- Department of Conservation & Recreation
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Land Conservation Partnerships in Marlborough and Sharon
Olivia Dorrance, Press Secretary
BOSTON — Building on efforts to conserve natural resources across the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration today announced the completion of two key land acquisition projects within the City of Marlborough and the Town of Sharon that will protect over 330 acres of open space. The announcement was made by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jim Montgomery, and state and local officials in Marlborough at an event to celebrate the O’Donnell Land Conservation project.
“Protecting critical open space like O’Donnell and Rattlesnake Hill continues to be a priority for our Administration to ensure habitats, ecosystems, and other natural resources are conserved for future generations,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These projects will deliver significant benefits to local habitats, make these communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and offer a strong example of the types of investments we could make through our ARPA spending proposal to invest nearly $1 billion in critical environmental initiatives, including land acquisition and conservation projects.”
“Land conservation provides great benefits to species that relies on diverse environments to thrive, as well as the public, who are able to visit, exercise, and explore the natural world,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By working with organizations like Sudbury Valley Trustees and Mass Audubon, as well as municipalities like Marlborough and Sharon, we are able to leverage public-private partnerships to ensure these land parcels are protected in perpetuity.”
DCR, in partnership with the City of Marlborough and the Sudbury Valley Trustees, completed the O’Donnell Land Conservation Project to acquire 33 acres of land for $1.5 million, which will become part of Callahan State Park. DCR also worked with the Town of Sharon and Mass Audubon to complete a $10 million acquisition of Rattlesnake Hill which will protect and conserve more than 300 acres of land abutting Borderland State Park.
“Over the last 18 months, we have seen an explosion of visitation in our state parks and open spaces as residents across the Commonwealth have reconnected with the great outdoors and rediscovered the critical role our natural resources play in the health and well-being of our communities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “By protecting this valuable open space near Callahan and Borderland state parks from future development, the Baker-Polito Administration is continuing its leadership on land conservation, outdoor recreation, and building climate resilience through nature-based solutions.”
DCR invested $1.25 million, the City of Marlborough invested $150,000, and the Sudbury Valley Trustees invested $100,000 to complete the O’Donnell Land Conservation Project, which has been a 20-year effort by project supporters. The land will become part of Callahan State Park and come under the care and control of DCR. The property contains approximately one-quarter mile of the Beebe Pond Loop Trail, a critical link in the park’s trail system. The acquisition of the land expands the park, prevents the area from being developed, and ensures public access to the entire park trail network and natural resources. In 2003, DCR identified the parcel as a priority for protection based on its natural resource values and key location within an actively used portion of Callahan State Park. The collaborative partnership will now prevent a proposed 20-lot subdivision, which would have restricted public access, fragmented critical natural habitat, and negatively impacted nearby Angelica Brook.
Additionally, in partnership with the Town of Sharon, Mass Audubon, DCR announced the successful acquisition of a Conservation Restriction on Rattlesnake Hill to protect over 300-acres of intact wetlands, woodlands, and hilltop abutting Borderland State Park in the Town of Sharon. On February, 27, 2020, DCR closed on the acquisition, investing $2.35 million and leveraging a $7.5 million investment from the town, and a $150,000 investment from Mass Audubon for a total investment of approximately $10 million. The Town of Sharon owns the property and DCR holds the Conservation Restriction over the land, preventing future development and allowing public access. The land consists of rolling terrain with rock ledges, vernal pools, and a diverse forest of oak, white pine, maple, birch, tupelo, and chestnut. No rattlesnakes have been spotted since 2006; however, the area is home to many animal species. The land was most recently included in a proposal to construct golf courses, apartment buildings and over 600 homes. As part of this 50-year effort, a Conservation Restriction is expected to be held in the future by Mass Audubon over the town’s 200-acre Interlocken Park abutting Rattlesnake Hill and Borderland State Park.
“Conserving development-vulnerable land, particularly in areas where conservation land is hard to come by, is a key part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to protect vital green spaces while expanding access to outdoor recreational opportunities,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “Rattlesnake Hill and the O’Donnell Land Conservation Project are important natural resources within the local communities, and we are incredibly excited to help protect these sites.”
As the Commonwealth’s conservation agency, DCR’s mission is to partner with municipalities, land trusts and other environmental organizations to protect vital open spaces. In the last two calendar years, the agency invested approximately $8 million in the protection of over 3,200-acres of land, including the O’Donnell Land and Rattlesnake Hill. This investment leveraged approximately $5 million in partner contributions, grants and gifts which helped conserve these lands.
“This was a collaborative effort between DCR, SVT, the O’Donnell family and the City officials, and I’m appreciative of everyone’s efforts in securing this land. It’s an amazing piece of property and will be enjoyed by many generations for years to come,” said Mayor of Marlborough Arthur Vigeant.
“This is a tremendous acquisition for the Commonwealth. I want to thank the O’Donnell’s who purchased this land of forest and meadow near their home several years ago for the express purpose of holding it until we were able to repurchase it from them so that the public may enjoy it in its natural state forever. I walked the land with them a few years ago as did Representative Gregoire and Senator Eldridge. I thank DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery, the Baker administration, SVT, and the City of Marlborough for seeing it through,” said Representative Carmine Gentile (D – Sudbury).
“The acquisition of Rattlesnake Hill is the culmination of a decade-long effort to preserve this major parcel. It was accomplished only through the shared vision and participation of DCR and Mass Audubon, and the Town of Sharon is grateful for this partnership,” said Sharon Town Administrator Fred Turkington
“Mass Audubon is pleased to have played a part in finally protecting Rattlesnake Hill - one of the most iconic unprotected landscapes in eastern Massachusetts. We applaud our conservation partners, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, and the Town of Sharon, for their demonstrated commitment to achieving this long-sought outcome – boosting resilience for people and nature to the impacts of climate change,” said Mass Audubon President David O’Neill.
In June 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration re-filed its plan to immediately put to use part of Commonwealth’s direct federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support key priorities including housing and homeownership, economic development and local downtowns, job training and workforce development, health care, and infrastructure. As part of the Administration’s proposal to jump-start the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and support residents hardest-hit by COVID-19, such as lower-wage workers and communities of color, Governor Baker would direct $900 million to key energy and environmental initiatives, including $100 million for parks, recreation, and open spaces. These funds would support investments in public lands, as well as lands specifically conserved for public access including parks, lakes, rivers, trails, beaches, fishing piers, boat ramps, and other waterways. Funding would be dedicated to projects that expand, enhance, and modernize the Commonwealth’s park facilities to steward and conserve natural resources, and to improve the resilience of natural and working lands, plants, and wildlife in the Commonwealth.