History of Broad Meadow Brook

Before Broad Meadow Brook became a wildlife sanctuary, it was home to farms. The Holdredge family was the most recent landowner of the portion overlain by the Sensory Trail, and the Visitor Center was originally a family horse barn.

Cleared for farm fields and pastures 200 ago, much of the sanctuary is now re-growing trees and supporting an ever-expanding array of native wildlife and plants.

Farmland to Sanctuary

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary & Conservation Center, Mass Audubon’s first "in-city" sanctuary, is still New England’s largest urban sanctuary and a tribute to creative collaboration.

In 1989, Mass Audubon identified the opportunity to protect the 15-acre Holdredge property on Massasoit Road. The property provided critical access to 137 acres owned by the New England Power Company (now National Grid) and 120 acres designated as conservation land owned by the City of Worcester.

Local foundations and generous friends donated the funds to support the Holdredge acquisition. National Grid entered into a first-of-its-kind agreement allowing Mass Audubon to build trails and manage their property as wildlife habitat. The City of Worcester similarly joined in. Broad Meadow Brook’s neighbor to the east, Wheelabrator, Inc., provided essential start-up operating funds—$100,000 over 5 years.  

Broad Meadow Brook officially opened its doors to the public in 1991. 

Continuously Growing

Over the years, many more parcels of land have been added, some by gift, others by purchase. Today, the sanctuary encompasses more than 400 acres and miles of trails. A fun, information-packed Visitor Center features exhibits about the Blackstone River Watershed, energy conservation, and more. 

Meanwhile, the City of Worcester has steadily grown around this urban oasis, and nature has been resilient. Muskrats, frogs, and nesting warblers coexist with power lines and sewer pipes, and the diversity of wildlife continues to amaze both sanctuary visitors and biologists alike.

Broad Meadow Brook is a model of modern conservation partnerships, working together to protect wildlife and provide an experience of nature for everyone. We invite you to experience the beauty and wonder of a New England forest as you explore this sanctuary in the city.