Peppercorn Hill - Kelly Parcels, Upton
Peppercorn Hill is a well-used conservation area on the east side of Upton, next to the Hopkinton town line. Consisting of 238 acres, it affords visitors beautiful views from the highest elevations, and includes trails that cross babbling brooks and skirt impressive rock outcrops.
What visitors may not realize is that some of the trails cross lands that are privately owned and unprotected. SVT, the Metacomet Land Trust (MLT), and the Town of Upton are working to protect those parcels--known as the Kelly Property--and add them to the Peppercorn Hill Conservation Area.
During a Special Town Meeting on November, 10, 2020, Upton voters approved the use of Community Preservation Act funds for the purchase of the four parcels that make up the Kelly Property. Thank you, Upton!
In addition, the Metacomet Land Trust and SVT are seeking to offset some of the cost to the town by raising funds to purchase one of the four parcels.
The Kelly Property consists of four parcels that cover approximately 66 acres of land. (The Town of Upton is working to purchase three of the parcels. The Metacomet Land Trust is working to purchase the fourth.)
The property consists of wetland and mature mixed upland coniferous and deciduous forest. A tributary stream of Mill River flows through the property.
Impressive rocky outcrops overlook the stream and wetlands. A previously unmapped potential vernal pool is perched high above the wetlands.
A beaver impoundment is present on the stream at the southern end of the property. An uncommon sedge-dominated wetland is present at the northern end.
Trails on the property are used by the public and link to trails on adjacent protected open space.
Why protect this land
The Kelly property is directly adjacent to over 300 acres of permanently protected open space owned by the Town of Upton and the Rockwood Meadows Association. The town-owned land, known as the Peppercorn Hill Conservation Area, was purchased by Upton in 1985 in part, with a “Self Help” grant from the Commonwealth.
The Rockwood Meadows Open Space is protected by a conservation restriction recorded in 2015 and co-held by the Town of Upton and the Hopkinton Area Land Trust (HALT). Other contiguous protected open space includes the Snow Family Conservation Area off East Street in Upton and Town of Milford open space off Camp Street.
All four Kelly parcels are contiguous with the Peppercorn Hill Conservation areas and contain trails used by the public. An overlook on the Kelly property near the top of Peppercorn Hill provides a spectacular long distance view to the west.
A small portion of the property is considered BioMap2 Core Habitat.
Though the parcels are currently landlocked, they could be combined with other adjacent properties for development purposes someday. Purchasing them now ensures the unique natural features and public trails will be protected in perpetuity.
How we will protect this land
The unprotected part of Peppercorn Hill consists of four parcels totalling nearly seventy acres, and the Kelly family has agreed to sell them for $260,000. Additional costs to complete the transaction, including a very expensive survey of the land, bring the total estimated project cost to $320,000.
Residents approved the purchase at a Special Town Meeting on November 10, 2020.
In order to reduce the cost to the Town's Community Preservation Fund, Metacomet Land Trust and SVT have offered to purchase one of the parcels, which spans 23.43 acres and is valued at $103,000. MLT has received a state Conservation Partnership grant for $56,500, and SVT will fundraise for the remainder of the purchase price and to cover transaction costs.
If the fundraising effort is successful, the Town will purchase three of the Kelly parcels and Metacomet will purchase the fourth. SVT will hold conservation restrictions over all four.
SVT must raise $59,000 to do our part for this project. We hope that most of those funds will come from private foundations, and have set a goal of $14,000 from individuals. Can you help?