Imagine an organization whose main mission is to celebrate and protect the distinctive charms of Massachusetts. For everyone. Forever. Pretty lofty ambition, right? Our state is the fortunate home for The Trustees of Reservations, an organization in Massachusetts that cares for nearly 25,000 acres around the state. Their mission is to share “the irreplaceable natural and cultural treasures” that the organization cares for with everyone. After more than 100 years, climate change is altering the more than 100 places that the Trustees care for. The goal is to spur a new generation to care about conservation and a sustainable environment for these properties.
The Trustees work to extend the reach of protected land in the state through Land Acquisition for public use and enjoyment, Conservation Restriction whereby landowners are required to sustain the land’s conservation values through a number of restrictions and Assistance Projects. The organization also works to protect and preserve the history and culture of past generations through a network of historic homes, five of which are on the National Historic Register, gardens and cultural landscapes. By organizing festivals and events for the public to enjoy at these sites, awareness is created in the minds of the state’s citizens and visitors.
One of the historic properties under the Trustees’ care is Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts. John Winthrop, Jr., son of the first governor of Massachusetts, claimed the spot in 1637 and the land was farmed for over 200 years. I’ve had the chance to attend celebrations held at Castle Hill, and it is a magnificent spot to house an event!
Recently, the Casino and Italianate Gardens have been restored to their former glory as part of the Trustees of Reservations campaign, “Bringing our Stories to Life”. Originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1910, the gardens complimented the Italian manor originally occupying the property. This year the venue will host the celebration of the Trustees 125 Anniversary with Boston Pops at Castle Hill.
The farmhouse, built in the 1880’s, is now The Inn at Castle Hill and served as the Crane home while the Great House was being built. After Richard T. Crane, Jr. purchased the property in 1910, Castle Hill underwent extensive development. The Great House, a Stuart-style mansion furnished with periodantiques, was built in 1928 and has been recently re-furbished, creating a handsome bed and breakfast experience in a simple but luxurious environment. Overlooking the areas salt marshes, you’ll find a getaway just a short drive from Boston, but a million miles away.
The 2,100-acre Estate is home to diverse wildlife typical to the area. There are four miles of hiking trails and roads from which to observe deer, fox, many songbirds, nesting great-horned owls and red-tailed hawks. Located on the Atlantic, adjacent to Crane Beach, it draws turkey vultures and the occasional bald eagle. Crane beach is one of the finest beaches on the East Coast. There are five miles of trails winding through the dunes and the beach is the location of important nesting sites of endangered piping plovers.
The Trustees is one of the founding partners of the Boston Public Market, which opened in July of 2015. It’s the nation’s first permanent, year-round market offering local meats, fish, vegetables and more from local vendors, 92 percent of which are from Massachusetts, with Rhode Island and Vermont rounding out the rest. The Trustees is the leading programming partner bringing daily programs to The Kitchen, a 3,200 square foot state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen at the Boston Public Market, to inspire health and wellness and creative cooking. The Trustees is also a vendor at the Market, selling milk and 100 artisanal, aged cheeses and yogurt from 17 Massachusetts farms through its Appleton Farms vendor booth.
Named for farmer, George Bartholomew, Bartholomew’s Cobble in the Berkshires was acquired by the Trustees in 1946. The rugged landscape is home to 800 different species of plants. The Cobble is comprised of two rocky knolls made of quartzite and marble that were formed when the Taconic and Berkshire ranges were formed. The great diversity of flora resulted led to its designation as a National Natural Landmark in 1971. Hike Hurlburt’s Hill for outstanding panoramic views of the Housatonic River Valley. The Ledges Trail takes you through the cobbles, along the river and through the understory, complete with caves to explore. There are five miles of trails, a visitor’s center and natural history museum and a trail to Ashley House, where Mum Bett Freeman, an African American slave, sued for her freedom in 1781 and effectively put an end to slavery in Massachusetts. Ashley House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Berkshire 18th Century Trail.
Never has the issue of climate change been front and center as it has in the past year. People are finally, but slowly, waking up to the fact that our planet is changing in response to human activity and not for the better. In Massachusetts, The Trustees partner with 30 other organizations that make up the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition. This working coalition of engineers, architects, civil planners, and various conservation and environmental organizations are working together to minimize the vulnerability of the Commonwealth to the impacts of climate change. With over 70 miles of coastline, 25,000 acres of public and private conservation land and its resident plants and animals in its care, The Trustees have a vested interest in in working to protect these vulnerable areas from rising seas, storm surges, increases in temperature and longer, hotter droughts.
You can easily become a member of over 100,000 trustees helping to protect Massachusetts’ heritage for this and future generations. Benefits of being a member include free or discounted admission to every Trustees reservation, discounts on events and programs, savings on stays at inns and campgrounds, subscription to the member magazine and a 220 page guide to Trustees of Reservations. Membership is available at different levels and there are various ways to donate to the Trustees to further their mission and to participate as a volunteer. Visit their website www.thetrustees.org for more information.