Published on May 24, 2022

Sharing the Gift of Brewster's Woods

Brewster's Woods dedication stone

In 2018, Mass Audubon received its largest donation ever, the gift to protect 130 acres of forest, fields, and wetlands along the Concord River through the generosity of Nancy and Reiner Beeuwkes. We all owe them the deepest debt of gratitude for saving this land from being developed into a large-scale residential community.  

Mass Audubon takes our responsibility to steward and share this land very seriously, and have embarked on a multi-year process to understand the ecological systems, mission-oriented opportunities, and community benefits that the property offers. We are grateful to the neighbors of the sanctuary, other community members, and our conservation/cultural partners who have participated in this process thus far. With their input, we have begun to develop a vision for Brewster’s Woods that matches the majesty of the natural landscape, and its history as the former home of Mass Audubon’s first President, William Brewster.    

At the heart of this vision is our commitment to protecting and stewarding the land for wildlife habitat and climate resilience. We have already completed plant and bird surveys, added nest boxes, and begun to remove invasive species. Going forward, our plans include ecological restoration to transition from a homogenous landscape to one that promotes biodiversity of plants, pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. 

Over the past nine months, we have enthusiastically welcomed visitors to the first phase of our trail system, allowing people to enjoy views of Brewster’s wetland impoundment and connect to the October Farm Riverfront trail network. The planned addition of an all-persons trail will allow people of all abilities to experience nature in the same way. 

As part of the transition of Brewster’s Woods from a private residence enjoyed by few to a place for all, our plans include repurposing the main house as a nature center to welcome visitors, allow space for scientists and scholars to collaborate, share the life of William Brewster and his role in the conservation movement, and showcase our world-class American bird art collection. The renovation of the residence will ensure that it is ADA-accessible and a model for climate-friendly buildings, along with serving as an inspirational home for the community and conservation experts to explore solutions to the biggest environmental challenges of our time.   

Brewster’s Woods is a gift that needs to be shared, but shared responsibly. We want people to experience this land and be inspired by it. But we also respect our neighbors and Balls Hill Road, and have modeled our plans around appropriate traffic limits. We also are committed to using a parking reservation system and staff monitoring to ensure the sanctuary remains peaceful for visitors, wildlife, and our neighbors.  

Nancy and Rein Beeuwkes made this donation to Mass Audubon because they wanted the sanctuary to “be alive with people and wildlife.” As we work to finalize the vision for Brewster’s Woods, we invite you to join us for community walks through the property in early June, when we will address plans for conservation, programming, access, and parking.