Boxborough

Evaluating Culverts in the High Ridge Region

On October 30, SVT’s Dan Stimson and Matt Morris invited several of our partners in the High Ridge Initiative to attend a training session on culvert assessment. Participants learned how to study culverts and other road-stream crossings to determine whether wildlife can pass through them easily.

One goal of the High Ridge Initiative is to create long corridors of conserved lands where wild animals can search for food and nesting spots. When conserved lands are intersected by roadways, then coyotes, fox, deer, and other animals must cross through traffic as they roam the landscape.

We attended the training to learn how to evaluate existing culverts in the High Ridge area and to consider the use of culverts in creating wildlife corridors on conservation lands.

Culverts can make it easy for cars to cross over a stream, but they often do not provide safe passage to aquatic creatures and other wildlife. Culverts that sit below water level on one side of a road but sit above water level on the other side prevent fish from swimming upstream. Culverts that are only as wide as a stream and do not encompass any of the adjacent stream bank offer no help to small animals that need to cross under a roadway.

The training session was coordinated by the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative. It was led by Jake Lehan, Stream Crossing Assessment Coordinator for Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration.

High Ridge partners who attended were Dan Stimson and Matt Morris (SVT), Marc Sevigny (Harvard Conservation Trust), Lisa St. Amand (Boxborough Conservation Trust), Amy Green (Littleton Conservation Commission), and Don MacIver and Rick Findlay (Littleton Conservation Trust).

High Ridge Initiative Will Protect Clean Water

Horse Meadows Reservoir, Harvard. Photo by Raj Das.
Horse Meadows Reservoir, Harvard. Photo by Raj Das.

SVT and several of our conservation partners have launched the “High Ridge Initiative” to conserve an area of ecologically important lands at the intersection of Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough. The partners include the Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT), Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust), as well as other representatives of the three towns.

We have identified an area between Oak Hill in Littleton and Great Elm Conservation Land in Harvard as being of high importance for conservation. This area sits on a glacial ridge and includes extensive forests and wetlands, productive working farms and orchards, and essential wildlife habitat.

“The High Ridge Initiative will protect these important landscapes from wide-scale development that would have a negative impact on local health,” said Ashley Davies, Senior Land Protection Specialist at SVT.

Davies explained that the protection of local forests will help to protect water and air quality in the region. “Forests help to filter impurities out of our air and water, so they directly contribute to the health of the region’s wildlife and people. If the extensive forests near the area’s many waterways were cleared and developed, then our natural filters would be eliminated and contaminants would more easily find their way into local drinking water.”

Most residents in the three towns rely on wells to provide their drinking water. Plus, the High Ridge area includes numerous streams and wetlands that eventually feed into the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers as well as the Nashua River and Stony Brook. In turn, these waterways lead into the Merrimack River. Protecting the buffer forests and open lands in the HIgh Ridge area, therefore, will indirectly help the many communities that rely on these larger streams and rivers for their water.  

The partners in the High Ridge Initiative have already protected three properties: Horse Meadows Knoll in Harvard, Elizabeth Brook Knoll in Boxborough, and the Smith Conservation Land in Littleton. Horse Meadows Knoll and Elizabeth Brook Knoll share a hill overlooking a pond known as Horse Meadows Reservoir. The Smith property sits adjacent to Black Pond and Beaver Brook, both of which are key water resources.

In the coming years, the High Ridge partners will be working with local landowners who would like to conserve additional lands that protect the natural resources of the region. More information about the High Ridge Initiative is available at www.svtweb.org/HRI.

The area where Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough meet is home to thousands of acres of ecologically important lands. The region includes essential wildlife habitat, healthy forests, an abundance of water resources, and productive working farms and orchards. We call this area the High Ridge, and SVT--along with our conservation partners in the three towns--will be working with local landowners to protect as much of the wildlife habitat, working farms, and orchards as possible. Learn more.

"High Ridge" Area Abounds with Natural Resources

The white-face dot-tailed dragonfly was one of the species we encountered during the BioBlitz. Photo by Chris Menge
The white-face dot-tailed dragonfly was one of the species we encountered during the BioBlitz. Photo by Chris Menge

SVT and several of our conservation partners have determined that several thousand acres of land in Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough provide much-needed habitat for wildlife while protecting important natural resources for humans.

These partners include the Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT), Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust). Along with other representatives of the three towns, this partnership has identified an area running along the Shrewsbury Ridge (south of Oak Hill in Littleton) as being of the utmost importance to conserve.

“The Shrewsbury Ridge is a remarkable area,” said Ashley Davies, Senior Land Conservation Specialist at SVT. “The ridge has vast undisturbed areas of forests, meadows, wetlands, and streams that provide habitat for countless plant and animal species.”

“In fact, The Nature Conservancy has identified the area as a ‘resilient site,’ which means it should continue to support a diverse array of plants and animals in a changing climate.”

Davies added that the extensive forests near the area’s many waterways also filter impurities out of our air and water, so they directly contribute to the health of the region’s wildlife and people.

