A History of the Attleboro Land Trust:
announcing organizational meeting
Letter to the editor inviting public to meeting
Article about first meeting
Chronicle article November 11, 1990
The first meeting of the Attleboro Land Trust was held at the Attleboro
Public Library on April 11, 1990. The event, which attracted about 50
people, was organized by Charlie Adler with the help of Ted and Debby Leach.
Speakers from Seekonk and Rehoboth described how trusts had been formed in
their communities, and priorities for land preservation in Attleboro were
discussed. Although the Locust Valley Golf Course, threatened with a
development of 300 homes, was of prime interest, there were many other areas
mentioned, as well as a general concern over the rapid pace of residential
development and equally rapid loss of open space. There was unanimous
agreement to form a local land trust. A charter committee was formed to
pursue non-profit status. A hat was passed, and the amount was matched by
Locust Street resident Fred Thomson, resulting in a total collection of
Within a few months, the group had incorporated and been recognized as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. In addition to Charlie, Ted, and Debby, the incorporators were Larry St. Pierre, Leslie Leger, Patricia Campbell, Ron Carlson, Howard Bibeault, Carol Haslehurst, Joanne Wright, Eric Brown, and Robert Schoch.
The first two years were focused on attempts to save Locust Valley. At first the land trust tried raising funds to acquire the property, but then decided to support city attempts to purchase all or part of the land. In the fall of 1992, board member Robert Schoch, a noted geologist, gave a public talk on his research on the history of the Great Sphinx of Egypt, as a benefit event for the land trust. Later that year, the land trust received its first gift of land from Adele Colman, a local resident who had attended Robert’s talk.
The 77-acre Colman Reservation was dedicated the following year “to all those who set foot here. May they visit this place often, enjoy it, and be its caretakers. And may they pass it on unharmed from one generation to the next.” Those sentiments were soon to motivate other generous donors.
In 1994 Anthony Lawrence donated 48 acres along the Seven Mile River in South Attleboro. While much of the Anthony Lawrence Wildlife Preserve is pristine wetland, a knoll at the end of Hope Avenue provided an opportunity to create a new walking trail, enabling visitors to glimpse birds and other wildlife enjoying this protected habitat. The preserve is adjacent to the Hill Roberts School, providing schoolchildren with a place to experience first hand the lessons that nature has to offer.
The Phil and Ginny Leach Wildlife Sanctuary was donated in 1996 by industrialist Phil Leach who, with his wife Ginny, had been a supporter of the land trust since its founding. The sanctuary is in a key location, accessible to nearby neighborhoods in Locust Valley and Dodgeville. A stroll down a wide and well-worn cart path under a canopy of tall oaks leads to an outcropping of puddingstone known to locals as Big Rock.
Another local business leader, Ray Larson, stepped forward in 1997 with a gift of five acres of prime woodland on the banks of Mechanics Pond, across the street from Willett School. The Ten Mile River Watershed Alliance was instrumental in helping to protect the Larson Woodland, which is heavily used by the public. A long term restoration project will result in the removal of Norway maple trees, an invasive species, in favor of native white pines, of which there are many mature specimens on the property.
In 1998 the land trust took the newly-formed Attleboro Area Community Garden under its wing. In a “ground-breaking” partnership with the City of Attleboro, a parking lot on Hodges Street was reclaimed, restored, and converted into an organic garden. True to the vision of its founders, the community garden brought together people from various neighborhoods and backgrounds in a celebration of diversity and the sustenance we draw from the earth.
That same year the land trust received a three-acre gift from Myrtle Veno in memory of her husband Milton, a land trust member and avid horticulturalist. A park bench on the Veno Overlook provides a wayside stop for anyone walking along Oak Hill Avenue.
Jean Vaughan gave 32 acres to the land trust in 1999 in memory of her husband Victor, a civic leader who had served his community in many capacities. Two years earlier the Capital Development Corporation had with little fanfare given the land trust 20 acres of land on Steere Street. The two properties were combined to form the 52-acre Vaughan Memorial Forest, which fronts Steere Street, directly across from the Colman Reservation.
Not all of the land trust’s properties are accessible to the public. Uriah’s Marsh is an example. This 15-acre parcel, donated by Peter and Dorothy Lovenbury in 2000, borders the AMTRAK railroad, but it does not connect to a public way. Although walking trails are an important part of the land trust’s mission, some properties are acquired solely for their value as wildlife habitat.
Earth Day 2000 was marked by the distribution and planting of more than 2000 trees throughout the city in an effort that involved the Attleboro Parks Department and hundreds of Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and schoolchildren.
The land trust’s most recent acquisition is the 48-acre Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve, a former dairy farm on Richardson Avenue. This generous gift was made in 2001 by Martha Nickerson, a retired Attleboro teacher, to ensure that the land on which she has spent a lifetime will forever remain in its natural state. The Nickerson gift brings the total amount of land under the stewardship of the Attleboro Land Trust to 268 acres.
In recent years, the land trust has concentrated on strengthening its core functions: financial management, property management, and membership growth. While the organization still relies on the efforts of dedicated board members to conduct most of its operations, the decision was made in 2004 to hire a part-time administrative assistant to make it possible for the officers to spend more time on strategic tasks.
The Attleboro Land Trust has partnered with many local organizations over the years. A number of Eagle Scout projects have contributed to the development and maintenance of trails and other amenities on land trust properties. An Art in the Garden event was held in cooperation with the Attleboro Museum. Students at Attleboro High School constructed the impressive sign that marks the Larson Woodland. The location of the Attleboro Land Trust office in the Massachusetts Audubon’s Oak Knoll Nature Center is evidence of a good relationship between two organizations with similar aims.
As development pressures increase and open space dwindles, the land trust will seek innovative ways to continue its mission of acquiring and protecting land for conservation purposes. It will also play a greater role in advocating for public policies that will complement that mission. As a respected local institution with a public mission, it can do no less.
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