SVT and the Town of Harvard are teaming up to purchase the 60-acre Smith Property on the Harvard-Littleton line. When combined with a conservation restriction that the Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT) holds on the property, the purchase will protect this land forever and allow us to open the land for public access.
To succeed, SVT must raise $185,000 by the end of February 2019.
SVT successfully launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 of the necessary funds by November 12,2018. We surpassed our goal ahead of the deadline. By November 6, we raised $35,799. Thank you to everyone who donated!
As of mid-February, we are still $33,000 short of our fundraising goal, and we are still accepting individual donations as we work to raise the remaining funds through foundation grants.
The Smith Property consists of 60 acres of forest, open fields, wetlands, and old farm fields. The property is wedged between Black Pond in Harvard and Beaver Brook in Littleton, with 1200 feet of frontage on both sides of Whitcomb Avenue in Harvard and Littleton.
With all of these features as well as with a ridge running along its western border and with caverns and caves scattered throughout, it is no surprise that the Smith Property has become a beloved community asset, well-known for its spectacular views, its unique wildlife habitat, and its agricultural history.
Why protect this land
The property, which is entirely designated as a BioMap 2 Core Habitat, provides vital habitat for three Species of Conservation Concern, as determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale), Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), and Blanding’s turtle (Emidoidea blandingii). It is also designated as BioMap2 Critical Natural Landscape for a Landscape Block, an area that will remain resilient in the face of climate change because of its ability to buffer hazards, provide connectivity for wide-ranging species, allow for natural disturbances that are needed to sustain certain species, and ensure the protection of existing water resources. It is used by a variety of wide-ranging species, including black bear, deer, coyote, fisher, and turkey, while also providing habitat to rare species. In an area in which natural lands are fragmented by development, wildlife need corridors connecting larger blocks of conservation land to keep their populations healthy and genetically diverse. Such a corridor is critical to ecosystem health, allows wildlife to move safely through the landscape, and allows plants and animals to adapt and relocate as the climate changes.
Additionally, the property lies at the headwaters of three major river basins: the Nashua River Watershed; the Sudbury, Assabet, Concord River Watershed (SuAsCo); and the Stony Brook Watershed, through Elizabeth Brook, Bennet’s Brook, and Black Pond Brook. The latter two watersheds are both sub-watersheds of the Merrimack River Watershed, which is now listed as one of the most imperiled in the nation due to development pressures.
Finally, the effort to acquire the Smith Property is part of a new initiative for SVT—the Ridge Initiative—through which we are seeking to protect over 800 acres of land along a ridge that runs from southwest to northeast along the Harvard, Boxborough, and Littleton lines. This area includes hundreds of acres of already protected lands as well as hundreds of acres of unprotected lands that emerged as some of the highest priority land for protection in SVT’s service area through our recent analysis of ecological values. A property that SVT and the Harvard Conservation Trust have just conserved (Horse Meadows Knoll) serves as the southern anchor of the Initiative’s project area. The Smith Property serves as the northern anchor.
How we will protect this land
In 1996, Paul and Edith Smith donated a CR on a portion of the property to the Littleton Conservation Trust. There followed, over the next two decades, a series of additional conservation transactions and trust amendments that resulted in all of the Smith Property being protected under CRs. The property is now owned by the Smith children, who are unable to manage it from the west coast and are happy to have qualified organizations willing to acquire it.
SVT and the Town of Harvard’s joint offer to purchase the property for a discounted price has been accepted by the Sellers. SVT offered to purchase 48+ acres in Littleton and the Town of Harvard Conservation Commission offered to purchase the remaining 12.7 acres in the Town of Harvard, in a simultaneous transaction. The Town of Harvard wishes to add that acreage to its abutting Black Pond Conservation Land.
SVT’s purpose for acquiring this property, which already benefits from the protection of the CRs, is four-fold: 1) It allows the property to be opened to the public and to be improved with amenities such as parking and trails; 2) It ensures that land management decisions will be made by conservation professionals and that the important ecological resources will be well-protected; 3) as noted above, it creates part of the framework for additional protection in the region; and 4) it adds another layer of protection to the property. With a Conservation Restriction already over the land, there is very little possibility of conversion threat. However, the Littleton Conservation Trust is an all-volunteer land trust and were it to dissolve, SVT as the owner would ensure the land’s protection. With SVT as the owner and the Littleton Conservation Trust as the CR holder, there is a double layer of protection on the property to ensure that it is protected in perpetuity.
The Smith family has agreed to sell these 60 acres in a bargain sale and the total cost of the project, including project costs and a stewardship endowment, is $245,800. The Town of Harvard will be contributing a portion of the funds and SVT will be contributing a portion of the funds.
Additionally, SVT has committed to raising $185,000! We have received grants from several foundations ($15,700 from the Merrimack Conservation Partnership; $25,000 from the Bafflin Foundation; $15,000 from the Fields Pond Foundation; and $10,000 from the Hauben Foundation), but private donations from individuals will play a key role in the project's success.
We need your help in order to succeed. Your donation, in any amount, will help protect this land forever.
SVT's goal is to acquire this land to ensure that it's spectacular ecological assets are well managed in perpetuity, and also to allow the public the ability to access it for passive recreation.
The property was once a farm, and SVT hopes to reclaim at least one of its farm fields in order to enable an abutting family to grow vegetables and graze livestock. Additionally, the properties forest stands will actively managed for forest health and a significant investment will be made to combat invasive species on the property.
The Smith Property offers unspoiled views of forest on both sides of Whitcomb Avenue, spectacular views of Black Pond from the top of its ridge, and expansive views of Beaver Brook. Its varying terrain will enable SVT to create diverse trails, suitable for hiking, horseback riding, and skiing, as well as provide opportunities for environmental education.
The property is easily accessed from Whitcomb Avenue in Littleton, having significant frontage on both sides of the road. SVT will create a trail and parking area to allow public access. In the future SVT plans to create a trail network on this and adjacent conservation land, as part of the Ridge Initiative mentioned above. An access point on the Smith Property would enhance this trail system.
The level of public access will be balanced against the impact it would have over land designated as NHESP BioMap2 Core Habitat.