetlands, the parcel directly abuts and expands Striar Conservancy, our largest preserve in Halifax, and sits across the Winnetuxet’s expansive floodplain from the town of Halifax’s Randall-Hilliard Preserve, upon which Wildlands holds a Conservation Restriction. 

Clyde and Gladys Stevens acquired the property in 1963. With the 2015 passing of Gladys Stevens, the property descended to her heirs, Ernest Stevens and Jeanne (Stevens) Wilson Baum, who graciously donated the parcel to Wildlands. We thank Mr. Stevens and Ms. Baum for their donation of this important component of the Winnetuxet River corridor. 

2018 Holiday Charity Drive

‘Tis the season of giving at Wildlands Trust! Throughout the rest of the year, we will be collecting nonperishable foods, clothing, and gift cards for those in need in Southeastern Massachusetts. Donations will be distributed to food pantries and shelters in Wareham and Brockton, towns where Wildlands Trust has multiple land holdings and is very active in the conservation community.

Food items of need include:

  • Cereal

  • Rice

  • Pancake mix

  • Syrup

  • Jelly

  • Soups

  • Canned pastas (Spaghetti O’s, Chef Boyardee, etc.)

  • Canned fruits

  • Peanut butter

  • Granola bars

Gift cards needed ($10 gift cards can truly make a difference!):

  • Grocery stores

  • Gas stations

  • Walmart

  • Target

Clothing needed:

  • Coats, new or lightly used

  • Hats and gloves, new or lightly used and washed

  • Blankets 

  • Undergarments, new

  • Socks, new

  • Sweatsuits

Other NEW Items:

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  • Small sizes of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and toothpaste

  • Toothbrushes

  • Combs and hairbrushes

  • Reading glasses

  • Nail clippers

We ask that anyone participating in a Wildlands Trust public program in the months of November and December bring an item to donate. Let’s work together to make the holidays happier for everyone in our community!

Pre-Acquisition Saves Valuable Riverfront Parcel in Middleborough

By Scott MacFaden, Director of Land Protection

Contemporary Town Seal.jpg

On October 25, working closely with multiple partners including the town of Middleborough, the Native Land Conservancy (NLC), The Archaeological Conservancy (TAC), and the Compact for Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Wildlands acquired Ja-Mar Farms, a 20.4-acre holding along the Nemasket River in Middleborough. 

The site of a former turkey farm that last operated over a generation ago, the Ja-Mar Farms property includes over 1,100 feet of frontage on the Nemasket, an important tributary of the Wild and Scenic Taunton River, and scenic open fields juxtaposed with areas of wooded upland. It is within several areas identified as important wildlife habitat by the Commonwealth’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, including BioMap 2 Core Habitat. 

In partnership with NLC and TAC, the town had worked for over a decade to achieve the preservation of the property and was slated to finalize a closing in late August; however, the town was unable to because of a complication involving an existing Conservation Restriction on a portion of the land (as further described below). With an expired Purchase and Sales Agreement and a private seller/developer anxious to complete the transaction, the town asked Wildlands to “pre-acquire” the property on its behalf to ensure that it wasn’t forever lost. NLC and TAC provided direct financial contributions to the purchase, while the Compact’s Thomsen Land Fund loaned the balance needed to close the deal to Wildlands and NLC. Wildlands’ pre-acquisition of Ja-Mar Farms is the first step in a journey that will culminate in our transferring the land to the town sometime in mid-2019.

Ja-Mar Farms in Middleborough

Ja-Mar Farms in Middleborough

The existing Conservation Restriction encompasses roughly half of the property’s acreage and was acquired by the town in 2010 when a full preservation outcome seemed unlikely. The town will eventually assign that restriction to NLC and TAC, but cannot do so until first working with its state legislative delegation to advance legislation that complies with the requirements of Article 97 to the Massachusetts State Constitution. This amendment was enacted in 1972 to establish procedures municipalities must comply with before taking any actions regarding municipally-held open space property interests. While intended as a type of procedural obstacle to converting municipally-held open space to other uses, or selling such lands, Article 97’s provisions apply even to situations such as the Ja-Mar Conservation Restriction assignment, which does not involve a conversion to non-conservation use. 

An increasingly significant component of our land protection work involves pre-acquiring properties for a partner entity, typically a public agency. In most cases, nonprofit organizations like Wildlands can mobilize more quickly than our public partners can, a particular benefit when prompt action is required to ensure a property’s preservation. We are pleased that we could be of service to the town of Middlebrough and the other partners involved with this project, and look forward to working with them to achieve the preservation outcome long envisioned for the Ja-Mar Farms property.