A New Chapter for “Sleepy Hollow”

February 21, 2024

Scout camporees, swimming, square dancing, basketball – for half a century, generations of local youth spent their childhood making memories on the 86-acre “Sleepy Hollow” property, situated between Wales Rd. and Paige Hill Rd. in Brimfield. Though its popularity waxed and waned over the years, groups of Boy Scouts were still camping on the property right up until access was cut off due to damage from an EF-3 tornado that hit the area in June 2011.  

Thanks to the support of the Opacum community and an $85,000 grant from an anonymous foundation, Opacum Land Trust is poised to move ahead with a multi-year plan to reopen and revitalize this property and will be working to permanently protect and preserve it for current and future generations.  

The first phase of this ambitious project includes transferring ownership of the property from current owners, Brimfield Trail Association, to Opacum, developing and implementing forest management plans, and working on securing funds to assist with replacing damaged infrastructure to allow safe access to the property. 

Future phases of the plan include reopening of hiking trails, youth camping areas, and picnicking areas, as well as the installation of an accessible trail system. The addition of an immersive accessible trail is a particularly exciting step towards ensuring that the legacy of Sleepy Hollow lives on and that everyone in the community, regardless of physical ability, can experience its unique history and natural beauty.   

HISTORY: Purchased in 1956 by the Brimfield-Wales Youth Association (now known as Brimfield Trail Association), Sleepy Hollow originally served the area’s youth as the location for Girl Scout and Boy Scout camporees and other events. Scouts came from many surrounding towns to enjoy activities like swimming, camping, archery, and more. In addition to scouting, the property included a large barn that was used for dances, basketball games, meetings, and even a wedding reception or two. Over time, the property fell into disrepair and in 1987, the barn was torn down. 

In the mid-1990s, Brimfield Boy Scout Troop 7 constructed a new bridge, improving access to the property, which continued to be used for camping by the scouts until the 2011 tornado. Unfortunately, the tornado directly hit the property, cutting off safe access and putting an end to scout activities.

A UNIQUE HABITAT: In addition to the historical significance of this property, Sleepy Hollow has several unique ecological features which add to the importance of preserving this land, including a wetlands complex, native little bluestem meadows, and a unique early successional forest habitat.

Created by the 2011 tornado, the early successional forest habitat is particularly important because this type of habitat is in decline across Massachusetts and all of New England.  With its mix of grassy and herbaceous plants, shrubs, brush, and small trees, it is the preferred breeding habitat for a variety of bird species, many of which have experienced serious population decline due to loss of breeding habitat. Bird species like Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Whip-poor-will, Brown Thrasher, Blue-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Canada Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow all benefit from the creation and maintenance of early successional forest habitat. 

Thanks to you, Sleepy Hollow’s early successional habitat will be protected and stewarded, giving these bird species a place to raise their young.  

 A SPACE FOR EVERYONE: In addition to reopening and revitalizing the existing trail network, including camping and picnicking areas, Opacum plans to install an accessible trail loop at Sleepy Hollow. This final phase of the project, which is in the early planning stages, is a proposed accessible loop that will take visitors on an immersive experience in nature. Creating an accessible trail system on this property will allow trail users with limited mobility a chance to experience the unique and uncommon native little bluestem meadows and early successional forest habitat, along with scenic views of a wetland complex and beaver pond and views of the surrounding area including scenic views of downtown Brimfield and the eastern side of Brimfield State Forest. Thanks to your support, all members of our community will be able to enjoy the benefits of time spent in nature. 

THANKS TO YOU: Thanks to you, Opacum Land Trust was ready and able to tackle this ambitious project. Thanks to you, an ecologically important property, with its wetlands and early successional habitat, will be preserved and protected. Thanks to you, the historical and ecological significance of this property will be protected, memorialized, and shared with everyone in the community, for current and future generations. Thank you for supporting Opacum so that complex projects like Sleepy Hollow, with enormous impacts for conservation and for the community, can become a reality.   

Do you have historical photos or stories of Sleepy Hollow that you’d like to share? Email them to us aadams@opacumlt.org.