From Lauded Trails to Landing Strips

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Find out more about Conservation Restrictions from CR Specialist, Andrew Bentley, in his introductory article on CRs.

Each Conservation Restriction (CR) is a unique document negotiated to accommodate the landowner’s continued ownership and management of their land, including some unique land uses, while protecting its conservation attributes. This article will briefly highlight a range of properties that represent the breadth of our forty-year legacy of land protection through CRs!

The 393 Conservation Restrictions held by The Trustees protect a wide variety of property types. Most are private landowners’ undeveloped land like forests and wetlands with high values for wildlife habitat or water quality protection, whilst others are working farms, several protect urban open space, and some are publicly accessible lands owned by cities and towns or other land trusts.

Pictured is the Charles River, as it winds slowly past our Rocky Narrows Reservation. Parts of our first three CR parcels from 1972 were generously donated into Trustees’ ownership by the landowner in 1987, and more in 2012, to create a riverside walking trail at Rock Narrows. The Cedariver Reservation in Millis was another riverside CR property donated to The Trustees.  Several dozen other CRs protect over 2,600 acres in the Charles watershed in towns like Sherborn, Millis, and Holliston. They supplement the conservation envisioned in the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers' "Natural Valley Storage Area."  That project conserved natural wetlands along the Charles that possessed natural flood storage capacity, thus lessening the threat of downstream flood damage closer to Boston. 

Wondering what our largest CR is? That would be an entire island in the Elizabeth Islands off Falmouth – at over 1,800 acres, privately owned Nashawena Island is an ecological treasure trove with many rare plant and animal species, and a herd of Scottish Highland cattle that graze to maintain the island’s threatened natural grasslands! 

On the other side of the state, our largest CR on the mainland protects the 1,200-acre Steepletop Reserve deep in the forests of the southern Berkshires in New Marlborough and Sandisfield. Its miles of trails and pristine forest and wetland habitats are owned and managed by another land trust, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and open for public enjoyment! 

Not only are The Trustees the largest agricultural land owner in Massachusetts, but our CRs protect over a dozen private working farms that include traditional crop and livestock operations, and numerous farms feeding their customers through vibrant Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) share programs.

Allandale Farm on the Boston-Brookline line is the last working farm in the Boston city limits, and runs a great nursery and retail store full of farm fresh food! Warner Farm (pictured right), on the Connecticut River in the western MA town of Sunderland is best known for hosting its world-famous autumn corn maze – Mike’s Maze, and its intricate corn maze designs which have included the Mona Lisa, political candidates, and the iconic Campbell’s tomato soup can. They have a roadside farmstand, and a popular CSA delivering produce shares to the Boston suburbs. Other fantastic community-oriented farms we protect include Spring Street Farm in Millis, Holly Hill in Cohasset, and Pakeen Farm in Canton. 

Moving on to urban lands, we partner with Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust to protect their Hawk Valley Farm property in Lowell. A respite from its urban surroundings, you might find signs of wildlife like coyote, deer, and fisher. Our CRs also protect the Commonwealth’s first Gateway Park in Fitchburg, created through a unique partnership between the state, the city of Fitchburg, a variety of nonprofit partners, and permanently protected through a CR co-held by North County Land Trust and The Trustees. 

There are also some CR properties that may surprise you. For example, why does this wide open green space (pictured left) look strangely like… a golf course? Well that’s because it is! The family-run Cape Ann Golf Course (pictured left) overlooks the salt marsh estuaries of Essex and Ipswich adjacent to our Stavros reservation. The CR document supports its continued use as a golf course, or its eventual conversion to agricultural or forestry uses, parkland, or natural succession. However, it is required to stay free from residential development in perpetuity. The Stavros family’s foresight resulted in our public reservation, and also protects the land on which they run a successful family business. 

Finally we come to one of our most fascinating CR properties (pictured right). This property in southeastern Massachusetts supports a state-listed threatened species habitat in its woodlands and wetlands, while also having a very unique land use – a grass airplane runway! The landowner had the foresight to protect the property’s unique habitat and water quality protection features, but also wanted to continue use of its historic grass landing strip, one of the few such airports in the state! Student pilots frequently land to build their skill at landing in open fields. The CR allows for the airport use to continue, public access to a trail along its edges, and future agricultural uses on its valuable farmland soils.  

The Trustees are proud to work in partnership with our Conservation Restriction landowners to protect so many wonderful places beyond our reservations. We are excited to share more stories with our supporters each month, to highlight some of the unique people and stories behind our legacy of protecting land forever through CRs.