Ashby Land Trust Annual Report 2005

Alan Ewald, President

Ashby Land Trust March 25, 2006

2005 was a year of transition for the Ashby Land Trust as we returned to the basics of running a volunteer organization, building and sustaining membership, monitoring, education, and outreach to landowners and conservation buyers.

Early in the year, the Board of Directors reviewed the revised Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Standards and Practices and adopted them as guiding principles for the Ashby Land Trust.

The Land Trust sponsored and participated in a number of educational events in 2005 starting with a workshop on the basics of conservation restrictions co-sponsored with the Nashua River Watershed Association. In March, we held an animal tracking workshop in conjunction with the Ashburnham Conservation Trust, and at our Annual Meeting had a presentation by Robert Thorson on the history and preservation of stone walls in New England. Later in the spring, we presented the role of local land trusts at a seminar on estate planning organized by the Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust. Finally, we co-sponsored a workshop with the Ashby Conservation Commission on forest management and Chapter 61 using the Blood Hill property as a model.

The Land Trust continues to work closely with the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to preserve land in Ashby. In 2005 there has been considerable activity in the area surrounding Willard Brook State Forest and Pearl Hill State Park with large parcels being put up for sale. The Ashby Land Trust has played a significant role in discussions between the State and landowners. Although none of these discussions led to a purchase in 2005, we expect that one of the parcels abutting Willard Brook State Forest will be purchased and protected in the first half of 2006.

In 2005, Membership renewals returned to a level that rivals the Land Trust’s charter membership in 1999 and 2000. This reflects both new memberships and former members returning to support the Land Trust itself after having supported the Campaign for Watatic. This year we have had members and other volunteers help with monitoring conservation restrictions, organizing Earth Day activities, and reaching out to landowners to discuss conservation options.

In the closing months of 2005, we were honored when Grace Lindquist chose the Ashby Land Trust to receive donations in memory of her late husband, William Hammond. Bill was, among many other things, a supporter of the Land Trust and of the Campaign for Watatic.

One of the Land Trust’s founding members, Roberta Flashman, has decided not to seek re-election to the Board of Directors. For nine years Roberta has contributed greatly to the work of the Land Trust with her extensive knowledge of and passion for conservation, and her commitment to land stewardship. We will miss her on the Board even as she remains actively involved with monitoring. Thank you, Roberta, for all of your efforts and for helping to make the Ashby Land Trust a successful conservation organization.

Our primary goal for 2006 is to grow our Board of Directors both in terms of numbers and capabilities. There is a tremendous amount of information to assimilate in order to be a productive board member. As the Ashby Land Trust continues to mature, it is critical that we spread this knowledge around and share in all the responsibilities of running the organization.

Thank you to our loyal members and to the 2005 Board of Directors whose commitment and hard work keeps the Ashby Land Trust strong.

A Summary of Land Protection

Mount Watatic allows public access to a parcel that contains 231 acres in the town of Ashby, which was formerly the old Mt. Watatic ski area. Some additional 50 acres, which includes the summit and Nutting Hill, is in the town of Ashburnham. The landscape is diverse with open ski slopes and rock outcroppings in various stages of succession, and remnants of old growth along steep forested slopes. The parcel abuts land held by DCR, Fish & Wildlife and Fitchburg Rod & Gun. The intersection of two major trail systems, the Wapack and Midstate, offer plenty of hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and skiing opportunities. These bald summit gives 360 degrees of panoramic views; to the east, the Boston sky line, to the south, Mt Wachusett, to the west, Mount Monadnock and north to the Wapack Range.

The Morrison property is a small parcel just over two acres adjacent to Rindge State Rd (Rte 119), just north of Flint Road. The property was donated to the town of Ashby and the Ashby Land Trust holds the Conservation Restriction. The majority of this parcel is wetland and has been flooded by beaver activity in the past. There is a sign at the eastern edge of the property that also is the beginning of a marked trail with two platforms offering views into the wetland.

The South Road Fields/Travis Property are 12.5 acres of open grasslands just off the center of town. Klaus and Andrea Kater placed a Conservation Restriction on this property before selling a portion of it to the town. The fields nearer the Common are privately owned, while the fields beyond the swale are owned by the Town. These two fields adjacent to the cemetery provide a pastoral view of the Town Common and surrounding area. Additionally they contain a unique habitat for grassland birds including Bobolinks and various native sparrow species. Although this habitat is available in other parts of town, the common practice of mowing early in the season prevents these birds from nesting.

The Wiita Conservation Area, contains Blood Hill, the highest peak in Middlesex County. The Conservation area is a large parcel of 169 acres of publicly accessible protected land. In 2001 the Town purchased the land from Mrs. Adell Wiita, with the help of a generous donor and a State Self-Help grant. The Land Trust co-holds the Conservation Restriction. The property is located at the end of Luke Road. and contains a small parking area for easy access. One half of a large field of about 20 acres forms the eastern and southern boundary of the parcel. The other half is privately owned. The remaining 150 acres is forested except for the bald summit that provides excellent views east and north over the lower hills and valleys. Just off the parking area is a gated path that meanders along a stream and wetland to the summit. The western terminus of this property forms the boundary with Ashburnham.

The Arnold Property is a privately owned parcel on which the Ashby Land Trust co-holds the Conservation Restriction. The parcel is located on New Ipswich Road on the New Hampshire line. The farm has been in the Arnold family for generations and straddles the NH border with acreage in both states. Mr. Arnold placed CR’s in both states that permanently protect the parcel with the exception of the five-acre envelope that includes the house and barn. The approximately 20 acres in Massachusetts is evenly divided between rolling fields and wooded backland offering varied habitats. This property does not have public access.