She continued, “As a result of the important ecology of the region, SVT and our partners in the three towns consider this area to be a high priority for conservation. We’re cooperating on a project we call the ‘High Ridge Initiative’ in order to protect these important landscapes from wide-scale development that would have a negative impact on local health.”

Three properties have already been protected as part of the High Ridge Initiative: Horse Meadows Knoll in Harvard, Smith Conservation Area in Littleton, and Elizabeth Brook Knoll in Boxborough. All three properties have hiking trails that are open to the public.

The landscape of the region has undergone many changes over time, which has contributed to its rich wildlife habitat and interesting geologic formations. Twelve thousand years ago, the area around Oak Hill was covered by the waters of glacial Lake Nashua. As recently as the 1600s, forests filled the landscape, but these were cleared by colonial settlers for lumber and firewood. More recently, new forests have grown in abandoned agricultural fields, and these are interspersed with working farms and orchards.

During our recent BioBlitz event, SVT and our partners identified hundreds of species of plants and animals in the area.

To encourage the public to learn more about the natural resources and geology of the High Ridge region, we hosted a "Habitats of Horse Meadows Knoll" walk on July 17, and we are hosting two Geology of Smith Conservation Area tours of the Smith Property that spans the Littleton-Harvard line. Expert geologists will describe ponds, vernal pools, an esker, and numerous erratics that were left behind by the last glacier. Participants will also see bedrock exposures and learn how different types of rock fit into the general plate tectonics of the area.

The tour on July 22 is full, but there are still spaces available in the July 30 outing, which is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. Registration is required.

Monarch Caterpillars at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough

June 22, 2019

A monarch caterpillar at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough, photographed by Rita Grossman.
A monarch caterpillar at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough, photographed by Rita Grossman.
A monarch caterpillar at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough, photographed by Rita Grossman.
A monarch caterpillar at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough, photographed by Rita Grossman.

Rita Grossman photographed these monarch caterpillars at SVT's Half Moon Meadow in Boxborough.

Trail Opens at Elizabeth Brook Knoll

On June 23, the Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust) and SVT held a ribbon cutting to open the hiking trail on Elizabeth Brook Knoll.

Earlier this year, SVT and the Town of Boxborough assisted BCTrust in purchasing the 15-acre property, and we co-hold a conservation restriction on it. 

Rita Gibes Grossman of the BCTrust had the honor of cutting the ribbon, as Phoebe Collins and Alicia Ardura looked on.

Effort to Save Elizabeth Brook Knoll Is Underway

Elizabeth Brook Knoll. Photo by Simon Bunyard, BCTrust

In 2018, SVT and the Harvard Conservation Trust successfully protected Horse Meadows Knoll, a beautiful 47 acres on the Harvard-Boxborough line. Now, the Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust), with SVT’s assistance, has a chance to conserve the adjacent Elizabeth Brook Knoll, a lovely 15-acre property that sits on the Boxborough side of the town line.

By protecting Elizabeth Brook Knoll, we’ll be able to extend the trail system from Horse Meadows Knoll and enable everyone to enjoy this intriguing landscape.

Elizabeth Brook Knoll and Horse Meadows Knoll sit at the southern edge of what we call the “High Ridge.” This 12-square-mile area in Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough is rich with wildlife habitat, abundant native plants, and important sources of drinking water.

SVT and other conservation groups are working to protect these resources before they succumb to development pressure. We have taken the first steps toward success by protecting Horse Meadows Knoll and the Smith Property in Littleton (which sits at the north end of the High Ridge).

Can you help put the next piece of the puzzle in place by contributing to the protection of Elizabeth Brook Knoll?

BCTrust has secured an $84,000 state grant that puts a big dent in the $189,000 project cost, and a closing is scheduled for March 22. An additional $76,500 has been committed from other sources including the BCTrust, SVT, the Boxborough Conservation Commission, and the Fields Pond Foundation. But we still need to raise $30,000 to close the gap.  With your support, we can reach our goal and protect this land.

Please donate today

Photo by Rita Gibes Grossman
Photo by Rita Gibes Grossman
Photo by Simon Bunyard

On March 22, 2019, Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust), with the assistance of Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) and the Boxborough Conservation Commission, acquired Elizabeth Brook Knoll, a 15-acre wooded property on the Boxborough-Harvard line that features rock outcroppings and provides superb habitat for threatened species of turtles and salamanders.  SVT and the Boxborough Conservation Commission hold a conservation restriction on the property. Learn more.

Bobcat in Boxborough

October 7, 2018

A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.
A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.
A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.
A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.
A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.
A bobcat in Boxborough, photographed with an automatically triggered wildlife camera by Steve Cumming.

Steve Cumming used his automatically triggered wildlife camera to photograph this bobcat in Boxborough.

Red-tailed Hawk in Boxborough

September 8, 2018

A red-tailed hawk in Boxborough, photographed by Steve Cumming.
A red-tailed hawk in Boxborough, photographed by Steve Cumming.

Steve Cumming used his automatically triggered wildlife camera to photograph this red-tailed hawk with a large green caterpillar in Boxborough.

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