Peppercorn Hill - Kelly Parcels, Upton

Existing trails cross the Kelly parcels
Old stone walls crisscross Peppercorn Hill
Large rock outcrops are a feature of the site

Conservation Conversation:
Protecting the Kelly Property and Its Plant Communities

On March 23, SVT and MLT hosted an online discussion about the effort to protect the Kelly Property in Upton.

Guest speaker Ted Elliman described the local plant communities and explained why they are important to protect. Ted is a noted New England botanist, author of Wildflowers of New England, and a co-author of Grasses, Sedges, Rushes: An Identification Guide.

Register to watch to the recording

SVT is working with the Metacomet Land Trust (MLT) and the Town of Upton to protect the Kelly Property on the eastern edge of Upton and add it to the popular Peppercorn Hill Conservation Area.

The privately owned Kelly Property sits within the Peppercorn Hill land and abuts the Rockwood Meadows Open Space. The land hosts mature forests, wetlands, tributary streams of Mill River, a vernal pool, and impressive rocky outcrops. In addition, about 1 mile of the Peppercorn Hill trail network crosses this land.

By conserving the Kelly Property, we will protect its ecological features, close a gap in the Conservation Area, and ensure the public always has access to the entire trail network.

Project Snapshot
The Kelly Property covers four parcels. During a Fall 2020 Town Meeting, Upton voters approved the use of Community Preservation Act funds to purchase three of the parcels. MLT plans to buy the fourth and has received a $56,500 Conservation Partnership grant toward the purchase from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

SVT is assisting MLT with the purchase, and we set out to raise $73,000 for the sale to close. Going forward, SVT will hold conservation restrictions on all four parcels to ensure their ecological values are protected forever. 

Thanks to all of the project supporters thus far, as of April 2021 we are within $20,000 of our goal! An anonymous foundation has agreed to match the next $10,000 in contributions, so all donations will go twice as far! 

Please help us conserve this land to preserve the ecological integrity of the landscape and ensure public access in perpetuity!

Donate Now


Property Description

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 wetlands and mature mixed upland coniferous and deciduous forest. Tributary streams of Mill River flow 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 and an uncommon sedge-dominated wetland are present on the parcel that MLT plans to purchase.

Trails on the property are used by the public and link to trails on adjacent protected open space. 

Kelly Property Project Map. Click >> to see the Map Legend; click + or - to zoom in or out.


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 Area 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. 

Fundraising Campaign

SVT set out to raise $73,000 in order to do our part for this project. In January 2021, SVT received the good news that a $45,000 grant award from a private foundation (anonymous) will support this effort! We are now working to raise funds from private individuals, and thanks to all of the project supporters thus far, we have less than $20,000 left to raise to cross the finish line! Can you help? Spread the word to your friends and neighbors!

Donate now