Tri-Town Initiative: Conserved Properties

As of December 2019, the partners in the Tri-Town Initiative project have saved 473 acres on 13 properties. (The project partners are SVT and the Towns of Northborough, Berlin, and Boylston, with support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.) 

Although SVT and our partners are managing this multifaceted project, it is the participating landowners who are truly making the project a success. Their love of land has led them to choose conservation over development. Some landowners have made gifts of land or conservation restrictions (CRs); others have realized significant income through the sale of property but have allowed us to stretch our conservation dollars further by accepting less than the fair market value of their land. 

SVT would like to thank all of the landowners who make our conservation work possible.

The numbers on the map show the location of each conserved property:

1. Kelsey Property, Berlin, 27.1 acres. The Kelsey family cared for their Berlin property for decades, and their love of the land led them to conserve it instead of seeing it developed after they move on. The family donated 3.4 acres outright to the Town of Berlin and sold a CR to the Town and SVT on 23.7 acres. Carolyn Kelsey Beckstrom and her husband Eric, who live next door, can still use the property to walk their dogs and horses, pasture their animals, and cut firewood.

2. Mathews Property, Berlin, 24 acres. Marjorie Morse Mathews had fond memories of picnicking as a child with her extended family on their 24-acre woodlot in Berlin. She agreed to sell the property to the Town for conservation at a steeply discounted price, and when she passed away before the transaction was complete, her sons fulfilled her wishes. SVT will hold a CR on the property, which is located on Crosby Road in Berlin.

3. Matraia Property, Northborough, 6.65 acres. John and Geraldine Matraia and their children have great memories of spending time on their land, which led them to sell the 6.65-acre property to the Town of Northborough. The Matraias had once lived on the property, and after their children left home and the couple moved, they retained some of the land because of its sentimental value. The Matraia Property sits on the eastern slope of Mount Pisgah and links the Mount Pisgah Conservation Area down to Howard Street for the first time. SVT will hold a CR on the property.

4. Rawstron Property, Northborough, 21.75 acres. William and Ann Rawstron moved their family to their Northborough property in the early 1960s and immediately said to each other that the land should never be built on. Interested in conserving as much land as possible, they waited several years until the land around them came up for sale, and though it was a stretch, they paid the asking price to acquire it.

The Rawstrons donated a CR over 62 acres in 2002 and since then have been grateful to see three of their eight children and five of their grandchildren move close enough to enjoy the land regularly. With the Tri-Town project, the opportunity to finally conserve the remaining land came up and they sold a CR on their remaining 21.75 acres, to be held jointly by the Town of Northborough and SVT. The Rawstrons have also donated a perpetual trail easement over all of their conservation land, to the Town of Northborough as part of this project.

5. Brissette Property, Boylston, 46.6 acres. Fran and Pat Brissette acquired their Boylston land for forestry in order to become energy independent in response to the 1973 oil embargo. Since then, they have continued to maintain the health of the property through good land management and forestry, and have watched their children and grandchildren develop a love of nature. SVT purchased their 46.6 acres of backland at less than fair market value, will grant a CR to the New England Forestry, and will open the property to the general public for passive recreation.

6. Eager Property, Northborough, 4.7 acres. In 2011, Barry Eager sold 40+ acres of land to the Town of Berlin at less than market value to create Eager Woods on Barnes Hill but still owned 4.7 acres of land on the Northborough side of the town line. He has now donated that remaining parcel to the Town of Northborough. This parcel, which is home to the granite post that marks the point where the towns of Berlin, Boylston, and Northborough meet, links Eager Woods to the Brissette property.

7, 8. Duggan and Wolf Properties, Berlin, 17 acres. Neighbors Skip and Cheryl Duggan and Emily Wolf were delighted to donate CRs on their Ball Hill Road properties to the Town of Berlin when the Tri-Town project came about. These two CRs, which together total 17 acres, abut each other and hundreds of acres of conservation land in Berlin and Boylston near Wrack Meadow. They are home to many species of wildlife, including moose (reportedly), and provide a buffer from the nearby residential homes and road.

