Update: On February 15, 2019, Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) acquired the Smith Property, a spectacular 49-acre property in Littleton!
The Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT) was a wonderful partner in this endeavor and will continue to hold a Conservation Restriction over the property. The Town of Harvard was also a great partner in this endeavor. The Harvard Conservation Commission’s purchase of an additional 12 acres of the property in Harvard enabled the project’s success. Finally, local conservation advocates and members of SVT and LCT were crucial supporters of the project. In November of 2018 SVT launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 for the project. Thanks to the generous support of SVT members, LCT members, and local conservation advocates, we far surpassed our goal and have raised $62,600 to date!
Management planning for the future of the property is underway. SVT will manage all 61 acres owned by SVT and the Town of Harvard as one reservation. On March 5th, SVT sought local input on the future management of the property and on May 18th and June 1st SVT will be holding educational programs, Discovery Days, at the property to help attendees build identification skills. The Discovery Days are a mandatory prerequisite for participation in a larger BioBlitz that will occur on the Smith Property and other properties in the area on June 22nd.
Over the next few months the trails will be finalized in a way that ensures the reservation provides public access while remaining sensitive to important habitat on the property. LCT will partner with SVT on the maintenance of the trails.
A grand opening is slated for this summer (2019).
The Smith Property consists of 61 acres of forest, open fields, wetlands, and old farm fields. Located on Whitcomb Avenue in Littleton, it boasts expansive views from the shores of both Beaver Brook Marsh and Black Pond. Trails will take visitors past farm fields, water features, and caverns where bobcat, bear, coyote, and porcupine have been spotted in recent months!
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 1900 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.
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 have purchased the property. SVT has purchased 48+ acres in Littleton and the Town of Harvard Conservation Commission has purchased the remaining 12.7 acres in the Town of Harvard, in a simultaneous transaction. The property will be managed by SVT as one reservation.
SVT’s purpose for acquiring this property, which already benefits from the protection of the CRs, is four-fold: 1) It will allowed 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 sold these 61 acres in a bargain sale and the total cost of the project, including project costs and a stewardship endowment, was $245,800. The Town of Harvard contributed a portion of the funds and SVT contributed a portion of the funds.
Additionally, SVT committed to raising $185,000! SVT 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 have also played a key role in the project's success.
In November of 2018 SVT launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $35,000 for the project. Thanks to the generous support of SVT members, LCT members, and local conservation advocates, we far surpassed our goal and have raised $62,600 to date!
Thank you for your support of this project!
SVT's goal was 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. We have achieved our acquisition goal, we hope to open the property to the public this summer (2019), and we will continue to strive to manage the property and its ecological assets to ensure their protection in perpetuity. Management planning continues and includes the following:
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.