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A Bit of GWLT History: Frank Cooke Forest

Photo of the Ganley Addition to the Frank Cooke Forest conservation area

Out of the blue the Trust’s attorney received a letter about some land located in Leicester. An attorney had been charged with the estate of Mr. Frank Cooke, and the estate contained 27.26 acres of land in Leicester. The problem is that the land is not on any paved street. In fact, it is only on a dirt cart path in the forest that is off of another dirt cart path in the forest. This does not make the land particularly saleable. Time had passed and each quarter the estate received another tax bill from the Town of Leicester, and funds were going into a property that was unlikely to generate a sale. Would the Trust be interested in looking at the property as possible conservation land?

A quick first analysis showed that this property was particularly interesting. The property abuts large land holdings of the Worcester Reservoir division to the north. The property abuts the large land holdings of the Town of Leicester, made up of the closed former municipal landfill and its forested surroundings. The property also abuts other small parcels in the forest that were also only accessible by the same system of dirt cart paths in the forest. In terms of an open space matrix the land was a part of a larger forested system. Besides, the property nearly abuts the local famous hot dog stand, Hot Dog Annie’s, and the prospect of monitoring and management necessitating a visit didn’t hurt at all.

The forest itself is in very good shape. Relatively free of invasive species, with a good mix of northern hardwood species, some excellent specimen trees, and only a small southern portion of the land had been logged in recent years. There are clearings from the power line corridor, dense forest canopy in others, mountain laurel in others, and a forest floor of ferns in yet others. The property also had an ongoing history of being important to local sportsmen.

The property was finally transferred to the Trust on May 16th, and the Trust immediately applied for a Forest Stewardship Plan Grant from DCR. It was the end of the year’s program, and a little funding was available, but you would need to have the plan finished by January. While most foresters were overbooked with the pushed up completion date, one forester was intrigued with working with the Greater Worcester Land Trust and getting to know her better and agreed to take on the property. As a result this was the fastest a Trust property has ever gone from acquisition to a comprehensive natural resource inventory and management plan. Immediately discussion turned to looking out at adjacent small parcels just as off the dirt cart paths as the Frank Cooke Forest.

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