Ciesluk Forest/Forty Caves

SVT and the Towns of Berlin and Clinton teamed up to conserve this 63-acre property that spans the two towns and abuts 193 acres of conservation land, including SVT’s Garfield Woods and Berlin's Forty Caves. This property, with more than 40 acres of BioMap2 Core Habitat, is an extremely important natural resource.

The Towns closed on their purchase of the land in May 2017 and SVT closed on the Conservation Restrictions in late June 2017.

Trails on the property are accessible by two new parking areas that the Towns created on Allen Road in Berlin and on Francis Street in Clinton. The parking areas and trails are also the new points of access for SVT’s Garfield Woods and the Town of Berlin’s Forty Caves reservations. The combined Garfield Woods, Forty Caves, and Ciesluk Forest will now be known as Forty Caves! Forty Caves is a more than 241-acre wildlife habitat. 

Thank you for your support in protecting this important property!

Why protect this land

The protection of the Ciesluk Forest closes a gap in the existing conservation land around the property, and provides a buffer for the significant natural resources that this property and the neighboring conservation areas host. 

The Ciesluk Forest is located in the foothills of the Wattaquodock Range, straddling the Nashua and SuAsCo Rivers watersheds, which in turn lie entirely within the Merrimack River Watershed. The Merrimack River Watershed was recently named the most threatened watershed in the country by the United States Forest Service, and the Merrimack River was named one of the 10 most threatened rivers in the United States according to the 2016 report by American Rivers. Thus, the protection of the Merrimack River watershed is now more crucial than ever.

The Ciesluk Forest is also a vital link in an extensive wildlife corridor, and 2/3 of the property is recognized by the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as BioMap2 Core Habitat for threatened species under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.  (Read about two threatened species that need the habitat provided by Ciesluk Forest.)

In addition, protection of the Ciesluk Forest protects important water resources. The property is within close proximity to the Nashua River and it hosts 4700 foot section of a tributary of North Brook, a Certified Coldwater Fisheries Resource. 

Finally, Ciesluk Forest connects to 193 acres of immediately adjacent conservation land – including SVT’s Garfield Woods Reservation and the Town of Berlin’s Forty Caves and Musche Woods Conservation Areas - offering abundant opportunities for passive recreation.

Existing farm roads and trails are part of an extensive trail network that is suitable for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and skiing, as well as for environmental education outings. The trails on the abutting Garfield Woods and Forty Caves properties have long been popular, though the only entrance was closed in recent years due to safety issues with an active railroad line. The acquisition of the Ciesluk Forest expands the trail network and allows SVT to re-open the trails by creating two trail heads on the property – one on Allen Road in Berlin and one on Francis Street in Clinton. 

View the Ciesluk Forest Project Map

How we will protect this land

SVT and the Towns of Berlin and Clinton have conserved this property in perpetuity. The Towns own the land in the care and control of the Conservation Commissions - and SVT holds CRs over the property for an added layer of protection and to ensure that it is conserved forever. SVT will steward the property and will maintain the trails for passive recreation.  

Fundraising Campaign

Both towns were awarded a Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to cover approximately 60% of the project costs! Additionally, the Town of Berlin contributed more than $66,000 to the acquisition and project cost. SVT raised $140,000 for project with the support of individuals and foundations!

The goal

With this property conserved, crucial wildlife habitat and watershed lands have been protected and visitors have been given the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the property through recreational opportunities and environmental education programs.

Project history

The Ciesluk Forest has gone through many iterations of farming and foresty throughout its history, with well established stone walls marking all of its boundaries. In its most recent history it was owned by a well known town resident, a bachelor who was happy to have the area children playing on his property. Countless area residents have recounted tales of helping the owner with property chores and exploring the property at will. A few decades ago, during his lifetime, the owner donating a portion of his property, now known as Forty Caves, to the Town of Berlin for conservation. Now his nieces and nephews, who inherited his land, have ensured that the remainder is conserved as well. 


PDF icon View the Ciesluk Forest Project Map