Gift of Spectacular 143-Acre Concord Property Largest in Organization’s History
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA.—Mass Audubon has received the largest gift in its 123-year history, a 143-acre property in Concord. This is where William Brewster, the organization’s first President, was inspired by the natural beauty of the area as had been Henry David Thoreau. This environmental ethic is still shared millions today.
The stunning property, situated on the federally designated Wild and Scenic Concord River, has been donated by generous and far-sighted owner Nancy Beeuwkes and features the historic 18th-century October Farm homestead as well as other structures. The land, buildings, and associated start-up and stewardship support represent one of the most significant private conservation gifts in Massachusetts history.
To honor noted Harvard ornithologist Brewster who purchased the riverside expanse in the late 19th century in order to save it from development, the property will be known as “Brewster’s Woods.” As Mass Audubon’s newest wildlife sanctuary, it will be protected in perpetuity.
In an era of increasing development throughout eastern Massachusetts, this generous gift represents a strong commitment to preserving land that serves as vital wildlife habitat within a wider network of conserved areas. It will also offer compelling opportunities to connect the public with nature and for Mass Audubon to demonstrate an effective conservation strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
“This spectacular gesture of support will allow Mass Audubon to substantially augment our commitment to conservation, nature-based education, and environmental advocacy,” said Gary Clayton, the current and 10th President of the state’s largest nature conservation nonprofit.
“And with a warming planet the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century, the property offers tremendous options for not only preparing its woodlands, fields, and wetlands to be more climate resilient, but also potentially utilizing its facilities as environmental resource centers and meeting spaces,” noted Clayton, who, like his predecessor Brewster, is a Concord resident.
“We are so grateful for the vision of Nancy Beeuwkes and the encouragement of her husband Reinier, in helping to realize this important conservation success,” he added.
The property will join 80 acres recently acquired by the Town of Concord and the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT), thus nearly reconstituting Brewster’s October Farm of a century ago, a vision shared by many, including the donor as well as the previous property owner, Charlene Engelhard.
The wildlife sanctuary dovetails with other contiguous and nearby land protected from development, including nearly 1,700 acres preserved by the Town, CLCT, and individuals, as well as the federally-protected Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, located directly across the river.
Brewster’s lands were celebrated in his books October Farm and Concord River, and in glass plate photographs now among the collections at Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art.
While Brewster’s Woods is not yet open for visitation, Mass Audubon looks forward to welcoming the public to its newest wildlife sanctuary in the near future.
With 2019 marking the centennial of William Brewster’s death, there is a sense of coming full circle. Just as Brewster forged a connection to nature in his rambles along the Concord River, this enduring landscape, forever protected, will now provide even greater opportunities and inspiration for new generations of environmentalists.
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.