Urgent Land Project: Pawtucket Farm (formerly Rollie's Farm), Lowell
September 14, 2022
When Rollie Perron and other family members decided it was time to sell their 20-acre Christmas tree farm—the last one in Lowell—they hoped it might be possible to benefit the community.
Others hoped so, too, and we now have a chance to do it!
Mass Audubon, Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, and Mill City Grows, in collaboration with the City of Lowell, have reached an agreement with the Perron family to purchase and protect what is currently called Rollie’s Farm in perpetuity.
In addition, we have an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the enormous value of working in and with the community to bring nature to its residents via a nature center for the children and adults of Lowell, built on the concept of sustainable agriculture, healthy food options, and being outdoors. The project, which is now known as Pawtucket Farm, will cost approximately $9.5 million and Mass Audubon is committed to raising at least $6.5 million of this shared amount.
Our design process has included hosting nine community meetings in four languages, providing a forum for Lowell residents and organizations to shape the programming and research to come - if we are successful in raising the funds necessary to purchase the property.
What Makes This Land Special
Open greenspace is increasingly a rare commodity in Massachusetts’ urban cities; Lowell ranks 304 out of 351 towns in Massachusetts in percentage of protected open space. The opportunity to add a parcel of this size is unlikely to come around again. Preserving this land resonates strongly with the goals of Mass Audubon’s Action Agenda through our Nature in the City initiative. It will:
- Restore a natural forested landscape, significantly expanding the tree canopy and the amount of greenhouse gases it can absorb and cooling it can provide.
- Reduce stormwater runoff to the neighborhood and the Merrimack River (less than 1,000 feet away) in the future. If not preserved, the land would likely be developed with extensive pavement and impervious surfaces exacerbating the impacts of extreme weather events.
- Preserve a functional wildlife corridor between the adjacent 1,100-acre state forest and the river.
- Increase access to nature by creating an ADA-accessible All Persons Trail featuring multi-sensory interpretive materials.
- Expand farm and environmental education programs, as well as recreational opportunities such as gardening and wildlife viewing.
Vision for the Future
The partners’ plan for Pawtucket Farm includes ecological restoration of the Christmas tree farm, building a working farmland that includes a food forest and community gardens; and building a nature center that offers educational programming and other ventures that will create a vibrant neighborhood destination accessible by bike, car, and city bus.
By protecting and managing Pawtucket Farm, we will broaden the ways we are able to connect people to nature in the city - summer camp, field research opportunities for high school and college-aged students, and programs for families and adults.
Making an Investment
The cost to establish an urban sanctuary is considerable. The three partners have committed, together, to raise the resources for Pawtucket Farm. In addition, Mass Audubon has committed to creating a physical presence that facilitates our programming, is available for community use, and ensures a sustainable relationship to Lowell for decades to come. The required investment is as follows.
- $4,500,000 - land acquisition
- $1,000,000 - survey and restoration plan, trail improvements, technical and design support
- $3,000,000 - facility improvements, including a Discovery Center
- $1,000,000 - seed support for Nature in the City staff in Lowell
- $9,500,000 - TOTAL
Mass Audubon has committed to raising $6.5 million of this total. Step one is to raise the $2 million required to complete our portion of the land acquisition. We’re excited (and hope you are too!) about the opportunity to increase equitable and inclusive access to nature in Lowell. You can help make this happen with a gift today.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the project, please contact Victoria Jones at 781-259-2125 or [email protected].