WESTBOROUGH – For the past 25 years, the all-volunteer Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) has helped the town preserve and maintain open space.
Now, the land trust is gearing up to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
It was founded in 1997 by environmentalists on the town’s Open Space Committee, led by Tim Bukalew, Ellen Lutz and Harry Newell..
“The benefits of creating a nonprofit land trust is that a trust can receive gifts of land, purchase open space and secure conservation rights,” said President Chris Sassetti. “It can also negotiate directly with landowners and developers to achieve balanced growth and undertake creative fundraising for land acquisition, without being caught up in the complexities and time lines of town government.”
Sassetti added that it’s taken a lot of work and a lot of cooperation to build the land trust.
“The land trust has three major missions – protecting open space in Westborough; stewardship of trails; and community engagement,” he said.
That community engagement has included about 100 Eagle Scout projects, more than a half-dozen Girl Scout Gold Award projects, and a whole host of volunteers.
For example, students from Assabet Valley’s carpentry class helped build the framework for the boardwalks at Gilmore Pond.
“Westborough takes care of its open space,” said Sassetti.
A ‘mosaic of lands’
The land trust helps maintain 177 acres in town, including the Upper Jackstraw Brook Reservation, Orchard Swamp Reservation, Indian Pond Region, Oak Bluffs, Hidden Meadows, Peairs property and North Shore Trail right-of-way.
The WCLT works with several organizations, including Sudbury Valley Trustees, Organization for the Assabet River, Mass Wildlife, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Westborough Newcomers Club.
“A mosaic of lands is being preserved,” said Sassetti.
A long-term endeavor
Over the years, the WCLT’s Land Preservation Committee has helped protect open space in the several ways, ranging from working with the Planning Board to acquiring land and using conservation restrictions and trail easements.
In 2021, members of the Zwicker family donated their land to the WCLT. Today, it’s known as the Zwicker Conservation Area.
“The entire mission of the land trust is long term,” said Sassetti. “It’s a decadeslong endeavor.”
When it comes to development, Sassetti said the land trust and community benefits when the WCLT works with the Planning Board, Open Space Committee and Conservation Commission to help developers set aside open space.
On Sept. 23, the WCLT received a silver anniversary gift of $50,000 to help fulfill its mission of securing, improving and maintaining open space in Westborough. The gift was made by a former WCLT board member to encourage others to make a special anniversary donation to the land trust.
Celebration for the Land Trust
Now, the Westborough Community Land Trust will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a party at Nourse Farm, 80 Jasper St. on Oct. 2, from 1 to 4 p.m.
From 1 to 3 p.m., there will be an afternoon of family events, including cornhole and games, music and self-guided farm hikes. There will be food for purchase at the farm stand and the Veg Out @ Nourse Farm food truck. Plus, the Caterpillar Lab from Marlborough, N.H., with a drop-in display of live butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalises.
Attendees can learn and reminisce about the land trust’s early days with speakers, recognitions, a slide show and complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 3 to 4 p.m.
The event is free, open to the public, and held rain or shine; no reservation needed. Parking available on Jasper Street. For information, email [email protected].
Additionally, the WCLT has issued a challenge as part of its anniversary. If you hike 25 miles of town trails, you can earn a special patch.
Those taking the challenge are encouraged to take and send photos to the WCLT’s Facebook page.
For details, visit https://westboroughlandtrust.org/trail-challenge.