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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.

A Bit of GWLT History: Cascades West

September 16, 1991:

Cascades West, a large property on the southern edge of Holden, adjoins Worcester’s Boynton Park on the west (in Paxton) and Worcester’s Cascades Park on the east (in Worcester). In the early 1900’s Cascades West operated as a farm, as did the areas atop the hill to the east of Howard Street (a.k.a. Silver Spring Road).

Previous to GWLT’s acquisition, the land was owned by three partners: Jones, Briel, and Whiting. They intended to develop the property and had intermittently looked into the costs and restrictions of installing required infrastructure in this remote location. They logged the property and allowed firewood cutting. When Mr. Whiting died, his surviving spouse Joan proposed that the two remaining partners either donate the property for conservation or finally develop it. Thankfully, they decided on the former.

This belt of open space, now known as “The Cascades”, was established as a GWLT property in September 1991. It ran from Cataract Street in Worcester to Mower Street in Paxton and totaled over 250 acres of forest, wetland, trail, and overgrown pasture. Working from the original linchpin of Cascades West, this belt of open space has expanded to run from Marshall Street in Leicester to Moreland Green Drive in Worcester. It now totals over 800 acres of open space.

A Bit of GWLT History: Parson’s Cider Mill

September 5, 2000:

Four years after the recording of the adjacent Marois 28 deed, and more than four years after the City first purchased the 43.08 acres of Parson’s Cider Mill, the Conservation Restriction to the Greater Worcester Land Trust was finally recorded. This required special “home-rule” legislation from the Massachusetts state legislature.

Parson’s Cider Mill is one of the original Worcester “Open Space Top Ten” list properties. The property itself was significant as the former site of a cider press in Worcester. It features an ornamental pond and plantings, an old retired City of Worcester Reservoir, a red pine stand, a cart road, and a brook flowing across the site. Unfortunately, the ornamental stonework wall just off of Apricot Drive has since been demolished by the City of Worcester DPW in a project to address dam safety concerns.

On a more positive note, the site itself has also become the home of a memorial to former neighborhood resident Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry. The memorial now stands at the corner of Apricot and Goddard Memorial Drive. The property also hosts a section of the Tetasset Ridge Trail that spans the west side of the City of Worcester.

The preservation effort was a partnership between GWLT and the City of Worcester. Additionally, a state grant was utilized, with federal funding from the National Park Service through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF.) This complex mix of partners and government agencies made for a complex set of requirements.

As this was the first joint preservation project using such a state grant, a small glitch occurred in the Council approval votes, and instead of the purchase of the property being where the story ends it became where the story begins. The state wanted the CR recorded before the transfer occurred and instead the property was transferred to the City before the CR was recorded. The chain of records meant that GWLT could not be given a CR on the property without special legislation as it would constitute a change of use. This special legislation needed to go through a complex approval process meant to dissuade municipalities from converting open space to another use, but in this case it became a burden to the project partners to protecting it further.

The assistance of multiple legislators, numerous phone calls, many letters, and a mix of patience and impatience, finally resulted in the CR that ensures that this property remains a municipal open space for all time.

A Bit of GWLT History: Worcester’s Top 10 Conservation Targets

Cascades Park East/West 60.56 Saved
Coal Mine Brook 71.15 Partially Saved, Lost & Outstanding
Stratton Hill 126.80 Lost
Nick Chase Estate 59.30 Saved
Broggard Farm & Higgins Estate 319.86 Lost
Poor Farm Brook North 85.43 Patially Lost & Outstanding
Parson’s Estate 28.00 Saved
God’s Acre 17.15 Saved
Broad Meadow Brook +/- 245.05 Saved
Crow Hill 42.25 Saved (57.46 acres)


Cascades Park East 41.26 Saved (30.86 acres)
Catholic Charities (Parcel K)(AKA Broad Meadow Brook Savannah) 85.00 Saved
Coes Reservoir Abutters 100.26 Saved
Crow Hill 33.65 Saved (57.46 acres)
Higgins Estate 115.17 Lost
Kettle Brook North 29.60 Saved
Laurel Mountain (AKA Bovenzi) 126.57 Saved
Poor Farm Brook North 46.73 Patially Lost & Outstanding
Stoddard Estate/Brooks 43.62 Outstanding
Wigwam Hill and Coal Mine Brook 47.70 Partially Saved, Lost & Outstanding


Cascades Park East 41.26 Saved (30.86 acres)
Catholic Charities (Parcel K) (AKA Broad Meadow Brook Savannah) 85.00 Saved
Crow Hill 33.65 Saved (57.46 acres)
Higgins Estate 115.17 Lost
Kettle Brook North 29.60 Saved
Laurel Mountain (AKA Bovenzi) 126.57 Saved
Logan Field Extension (AKA Fowler Brook Gorge) 31.03 Partially Lost & Partially Saved
Poor Farm Brook North 46.73 Partially Lost & Outstanding
Stoddard Estate/Brooks 43.62 Outstanding
Wigwam Hill and Coal Mine Brook 47.70 Partially Saved, Lost & Outstanding

A Bit of GWLT History: Nick’s Woods

The sign for Nick's Woods with a group of volunteers

On October 4, 1990 & August 27, 2005:

The Greater Worcester Land Trust was formed in 1987 in response to a development boom. One of its guiding documents was the City of Worcester’s “Top Ten List” of critical unprotected properties. List in hand, the members of GWLT’s board of directors met with various landowners. Typically, their responses boiled down to, “if you have a million dollars we can talk, otherwise…”

Nick Chase was an exception.

Nick’s Woods runs along the east side of Grove Street (122A) from the power lines on the northern edge to the timber frame property sign on the southern edge. Mr. Chase had already registered his property as an official “Tree Farm” and had enrolled the forest in a tax incentive program for owners of managed woodlands (Chapter 61). He viewed a conservation restriction that permanently kept the forest, trout brook, cart road, and ancient cellar holes as compatible with his vision for the property. Mr. Chase offered to donate a CR on the majority of his forest jointly to the City of Worcester and GWLT. On October 4th, 1990 GWLT’s first CR was recorded.

In 2005, Mr. Chase approached GWLT with a new proposal for additional forest property that was not covered by the existing CR. While GWLT’s CR protected the forest from development, the land was private property with a number of rights reserved. Mr. Chase asked if GWLT would be interested in purchasing the entirety of the forest for conservation.

CRs cannot be held by a landowner. As GWLT already held a CR on most of the property, they needed another organization to hold its CR in order for GWLT to purchase it. The Green Hill Park Coalition agreed to serve as an interim holder. CR secured, Mr. Chase and GWLT were able to expand and preserve Nick’s Woods as a 59.76-acre public forest.

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