The Hilltown Land Trust has purchased a conservation restriction on Cummington’s historic Warner Farm, providing wildlife protection and coldwater stream conservation to 119 of the farm’s 131 acres. Due to both the significance of the property’s resources and the work of the fundraising campaign, Hilltown Land Trust President Wil Hastings noted that Warner Farm was the most intensive and extensive wildlife protection project the Hilltown Land Trust had ever undertaken.
The Warner Farm, situated at the east end of Porter Hill Road and directly opposite the Cummington Fairgrounds, is returning to its roots. Captain Joseph Warner built the core of the existing farmhouse in 1779 and the Warners farmed the land until 1965 when they gave it to the United Church of Christ (UCC) to use as a retreat. In 2009 Richard T. Fournier, a former pastor to both of Cummington’s Congregation churches, and his daughter, Sarah Fournier-Scanlon, bought the farm from the UCC. Rich envisioned an opportunity for an educational and spiritual retreat center on the property while Sarah saw a sustainable fruit, nut and vegetable farm built on the principles of Scotland’s famous Findhorn Garden.
The Hilltown Land Trust’s ability to purchase the conservation restriction from the Fournier’s was given a huge boost from a key state program, the Conservation Partnership Program, which provided $55,000 that was matched by a variety of sources. Funds from the Fields Pond Foundation, The William Wharton Trust, the Highland Communities Initiative, and gifts from many individuals completed the project funding need.
The project not only saves an important agricultural and historic property: It is principally focused on wildlife protection. Much of the farm, including extensive wetlands, has been recognized as “Priority Habitat” by the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and its Tower Brook as core “Living Waters.” In each case, these water resources are supporting rare or endangered birds, plants or fish.
Mr. Hastings notes that the Warner Farm conservation restriction is beautifully complemented by the conservation restriction donated to the Hilltown Land Trust last year by Barbara Spencer on her adjacent property. In addition, public access from Porter Hill Road will be guaranteed to a locally well-known waterfall at the southern end of Warner Farm by a trail in the process of being marked.
More about the Hilltown Land Trust
The Hilltown Land Trust is a volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to preserving active farmland and other working properties, saving native plant and wildlife habitats, protecting watersheds, and preserving the scenic and rural character of the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. HLT recognizes that local communities must balance their need to create new housing and jobs with their need to preserve critical natural resources and their rural character. HLT is committed to being an important participant in this endeavor.
More about The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts
The Trustees are 100,000 members, staff, donors and volunteers who love the outdoors and the distinctive charms of New England, and believe in celebrating and protecting them for future generations. Since 1891, The Trustees have held in trust and cared for special places called “reservations.” From working farms and historic homesteads to formal gardens, barrier beaches, and mountain vistas, The Trustees own and care for 101 special places in Massachusetts—nearly 26,000 acres in more than 73 communities—all of which are open to the public.
In addition, The Trustees hold conservation restrictions on more than 16,000 acres of privately owned land and have worked with communities and other conservation partners to assist in the protection of an additional 16,000 acres. A member-, donor- and endowment-supported organization, The Trustees also provide hundreds of year-round programs and events that inspire people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate and care for natural, scenic and cultural landscapes and landmarks across the Commonwealth. Most events are free-of-charge or heavily discounted for members. As land is being developed and open space is being fragmented at a rapid pace around the state, time is running out to save the best of Massachusetts’ landscapes and landmarks. To find out how you can help, consider becoming a volunteer, donor and/or member by calling The Trustees at 781.784.0567 or visiting www.ttor.org.