53 Pierce Ave, Hanson, MA 02341, USA
Owned By: Town of Hanson
A rare glimpse of Hanson’s agricultural past. A wide, nearly 1-mile woodland trail leads to a large open meadow. Additional trails traverse what was once the location of the Plymouth County Hospital. Most of these trails are suitable for strollers and horses. A new trail, constructed in 2023, connects to Bonney Hill Lane (not stroller-friendly). The Bay Circuit Trail extends through this property.
Beginning in the 1690s, the Bonney Family and other farmers cleared Hanson’s fields for agriculture. They grew hay, produce, and other crops, and grazed their animals in places like this.
In 1920, the Plymouth County Hospital purchased this land and continued its agricultural use, to provide food for its patients. Many outbuildings still exist, and have been repurposed by the town. Portions of the property were leased back to local farmers until 1980. Now they are maintained as open space and wildlife habitat.
A little history: Known as the Hanson Tuberculosis Hospital, the facility was constructed in 1919 as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis patients from Boston and Plymouth County. When the TB epidemic passed, the institution was given a more general purpose, and named Plymouth County Hospital. In 1982, its purpose shifted again, providing long-term care to patients with chronic and terminal illness, such as muscular dystrophy. The 68-bed chronic care facility was known as Cranberry Specialty Hospital.
In 1991, all 60 patients were transferred to a new building in Middleborough; the following year, the old hospital was shuttered. The Town of Hanson purchased the property in 1999. Development plans fell through and vandalism and arson became such an issue that demolition of the main hospital building was required (2017). Design has been approved for the Town of Hanson to reconfigure much of the hospital property into public space, including a playground, a concert pavilion, and the headquarters of the Hanson Historical Society.
In 2020, the Town of Hanson received a MassTrails grant to create a new recreational foot trail here. Now complete, it relocates of a section of the Bay Circuit Trail away from a busy roadway into a much more welcoming woodland. Future plans include extending this trail to Wampatuck Pond. The adjacent swamp and cranberry reservoir are privately owned. Please respect private property.
Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson. The word “Mattakeeset” means “place of many fish.” Wampatuck Pond is named for the Chief Sachem of the Mattakeeset, Josias Wompatuck (also spelled Wampatuck).
To travel between the North River watershed and the Taunton River watershed, the Mattakeeset followed a trail that extended from today’s Indian Head Pond (on Main Street) to Crooker Place and today’s Indian Crossway Conservation Area, through the great Cedar Swamp (today’s Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area), through today’s Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area (Elm Street, Hanson) to East Bridgewater and the Taunton River watershed.
A parking area for this property was established on Pierce Avenue in 2022. The trail extends through a woodland and then quickly connects with some old paved roadways from the property’s hospital era. At this intersection, look for a wide gravel pathway to the right. Follow it downhill, and continue straight until you reach The Last Meadow, about 0.8 miles further. This pleasant path is partially paved, partially gravel, and occasionally covered with pine needles and fallen leaves, with a fence on one side. It is part of the Bay Circuit Trail. At the meadow there is a very short grassy loop trail and a property sign.
Between the parking area and The Last Meadow, you may notice two spur trails on the left. The first, at approx. 0.4 miles, leads uphill to a contemporary water tower, the Hanson Community Garden, and a mostly-paved road that loops back around to the first intersection. There is also a parking area at this spot (252 High Street, behind the historic Bonney House). About halfway up this 0.1-mile trail, on the left, you’ll find a narrower trail that extends across the top of a ridge, through the woods. Along the way you’ll find the remains of a house (basically just the hearth and chimney). The second intersection, at about 0.5 miles, leads to private property.
Upon arriving at The Last Meadow, look for an additional trail on the left. This extends for 0.12 mile, through a wooded wetland and across a series of boardwalks, to a staircase that provides access to Bonney Hill Lane. No parking is available at this spot. For those interested in completing a loop back to the water tower, it’s a walk of about 0.6 miles, first to the top of Bonney Hill Lane, then left on High Street, past the Department of Environmental Management observation tower, to the historic Bonney House.
If you’re accessing the property from the Hanson Community Garden (next to the water tower), turn away from High Street and look for the trail to the right of the water tower — a paved roadway that leads down a steep hill. Follow the road to the bottom, and then turn left. From there, it’s about 0.5 miles to The Last Meadow. Or turn right and follow the trail about 0.4 miles to the Pierce Ave. parking lot. A few circular green metal hiker signs are posted along the way.
The stone gate at 132 High Street, and the roadway that passes through it onto the former hospital property are open to the public, but the lands that surround the road are private. Please respect all “private property” signs.
Habitats and Wildlife
This property provides valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The woods are primarily pine, maple, oak and beech, with some black walnut, sassafras, and hemlock. There are several open fields, some cultivated and some currently growing wild. On the Bonny Hill Trail, you’ll find sweet pepper bush and lots of holly.
Wampatuck Pond is nearby. It was created by the damming of Wampatuck Brook (also known as Indian Head Brook) in 1695. Streams and wetlands on this property drain to Wampatuck Pond. Indian Head Brook flows through Wampatuck Pond and eventually into the Indian Head River.
The Indian Head River forms the boundary between Hanover and Hanson, and merges with Pembroke’s Herring Brook, a short distance downstream of Ludden’s Ford Park, to form the North River at a spot called The Crotch. The North River flows 12 miles through Pembroke, Hanover, Norwell, Marshfield and Scituate, eventually making its way to Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 56 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Large parking area at 53 Pierce Ave. Limited on-site parking at 252 High Street. No parking on Bonney Hill Lane.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Indian Head Brook (North River watershed)