Horseshoe Pond Acquisition Project

Horseshoe Pond from Drone View. Photo by Tom Sullivan.

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The Horseshoe Pond Acquisition Project in Berlin reached a successful conclusion in Fall 2022, when the Town of Berlin and Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) protected the Horseshoe Pond property and added 100 acres of land to the Mt. Pisgah conservation area. The Horseshoe Pond property includes three parcels of land that span woodlands, wetlands, and upland forest and provide important habitat for wildlife. 

This land has long been a priority for protection as part of the Mt. Pisgah conservation area, which extends into Northborough and attracts thousands of visitors each year.  Two of the three parcels, 19 Lyman Road and 0 Linden Street, are directly connected to the Mt. Pisgah conservation area.  

The Horseshoe Pond property has been identified by The Nature Conservancy as important to conserve because of its high-quality habitat, its hazard resilience, and its connectivity to other conserved lands. The protection of this natural area prevents development projects from fragmenting the forest, and it preserves a well-established, climate-resilient ecosystem that is necessary for carbon storage, air and water quality, and resilience against extreme weather. 

The Horseshoe Pond Project can serve as a model for landowner outreach and collaborative conservation. When the SVT staff makes presentations at statewide workshops and conferences, they will be able to use the project as an illustration of a successful conservation effort. SVT also uses projects such as this as examples for other landowners who may be interested in conserving their land. A one-page case study for the project, describing the project scope, timeline, and funding sources, along with maps and photos, will be developed for sharing with other land trusts and landowners. 

The Horseshoe Pond Project is a great example of how enrolling land in Chapter 61 can lead to permanent protection.  In 1992, Berlin worked with the landowner to place the land under Chapter 61B of Massachusetts General Law.  The landowner received the benefit of reduced taxes on the properties while the Town ensured the land remained undeveloped and held the Right of First Refusal for the property in the event the landowner wanted to sell.  Once the landowner did decide to sell, a purchase price of $1,250,000 was negotiated. In late Summer 2022, SVT purchased the property and held it for several weeks to allow the Town the opportunity to apply for grants to assist with the purchase. The Town was awarded $874,268 in funds from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, and purchased the land from SVT in November 2022. SVT will hold a Conservation Restriction on the land to ensure its ecological values are protected in perpetuity.

Over the long term, the Berlin Conservation Commission will continue to care for the land and implement the management plan.  The Berlin Conservation Commission has been researching the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Forest Stewardship Program to establish a 10-year management plan. As Conservation Restriction holder, SVT will monitor the property at least annually to make sure the conservation values of the property are being maintained.  The forest is currently healthy and largely free of invasive plant species. SVT’s annual monitoring, in addition to regular trail maintenance by the Berlin Conservation Commission, will allow us to identify management needs and prevent degradation of the important ecological features of the land.