Milestone Achieved In Protection of Fieldstone Farm in Princeton
Michael P. O'Connor
PRINCETON—Mass Audubon and the Princeton Land Trust, in collaboration with the Town of Princeton, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the City of Worcester, today permanently protected more than 170 acres of Fieldstone Farm, a beautiful and historic community gem that features working fields and stone walls, woodlands and wetlands. Another 60 acres—the agricultural core of the farm—was acquired for future protection and conveyance to a local farmer.
The land will be used for recreation, conservation, and agricultural purposes. The $2.84 million purchase price was met, thanks to financial support from state appropriations and grants, town funding, and more than $700,000 in private donations from individuals and foundations. Although fundraising is still required, the Princeton Land Trust and Mass Audubon proceeded with the purchase in expectation that this crucial land conservation project will continue to attract needed financial support.
“Now that we have actually closed on the property, donors can be assured that this deal is secure. We are very grateful for donations made to date, but definitely need additional contributions,” stated Tom Sullivan, President of the Princeton Land Trust.
Success required multiple partners and strategies. The largest part of the property, 134 acres of forest and wetlands, will be owned by the Town of Princeton Conservation Commission and will be open to the public for conservation and recreational activities. Trails will be developed and the Conservation Commission is in the process of finalizing a management plan for the land. The property is permanently protected by a conservation restriction purchased by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Worcester, which was eager to protect an important part of its Quinapoxet Reservoir public water supply watershed.
“We want to thank our partners—the town, DCR, and the city of Worcester—without whom this would never have happened. We are also so grateful to our State Representative Kim Ferguson and State Senator Harriette Chandler, as well as Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, for all their support on this project,” added Deb Cary, director of Mass Audubon’s Central Massachusetts wildlife sanctuaries. “The state funding provided for this project is key.”
Sixty acres of farm fields will eventually be sold to Princeton-based Hubbard’s Farm once permanent restrictions are placed on the land. Mass Audubon hopes to sell the restrictions through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program, and is working with the program and private funders to complete the project. A trail will allow hikers to cross through the farm between the town-owned parcel and Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary to the north.
On the north side of Route 62 an additional 38 acres of woodland will be owned and managed by the Princeton Land Trust and Mass Audubon and open to the public. The town of Princeton, with help from a Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity grant from the state, purchased a conservation restriction on this land to contribute to the property’s protection.
The purchase did not include the farmhouse, which will be transferred to a private buyer at a later date. Three additional parcels totaling 20 acres have been designated for sale to provide the town with a balance of housing and conservation. One of the parcels is now under agreement and two homes are planned for the site.
Fieldstone Farm had been owned since 1944 by the Smith family, who operated it first as a dairy farm and later raised pigs. In recent years the fields were cut for hay by a local farmer. The farm has been in continuous production since the 18th century and has long been the town’s top open space protection priority.
Mass Audubon and the Princeton Land Trust continue to seek funding to complete this groundbreaking project.
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.