Horse Meadows Knoll
SVT and the Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT) have embarked on a joint venture to preserve 45 ecologically important acres on Sherry Road in Harvard. The Horse Meadows Knoll property boasts a beautiful beech forest, a historic reservoir, and wetlands, and it is home to several endangered species.
On April 19, 2017, HCT took ownership of the property and has an ambitious goal for the next 18 months: The HCT plans to remove the abandoned house, reclaim and restore the demolition site to a relatively natural state, and create a new public conservation area.
Horse Meadows Knoll sits at the eastern edge of Harvard, on the Boxborough line. The property consists of a centrally located drumlin-shaped knoll with a roughly 140-foot elevation, rock outcrops, and steep slopes. With the exception of a portion of Horse Meadows reservoir, the entire property is forested with a mixture of hardwood species, white pine, and hemlock.
The eastern slope descends steeply to a flat but narrow hollow along the eastern boundary that extends out to Sherry Road to the south. The north, south and west slopes of the knoll are more gradual. The western slope descends to the Horse Meadow wetlands complex where the property includes the northern end of Horse Meadows reservoir and a portion of an unnamed feeder stream that is a headwater of Elizabeth Brook.
A derelict house remains on top of the knoll, with an unimproved driveway winding down the southern slope and out to Sherry Road. In addition to the drive, there is an existing woods road extending from Sherry Road and wrapping around the base of the slope along the reservoir.
The entire 50-acre parcel falls within Massachusetts NHESP Priority Habitat designation for rare and endangered species. In addition to rare species, a preliminary natural resource inventory revealed the interior of the property was substantially free of invasive plants. In addition, the inventory identified other species of ecological note, such as Scarlet tanager (an interior forest bird whose presence indicates that the property is part of a relatively unfragmented forest block) and Black Gum (an indicator species for the rare Black Gum Swamp natural community).
MassAudubon and The Nature Conservancy’s new "Mapping and Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience" (MAPPR) tool ranks this parcel as the highest priority for protection in Harvard – one of only three parcels of more than 50 acres that is connected to an unprotected block of 100 acres. The property is also among MAPPR’s second highest priority parcels for “resilient site for conservation” in all of Worcester County.
How we will protect this land
HCT had been working on the Horse Meadows Knoll project for some time when it approached SVT about partnering on the project in the late fall of 2016. HCT had raised some of the estimated $832,000 necessary for the project but still needed to sell a single-family house lot and raise additional funds to meet the landowners' purchase price and cover the cost of demolishing an abandoned structure on the property. SVT agreed to contribute $250,000 to these costs; in turn, we will hold a Conservation Restriction on the property and will assume day-to-day management of the trails, which will require us to set aside additional funds for a stewardship endowment.
SVT must raise $285,000 by June 2018 in order to purchase the Conservation Restriction, improve trails and signage, and establish a permanent stewardship endowment for the property. We need your help!