Sunday Gratitude – Wide Open Spaces
During the pandemic, more people than ever have explored the open spaces and parks near their homes. During my recent arboriculture class, a PennState professor mentioned that state parks there had a 150% leap in usage–there is no doubt in my mind that the 2,000 acres and 90 miles of trails in Weston had a similar jump. As a WFTA trustee, I am out on the trails every day and I can non-scientifically say that the usage has skyrocketed. And yet, one can always find solitude and grace in the far reaches of Jericho and Highland.
What most newer residents may not know, and longer-term residents may have forgotten, is how a small group of people, with strategic planning, unabashed begging and amazing foresight, set about reserving (and protecting permanently) these acres for Conservation. Think about it: 2,000 acres of the roughly 11,000 of Weston are protected–most of it long before our current mega-mansion boom (thank goodness).
The milestone year for Weston was 1955, with the creation of Weston Forest & Trail Association which was, and still is, dedicated to the preservation of open space in Weston. Founding members were Dr. William Elliston, Marie Lewis, Henrietta Paine, Thomas Cabot, Roger Ella, Florence Freeman, Stanley French, Francis Goodale, Victor Harnish, Ellen Lempereur, John B Paine, Jr, and Harrison Ripley. Do any of those names sound familiar? How about Paine’s Woods? French’s Field (Jericho) or Ripley Lane?
In 1955, the town purchased land from the Charles J Paine estate (parts of Highland Forest) and was gifted other land from Paine descendents. Perhaps my favorite donation was Marion Farnsworth’s donation of 40 acres of her Exmoor Farm which became the beginning of Jericho Town Forest.
Over the years, additional good fortune, town funds and foresight brought in College Pond land, Ogilvie, more land in Jericho, Hubbard Forest, and the creation of a Green Belt that ran from Ogilvie forest to the Reservoir. The foresight of people like Hugo Uyterhoeven and Kenneth Germeshausen, who established a goal of doubling conservation land, and then went to bat for it in Town Meeting, got the town to set aside money specifically for conservation. Our current and future residents owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of these folks–without them, Weston would not be the beautiful place it is today.
In 1977, College Pond became the last large acquisition of Conservation land in Weston. For those of who love the skating pond, the beaver dam, the open fields, the orchard, the ruins of the Merriam barn, the troll bridge over Cherry Brook, as well as the stately pine and oak forest, it is hard to imagine what would have happened to it if these folks as well as others had not worked so tirelessly for future Weston. Which is today Weston.
In January, a friend and I attempted to cross Weston using only trails. We made it from Lincoln down through Ogilvie and Jericho, across Route 20, through WFTA easements to Nolte Forest, Highland Forest…and then we met Route 30. As of now, there is a bit of a desert from Route 30 south, but if some landowners could be convinced to deed some conservation easements, well, we wouldn’t have had to be on sidewalks south from Route 30. Work on it, Weston! I know I will. The era of large land grants is over…but the era of connecting our community through small trails could just be beginning.
You can share my Sunday gratitude by heading out for a walk on the trails (ideas on the town’s page or WFTA). Join a monthly WFTA trail walk–I’ll be co-leading the Nolte Forest trail walk in April but today’s Ogilvie walk is full. Become a member of WFTA. Create the next generation of conservation champions: get your kids in the junior ranger program. And consider being a part of Weston’s last belt loop–I’m looking at you south-of-route-30s!
*More information about the history of conservation in our town is available on the Weston Historical Society website, in Pam Fox’s book “From Farm Town to Suburb,” Elmer Jones’ book “Walks on Conservation Land,” and Brian Donahue’s book “Reclaiming the Commons.” The best information is from just getting outside. See you on the trails.