By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer
Region – It’s been a long year of restrictions imposed by the governor because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One salvation for many people cooped up at home has been getting outside to enjoy nature in local open spaces.
And properties owned and managed by Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) are often the destination that many head to in the region west of Boston when they need an outdoors fix. SVT is a Sudbury-based non-profit dedicated to preserving open space in the 36 towns and cities that surround the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord rivers. The organization cares for more than 5300 acres on 91 reservations and 90 conservation restrictions and maintains more than 65 miles of trails. Since its founding in 1953, it has assisted other organizations and governmental agencies in protecting an additional 3000 acres in the region.
Volunteers are key contributors
Karin Paquin, a 65-year-old Marlborough resident, is the president of SVT’s board of directors. She also serves on several of its key committees, and occasionally does volunteer work at SVT properties. “What I enjoy most about volunteering at SVT is connecting with folks who have a passion for the outdoors,” said Paquin. “And preserving natural open space for wildlife and people.”
Paquin has noticed a definite increase in visitors to SVT properties over the past year. “It’s really inspiring to see so many young families, groups of teenagers, solo hikers, and seniors enjoying the land,” she said. “During this pandemic, being able to meet and connect outdoors has been a remedy for the isolation we’ve all felt.”
Kimball “Kim” Simpson is another avid SVT volunteer. The 77-year-old Westborough resident has been doing trail maintenance work for the organization for 20 years. He centers his efforts at the Walkup and Robinson Memorial Reservation in his town. “I focus on keeping the trails open,” Simpson affirmed. “Generally, this involves walking all the trails after storms, clearing the small stuff and then going back with a chainsaw to clear major blowdowns.” He noted that he has been an active hiker his entire adult life and started doing trail work in the late 1970s. “I gain considerable satisfaction from knowing that my work is keeping these hiking trails open for all to use,” he said.
Collaboration is critical
Despite all its successes, SVT is always pushing forward to get more open space protected and preserved. One focus is helping landowners find ways to avoid selling family-owned open space for development when faced with high expenses or estate taxes. SVT presents a variety of options to pursue, including funding for conservation from municipalities, grants, or private fundraising campaigns. It also collaborates with other organizations that focus on land protection. These include TerraCorps, part of the national AmericaCorps program, which provides supplemental staffing, the Metrowest Conservation Alliance, the Bay Circuit Alliance and the River Stewardship Council.
“Healthy, abundant natural areas are essential to our individual health, and a healthy society,” said Lisa Vernegaard, executive director of SVT. “And to our ability to adapt to and withstand climate change. ”
“We are currently working on about 30 land protection projects spread among 12 of the cities and towns in our region,” Vernegaard noted. “In Marlborough, we are assisting state and city officials to protect the 33-acre O’Donnell property that is surrounded by Callahan State Park. To prevent a future owner from prohibiting public access that exists now, we are raising funds to help the state purchase the property. This will guarantee the public always has full access to this beautiful landscape.”
For more information about Sudbury Valley Trustees, visit svtweb.org.