Recently I was introduced some open space lands in Scituate’s West End, and I’m so pleased to make their acquaintance! Thanks to the dedication of a small group of conservation-minded citizens, there are now more than 400 acres of land preserved in this quiet corner of the town. Clustered around Bates Lane, off Thomas Clapp Road, these parcels represent years of diligence and collaboration between the Town of Scituate, its Community Preservation Committee, private citizens, and advocates for land conservation and the protection of the public water supply. Since 1998, the non-profit Maxwell Conservation Trust has been at the forefront of these efforts.
In the 1990s, Scituate residents Wayne and Cynde Robbins founded the Maxwell Conservation Trust (which is named after the couple’s golden retriever). Its mission, as stated on its informative website, is “to promote and assist in the conservation, preservation and responsible development of our natural and land resources including open spaces for recreation, wildlife, public water supply and forestry protection.” Since its inception, the Trust has helped to add a total of 325 acres to Scituate’s array of public lands.
On April 14th, the Town of Scituate will have the opportunity to vote on the acquisition of two additional parcels of land. This final purchase, if it passes, will mark the successful conclusion of the 14-year effort. To date, all related land acquisitions have been approved unanimously by Town Meeting.
Back in the 1990s, it became clear that a number of large land parcels in Scituate’s West End were being eyed for development. Most of the properties were adjacent to the 95-acre Bates Lane Conservation Area. At the time, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) was just getting started. A landowner wanted to sell 70 acres to the town for conservation and water protection, but the CPC had not yet accumulated sufficient funds to justify such a purchase. That’s when the Maxwell Trust stepped in, offering to buy the land and hold it in trust until the town was ready to complete the purchase. The Town of Scituate purchased 44 acres in 2002, and that same year, the Trust purchased the remaining 26. Since then, thanks to the efforts of the Maxwell Trust, eight additional properties have been acquired in the area.
As the members of the Maxwell Trust begin to scale back their efforts, they are hopeful that the town will now complete this project and complete the purchase agreed upon years ago. They cost is just shy of $390,000 – the same price the Trust paid in 2002.
Collectively the open space parcels in Scituate’s West End are known as the Bates Lane Conservation Area. I’d been hearing about them for quite some time, and finally in mid-March I had the opportunity to visit.
There are presently two parking areas for the Bates Lane Conservation Area. One is on Clapp Road, diagonally across the street from the intersection with Bates Lane. The other is at the Mount Hope Improvement Society building at the corner of Cedar Street and Clapp Road. The trailheads accessible from both parking areas feature kiosks with maps.
The trails are extensive and well-marked. Look for painted wooden markers on the trees at all major intersections. My guides led me along every path on the property – the Carl Pipes Trail, as well as the Litchfield, the Horse, the Moncy and the Maxwell. It took us about two hours to see them all. Trail improvements as well as additional parking areas are already funded and should be completed this year.
The lands themselves are pleasantly diverse. There is a lot of flat, recent-growth forest covering what was once farmland, with plenty of old stone walls. There are swampy areas where we saw skunk cabbage beginning to emerge (an early sign of spring!). There are little hollows featuring streams and bridges, plus lots of ferns and moss, as well as the occasional high hill. Glacial erratics (aka really large boulders) dot the landscape, and here and there you’ll even find a wooden bench where you can pause to rest, or just to listen to the sounds of the woods around you. The well-planned network of trails offers numerous options for exploring the property: you could spend the whole morning there, or for a shorter visit, check out one or two trails at a time.
Nature enthusiasts of the South Shore, there’s a good chance you haven’t yet experienced the Bates Lane Conservation Area – it’s one of those unassuming, “best kept secret” types of places, a true gem. I strongly recommend that you add it to your To Do list for this year. You won’t be disappointed.
Scituate residents, please consider attending Town Meeting on April 14th and voting in favor of the acquisition of these land parcels!
For more information, visit www.maxwellconservationtrust.org
by Kezia Bacon
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 20 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com