9. Golas Farm, Boylston, 111 acres. The Golas Farm in Boylston has been in the Golas family for many generations, having been acquired from a Civil War veteran in 1928 and since the passing of their mother, the Golas siblings have been trying to sell the land for conservation purposes. Working with SVT and the tenant farmer, the family was able to sell the property, while ensuring the continued agricultural use and conservation of the land. On June 28, SVT and the New England Forestry Foundation purchased a conservation restriction (CR) on the 111-acre farm as part of the Tri-Town Project. The tenant farmer, who grew up on the farm next door, plans to purchase the property from the Golas family in the coming months and will continue to farm it in compliance with the CR.

Golas Farm encompasses portions of Larkin Hill and Rattlesnake Hill with the center of the property being a mixture of wet and dry meadows. The property contains several types of habitat, including pasture, early successional meadows, mature forest, and both open and wooded wetlands. The farm has spent most of its years as an active pig farm but is currently home to beef cattle, chickens, and ducks and also hay and corn for silage. The farm abuts other conservation lands and is the largest single property in the TTLP. It also connects the TTLP with the Wachusett Reservoir and conservation lands beyond.

10. Feuerstein Property, Berlin, 10 acres. The 10-acre Feuerstein Property in Berlin is an iconic property that sits on the corner of Ball Hill Road and Linden Street, just across from the Rainville Farm. For many years, the late owner, Louise Feuerstein, meticulously restored the historic home on the site and preserved the open fields and on July 28, SVT assisted the Town of Berlin in acquiring a conservation restriction (CR) on the property to conserve it as part of the Tri-Town Project.

Mrs. Feuerstein agreed to donate the CR to the Town several years ago and wanted it to be part of the Tri-Town project. Unfortunately, she passed away before the deal closed. With the recording of this CR, her wish to see this land protected in perpetuity has been realized. 

11. Boylston Tax Title Parcels, 95 acres. The Boylston Tax Title parcels were acquired by the town through tax takings during the Great Depression. Over several decades, Town residents, SVT staff, and members of the local Conservation Commission have advocated for their permanent protection.

These parcels, containing 95 acres, have now been deeded to the Boylston Conservation Commission for conservation and passive recreation purposes. Located off of Mile Hill Road, they are bordered by SVT’s Wrack Meadow Woods Reservation, the Eager and Brissette properties, and the Summer Star Wildlife Sanctuary. At one time they were a part of an area used by locals for gathering ice and pasturing cows, and now provide habitat for many species of wildlife.

12. Oberg Property, 91 acres. For decades, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Berlin hoped to conserve the Oberg Property. After the owner's death, his corporation and heirs sold the Oberg Property to the Town of Berlin for conservation purposes. The property has long been part of the popular Mount Pisgah hiking trail system, thanks to the generosity of the Oberg family, which allowed the public to cross the land. Now, the property is officially open to the public and conserved in perpetuity. SVT will hold a Conservation Restriction over 80 acres.

Conservation of the property nearly completes the Mount Pisgah Conservation area. The overlook on the property, from which you can see the Prudential Tower in Boston on a clear day, has been named the Warren S. Oberg Overlook in memory of its prior owner. (Previously, this spot was known as the North View.) 

13. Bennett Property, Northborough, 19.2 acres. The Bennett family has been in Northborough for generations, with four siblings living on the original family farm. Years ago, the family gave a trail easement to the Town of Northborough, providing access to Mount Pisgah from Howard Street. When one sibling retired and planned to move away, the Town of Northborough worked with him and his wife to purchase 19.2 acres of their land. The Bennett Property is on the east face of Mount Pisgah, abutting the Mount Pisgah Conservation Area. The Town of Northborough Conservation Commission now owns the 19.2 acres, and SVT may hold a CR on the property.