One year ago, the Concord Land Conservation Trust embarked on an ambitious campaign to preserve 80 acres of stunning waterfront along the Concord River.
On December 15th, the campaign came to a highly successful conclusion, with the necessary funds either pledged or in hand thanks to the generous support of the residents of Concord and the members of CLCT. More than 100 years ago, the ornithologist William Brewster purchased this land to save it from the developer's axe. Today we have done the same thing, once and for all.
There is now an interim parking area at the end of Ball's Hill Road which can be used to access the October Farm Riverfront trails.
With its ample water and topographic and vegetative diversity, the land is outstanding wildlife habitat and is a part of a larger natural vegetative area that has long been identified by the Town as a priority for protection. Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, spring peepers, and blue spotted salamanders breed in the ponds and vernal pools. A wide variety of waterfowl, shore birds, birds of prey, and warblers and other songbirds abound there during the summer and the spring and fall migrations. The forested landscape of hills, ponds, and riverfront we see today was formed fifteen thousand years ago when a retreating glacier left its mark on this land along the river. Deposits from glacial streams formed a line of hills. At the southwestern edge, Holden Hill rises sharply from the river with two saddleback summits. Next in line is Dakins Hill—lower and with four distinct summits. Ball’s Hill, the highest and last of the hills, ascends steeply from the riverbank where the Concord River makes its turn to the north.
A network of trails, suited variously for walking, running, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding, extends throughout the property. A broad trail with gentle contours runs along the river frontage. Narrower paths with short, steep ascents and descents that would be an adventure on cross-country skis follow the ridge line of the hills and wind around their flanks. There are fine views from many points throughout the area. The summits of the hills offer vistas of the river, the forested far bank, and the large impoundments of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. From a boat on the Concord River the view is of the hills rising from the water’s edge, unbroken by houses or other structures. Thoreau made note of the landscape’s distinctiveness in a journal entry for March 1859. He wrote of sailing on the river toward these “shining russet hills . . .” with “Ball’s Hill on the verge of this undulating blue plain, like some glorious new created island of the spring,” a sight that affected him “as something altogether ethereal.”
We who live in and appreciate Concord benefit from the foresight and generosity of those who came before us and permanently protected the landscapes that add so much to the town’s character and are now part of our community’s common wealth. Thanks to them, many of Concord’s most valuable lands remain open and green for us and future generations. Today we have added significantly to this legacy, preserving forever one of the most important remaining unprotected natural areas in Concord.
How did the campaign progress? First, a market appraisal, assuming a planned residential development of five estate lots, valued the property at $7 million. The landowner offered to make a conservation bargain sale at a price of $6.4 million and the Land Trust subsequently negotiated a further price reduction of $400,000, bringing our need down to $6 million plus funds to cover acquisition costs and future stewardship needs. The 2016 Town Meeting voted $2 million towards this project for open space and water supply and the Land Trust began a campaign to raise the rest. In mid-November, the state awarded a LAND grant to the town for $400,000 to help purchase the property, a sum that will be reimbursed to the town before the end of the fiscal year. The Land Trust was greatly encouraged by the enthusiastic response to the fundraising; people understood how critical it is to protect this spectacular property and stepped up accordingly to make the campaign a success.
On paper, the 80-acre property has been divided into two ownerships, with the Town owning just over 33 acres and CLCT, around 47 acres, proportional to each entity's contribution to the purchase price. The Town and CLCT will share in the stewardship of the property and maintenance of the trail system.