RICHMOND LAND TRUST
Richmond, Massachusetts 01254
Richmond Land Trust
Richmond Land Trust Benches
To offer a seat to rest from a hike or enjoy a vista, the Richmond Land Trust has several benches in place, including one partway up the main trail at Hollow Fields on Perry’s Peak Road. The new bench is the second at Hollow Fields, a preserve owned by Berkshire Natural Resources with a conservation restriction held by the Richmond Land Trust.
The first bench, placed in honor of Ron and Judith Shaw who donated part of the Hollow Fields land, is near the red barn where the Land Trust has held pie socials in the past. The newer one gives hikers a chance to sit and enjoy a superb view of Lenox Mountain to the east. It was purchased in memory of Stephen and Lenore Congdon, using funds given to the Land Trust by their children, Charles and Eleanor.
Richmond's 250th Anniversary
The urge to preserve green spaces and vistas has a long history in Richmond, where town meeting established the Conservation Commission in 1963. Five years later, the commissioners reported that the town had received its first two gifts of land.
According to the town report, the gifts came from Katharine Annin, long-time resident of State Road, and Donald B. Miller of Rossiter Road, publisher of The Berkshire Eagle and founder of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. The Annin gift involved an estimated 36 acres of wetland along Cone Brook between Sleepy Hollow Road and Lenox Road. The Miller gift was two wooded parcels on Perry’s Peak, one about 50 acres and the other 6.5 acres.
Micah Mudge and Ichabod Wood settled in the valley known then as Mount Ephraim five years before the area was incorporated. They never met during their first winter, although they were only three miles apart. On June 21, 1765, after more people arrived, the territory that also included most of what is now Lenox was recorded as Richmont. Fast forward to June 21, 2015, when we celebrated Founders Day at Camp Russell on Richmond Pond. The town's 250th Anniversary Committee hosted the celebration and is coordinating yearlong events sponsored by various community organizations. The Founders Day celebration kicked off with the annual Run-to-the-Beach race in the morning, followed by an afternoon and evening full of activities at Camp Russell, including a catered buffet dinner and a spectacular fireworks display over Richmond Pond.
The Congdons lived on Swamp Road for many years in a house next door to Bartlett’s Orchards. That’s where the versatile Berkshire Community College chemistry professor maintained a 3,000 square-foot garden, raised bees, made his own maple syrup, baked bread, and split many cords of wood to heat the house.
A bench at the corner of Sleepy Hollow and East roads offers a lovely vista of one of the Boynton family fields and the Taconic Range. Many acres of the Boynton farm land have been protected from development with conservation restrictions.
The fourth, and oldest, bench faces west across what is now Sugar Hill Farm, once owned by the Malnati family and now owned by Michael Lynch and his wife, Susan Baker. It was placed at the intersection of East and Reservoir roads in memory of Nancy Hull, a Richmond artist who often painted the small “ice house” that is part of the view. The Reservoir Road bench has proved a popular spot to watch the sunset behind Perry’s Peak.
Beavers build a dam and a lodge and settle into their new place. Sometimes people would like to wish awaythe beavers, but the great blue heron has, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, benefited from the recovery of beaver populations. The industrious mammal has created a patchwork of the very swamps that herons like.
Proof of the friendship is the beaver pond beside Swamp Road near the Pittsfield/Richmond line. The beaver lodge is huge, water surrounds a stand of dead trees, and the trees are topped with the stick nests built by a colony of great blue herons. Naturalist David Sibley describes the ideal heron nesting place as tall trees surrounded by water – and that’s what the herons enjoy at what is now Mass Audubon’s Tracy Brook Sanctuary. As of early April, at least 19 were in residence.
A small turnout provides space for a couple of cars, and people with binoculars are often stopped there to watch America’s largest heron standing tall in a nest. While the herons are skilled fishermen, Cornell’s summary says they also hunt in fields for frogs and small mammals. Their diet may include reptiles, insects and other birds.
They look enormous and cast quite a shadow when they fly overhead, but they weigh only five or six pounds. They lay two to six eggs, which hatch in 26 to 29 days, and roadside watchers will then notice extra heads popping up in the nests. Cornell ornithologists say the pairs are monogamous for a season and choose new mates each year.
The commissioners apparently foresaw the perennial town meeting questions about the effect of taking properties off the tax rolls, so they included in their report that the effect would be minimal, “less than 10 cents for each Richmond resident.” They also noted that they’d “spent the better part of a day tramping around Perry’s Peak, investigating the newly acquired land and considering the entire area’s potential in the context of the 1967 Natural Resources Inventory done for the town by state and federal technicians.” That study named Perry’s Peak the No. 1 conservation and recreation resource in town, and it still has that status.
Not much changed in land protection of Perry’s Peak for decades. But then, Ron and Judith Shaw donated the property that is known as Hollow Fields, with access from Perry’s Peak Road. That parcel is owned by Berkshire Natural Resources with a conservation restriction held by the Richmond Land Trust. A few years ago, the preserved area doubled when Janet Robertson donated 180 acres. And this year, at the end of June, the protected land will be doubled again with purchase of an additional 340 acres of Berkshire Farm School property.
Including part of a small reservoir and the headwaters of two Richmond streams, Scace Brook and Sleepy Hollow Brook, the Berkshire Farm Center property provides access to the Taconic Crest Trail and links Hollow Fields with some 12,000 acres of adjacent, unfragmented nature preserves. It will be possible to start on Perry’s Peak Road and hike to Vermont on preserved land.
This time around, the Conservation Commission is involved again, using $125,000 of the Town's land conservation fund to help purchase acreage that includes the actual Perry’s Peak as well as access to trail networks. Richmond Land Trust is an equal partner and is conducting a capital fund drive to raise its $125,000 share. Berkshire Natural Resources will contribute the other third.
Copyright 2013. Richmond Land Trust. All Rights Reserved.
Mass Audobon's Tracy Brook Sanctuary