Mass Audubon joins local partners to preserve historic Lowell farm
Michael P. O'Connor
LOWELL, MA. -- Three organizations – Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, Mass Audubon, and Mill City Grows – are working in partnership to protect a historic Lowell farm, owned by the Perron family, and known locally as Rollie’s Farm. The farm is located at 1413 and 1415 Varnum Avenue. The intent of the partnership is to create an urban wildlife sanctuary and education center dedicated to local agricultural and community-based environmental education.
The two Varnum Avenue parcels have been operated for years as a Christmas tree farm. When acquired, the parcels, comprising approximately 20 acres, will be managed in perpetuity as protected conservation land, open to the public. Construction of an energy-efficient green building, with office and program space for the three partner organizations, is planned on the site.
Mass Audubon and the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) will acquire these parcels which will have conservation restrictions placed on them. Both Mass Audubon and LP&CT are nationally accredited as land trusts committed to permanent land conservation and program excellence.
Mill City Grows will establish a variety of programs on the space, including urban agriculture, community gardens, greenhouses, a food forest, farmers markets, and educational programming.
“Establishing this community space will give Mill City Grows the opportunity to bring many of our food access and education programs to a single location, creating a way for people to envision and engage with all of the parts of a local food system, and intertwine them with excellent environmental education delivered by our partners. It’s a step towards greater food sovereignty for Lowell,” says Jessica Wilson, Executive Director of Mill City Grows.
“This unique partnership provides the opportunity for community-based conservation on a larger scale, enabling us to impact more people close to home. We’re excited to expand our programming and amplify our land conservation and environmental education programming for the greater Lowell community,” says Jane Calvin, Executive Director of the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust.
“During the pandemic, it has become obvious to us all just how important nature is for our health and well-being, as well as for addressing the threats of climate change,” says David J. O’Neill, President of Mass Audubon. “Protecting and enhancing Rollie’s Farm is especially important as we focus on providing more green space and greater access to nature in urban communities—work that can only be done with the type of deep partnerships this important project represents.”
The uplands will provide woodland trails for recreation, a scenic overlook, a nature playscape for children, and a connection to the Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsborough State Forest. These properties, combined, provide a critical corridor to the Merrimack River from the state forest. The protection of this land will provide benefits that expand beyond just the neighborhood of Pawtucketville and will benefit the city as a whole.
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 160,000 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.