O'Donnell Property, Marlborough

Photo by Dany Pelletier

SVT is part of an effort to protect an important property abutting Callahan State Park.

For several years, SVT has supported the efforts of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the City of Marlborough to expand the 958-acre Callahan State Park by acquiring the 33-acre O’Donnell Property in Marlborough.

Colie and Nora O’Donnell purchased the property in 2014 to save it from a proposed development,  but they have always seen themselves as temporary stewards of the land. The couple has awaited  an opportunity to sell the property to conservation groups and ensure its permanent protection.

Now, DCR, the O’Donnells, the City of Marlborough, and SVT have reached an agreement-in-principle regarding the acquisition and protection of this important and strategic property.

August 2020 update:

The Massachusetts DCR and the O’Donnell Family have agreed on purchase and sale terms, and DCR has applied for federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help offset part of the purchase price for the property.

The federal review process is taking longer than we had hoped, but we expect to receive an answer soon. SVT will then set out to raise the remaining funds needed to acquire and permanently protect this remarkable property.

Another exciting development: The City of Marlborough has agreed in principle to permanently protect 13 acres of city land that abut the O’Donnell Property, provided the deal goes forward. The city is expected to finalize this commitment this fall as we near a year-end closing of the project.

Property Description

The 33-acre O’Donnell property is located off Parmenter Road in the southeast corner of Marlborough. On its northern and eastern edges, the property shares a ½-mile boundary with Callahan State Park. In addition, nearly ¼ mile of the Beebe Pond Loop Trail cuts across the O’Donnell property, connecting two portions of the Callahan State Park trail system.

The land is largely wooded with white pine and black oak as the predominant species. Many other trees are also present, including eastern white pine, black oak, gray birch, pin cherry, red oak, red maple, sugar maple, black birch, white ash, and pitch pine. The property includes 800 feet of Angelica Brook, a tributary to Foss Reservoir, and associated shallow marsh habitat.

Why protect this land

Callahan State Park, with its expansive and contiguous forest, provides habitat for many interior woodland species, including black-throated blue warblers, wood thrushes, and pileated woodpeckers.  By preventing the development of the O’Donnell land, we can add its 33 acres to the state park and safeguard this important habitat for wildlife species that rely on large, undisturbed areas.

The fact that the property is surrounded by the state park on three sides elevates the importance of conserving it. Left unprotected, the O’Donnell property could be carved up into 20 or more house lots, which would fragment the forest habitat, harm wildlife, and increase runoff and erosion into Angelica Brook and the waters downstream.

Callahan is also a well-loved local recreational resource, as thousands of area residents enjoy its trails each year. Protecting the O’Donnell land will also protect a portion of the Beebe Pond Trail Loop and preserve the right of the public to use this recreational resource. A residential subdivision would likely end public use of this portion of the trail.

How we will protect this land

DCR is seeking to purchase the property with assistance of the City of Marlborough and SVT.

The O’Donnells have agreed to sell the property to DCR for its appraised value of $1.5 million. The purchase price will be funded by $500,000 from DCR, $750,000 from a pending Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant from the National Park Service, $150,000 from the City of Marlborough (contingent on City Council approval), and $100,000 from SVT. SVT is launching a campaign to raise these funds so the deal can move forward.

To learn how you can help permanently protect this important property, please contact Christa Collins, SVT Director of Land Protection, at [email protected].

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