Maple Hill Farm

The For Sale signs on both sides of Chestnut Plain Road at Maple Hill Farm have come down because Whately Land Preservation has raised funds and worked with Franklin Land Trust to purchase agricultural and conservation restrictions on the entire 239 acre parcel, enabling the family to keep ownership of the land and protecting it from development. Whately Land Preservation helped raise the $640,000 cost of the restrictions on these special 239 acres.

Like so many other rural communities, Whately faces development pressure—pressure that in other places has quickly turned forests into subdivisions and farmland into asphalt. Our mission is to work with land-owners to protect Whately’s most valued open spaces and natural resources for generations of residents to come.

Maple Hill Farm along Chestnut Plain Road
Maple Hill Farm along Chestnut Plain Road

The Crisis

Even knowing that Whately is ripe for development, the presence of all those for sale signs on both sides of Chestnut Plain Road came as a shock to many in town. After all, this is one of Whately’s best viewscapes, on a scenic road with good agricultural land, habitat with endangered species, large forested tracts with good wildlife habitat and right on top of the aquifer. WLP sought help from Franklin Land Trust to save Maple Hill Farm.

Today this family farm that was to be sold to provide needed income for one of the owners is protected from development. Rich Hubbard, Executive Director of FLT, created the plan that protects the land while ensuring that the family could continue to own it while still getting the money that they needed.

Agricultural and conservation restrictions were purchased on almost 240 acres of this special farm. The value of the purchase reimburses the owners for the difference in the fair value of their land before the restrictions were put in place and afterwards.

The farmland will continue as such, and a small-scale organic farmer will be able to continue to rent the land. The forest habitat will be preserved as open space. One building lot on the site of the former Kennedy house is carved out, and the entire property will remain on the town’s tax roll.

FLT took a major leap of faith in signing these documents without the full amount of the purchase price in hand. They knew that the land is too important to Whately to be lost to development and that the necessary funds would be raised.


RattlesnakePlantain
Rattlesnake Plantain, an orchid rare in Massachusetts

About the Restrictions

There are now three preservation restrictions on Maple Hill Farm. Two are Conservation Restrictions protecting parcels on the east and west side of Chestnut Plain Road. The third is an Agricultural Preservation Restriction on the farmland on the east side of the road. All three are recorded at the Registry of Deeds and binding, not just to the current owner, but to any future owners of the land as well.

The Conservation Restrictions (CR’s) ensure that 213 acres will remain in a natural and undeveloped condition in perpetuity. They prohibit subdivision, building, mining or any other topographical changes to the land, as well as destruction of the stone walls. Selective pruning and brush cutting for fire and insect control and to maintain views, and timber cutting are permitted on an environmentally-responsible basis. The CR’s permit replacement of non-native plants with native species and, with Franklin Land Trust’s permission, measures to improve wildlife habitat. Recreational activities are permitted at the owner’s discretion.

Crops at Maple Hill Farm
Crops at Maple Hill Farm
Mill River at Maple Hill Farm
Mill River at Maple Hill Farm

The Agricultural Preservation Restriction was issued under a program sponsored by the state to protect agricultural land and encourage environmentally-responsible agriculture. The Commonwealth, the ultimate owner of the restriction, provides funding but requires a local match.

A wide variety of agricultural uses are permitted, including farming, horticulture, animal raising, and forestry. All must be conducted in a manner respectful of the soil, water resources and the rest of the natural environment.

Commercial forestry must be done under a program certified by the state forester to be sustainable. Subdivision of the parcel is not allowed. No residential building is permitted but - with prior permission - structures necessary for agriculturally related purposes may be built.

 

Three preservation restrictions now protect Maple Hill Farm:

  • 26 acres on the east side of Chestnut Plain Road are protected by a permanent agricultural restriction.
  • 171 acres on the west side of Chestnut Plain Road are protected by a permanent conservation restriction.
  • 42 acres on the east side of Chestnut Plain Road are protected by a permanent conservation restriction.
Maple Hill Farm Arial Photo

An 800 foot length of scenic Chestnut Plain Road is protected.

3500 feet along Great Swamp Brook, a major tributary of the Mill River and site of the federally endangered dwarf wedge mussel is protected.

Forested wetlands with breeding and feeding areas suitable for grouse, turkey, migratory songbirds, moose, deer, coyote, beaver, turtles and amphibians are protected.

The floodplain and aquifer are protected. The agricultural restriction requires that the land remain used for agriculture or timbering operations and prohibits any activities that would be detrimental to the environment.

New construction on the property is prohibited except for a 4.7 acre exclusion permitting a singlefamily residence to be built on the site of the former Kennedy house.

View topographic map of Maple Hill Farm. Conservation areas are marked in black and agricultural area is marked in red.

View of Maple Hill Farm
View of Maple Hill Farm

Whately Land Preservation

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