Perry's Peak Preserved
Wooded Berkshire hills rise on both sides of the town of Richmond, with Lenox Mountain to the east and the beginnings of the Taconic Range to the west. We call them mountains, but their outline is rounded, established by glaciers and worn with time. Over the years, houses have crept higher and higher on these slopes, raising awareness of how fragile and precious they are and giving muscle to efforts to keep them in a natural state.
Preservation efforts go back a long way with the town receiving its first gift of land on the western hills in the 1960s. Today, more than 600 acres of those hills are protected against development and open to the public for moderate walks, serious hiking and nature-watching. And if you park your car at the Hollow Fields red barn on Perry’s Peak Road, you can walk to Vermont, some 37 miles north, on conserved land.
The process of creating this large preserve has been gradual, with a major boost a few years ago when Janet Robinson donated a large parcel to the partnership of the Richmond Land Trust (RLT) and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC). Hollow Fields had been established earlier with Ron and Judith Shaw’s donation of part of their land on Perry’s Peak Road. And then, in 2019, Richmond Land Trust joined with the town and BNRC to buy 340 acres of priceless mountain land from Berkshire Farm Center in Canaan, New York, basically all the land the school owned in Massachusetts.
What’s there? For Richmond Land Trust, Perry’s Peak features acres and acres of hardwood forest, a small lake, old trails, the headwaters of two brooks that tumble through the town, a home for many species of birds, bears, deer, coyotes, bobcats and foxes, plus access to trails along the Taconic Ridge and the certainty that it will remain as unspoiled a hundred years from now as it is today.
Why does it matter? John Keenum, past president of RLT, put it this way: "This is a segment of the Berkshire Hills that is the essence of what makes Richmond unique. It's part of the town vista that many residents see every day of their lives, either from their front doors or their back doors, or as they drive through the valley. We are delighted that Berkshire Farm was willing to part with their acreage in Richmond.” The project doubled the acreage of the Hollow Fields preserve, with the town’s Conservation Commission and BNRC each putting in $125,000.
From across town, it’s hard to point out exactly which lump is Perry’s Peak because it’s not the tallest hill in the line. But townspeople have attached that name to the area for years, any number of residents remembering when their mothers made them go to Perry’s Peak to pick low-bush blueberries. So, “Protect Perry’s Peak” was the phrase that characterized the fund drive and honored the late David Perry, a minister of the Richmond Congregational Church, who owned it for years.
Hollow Fields appeals to so many people, whether it’s those who simply like to know it’s protected, to those who take a short meadow trail to enjoy the view from a land trust bench, to the serious hiker. In late May, bobolinks swoop over the unmown meadow near the red barn, while tree swallows catch insects on the fly and raise their young beside families of bluebirds.
During the pandemic, as Americans found solace in nature, signs were posted to ask visitors to come another time if the parking lot was full. But in ordinary times, parking is easy. And the nature adventure is as free as the air around it.
Richmond Land Trust recently placed a bench partway up the trail that begins at the Hollow Fields parking lot. It’s a fairly easy walk to the bench, which honors the late Stephen Congdon of Richmond. Other RLT benches are situated near the Hollow Fields barn, on East Road at Reservoir Road, at East and Sleepy Hollow and on Dean Hill. All overlook special Richmond vistas.
See more information on Hollow Fields at the BNRC site.