November 4, 2022
Stevens Brook Sichol Community Forest
Land Conservation Milestone in Holland, MA
Once a twinkle in the eye, and after years of pulling grant funds together, working with many partners, weathering a pandemic, and other unforeseen delays in this project, the Town of Holland and Opacum Land Trust are proud to announce the acquisition and conservation of the Stevens Brook Sichol Community Forest.
Overlooking the center of town is a 176-acre property that will help shape the future of the center of Holland. The property is comprised of forest and wetlands, with Stevens Brook, a cold-water fishery and the second-largest source of fresh water to Hamilton Reservoir, running through its center. The 17 acres of this property fronting on Stafford Road are available for the Town to use for its own purposes. The remaining 159 acres of the property, the portion containing Stevens Brook, is now the Stevens Brook Sichol Community Forest – a public conservation area owned by the Town of Holland. The Community Forest provides outdoor recreation to residents and visitors, including hiking trails, cross-country skiing, nature viewing, hunting, and fishing. The Stevens Brook Sichol Community Forest can also be used by the school, a five-minute walk away, for nature-based education. It provides an example of long-term, sustainable forest management with timber harvests occasionally providing revenue for the maintenance of the property and for the Town. In addition, protecting Stevens Brook helps to protect the water quality in Hamilton Reservoir.
The Town of Holland has granted Opacum Land Trust a permanent Conservation Restriction on the Stevens Brook Sichol Community Forest, ensuring that it is never changed from its intended conservation purposes. Opacum will work with the Town of Holland to manage and care for the property and provide technical assistance on natural resources, habitat management, trail building, and other aspects of caring for this Town conservation property.
Since 2015, Town committees and volunteer residents have been working with Opacum Land Trust to come up with the funds to purchase this property and ensure that it serves the Town and its residents well. At the 2019 annual Town Meeting, the residents of Holland overwhelmingly approved the purchase of this property by the Town.
Opacum Land Trust, a regional non-profit land conservation organization led by local volunteer directors and based in Brimfield, has helped secure grants through the MA EEA LAND Grant program, and USDA Forest Service Community Forest Program to assist the Town in purchasing this property and Representative Todd Smola secured an additional $50,000 to help with the purchase.
This project has been an eight-year joint effort of the Town of Holland and Opacum Land Trust, with funding and support from the following:
The Town of Holland and Opacum Land Trust celebrated this amazing accomplishment with a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 2, 2022. Many attened the event, including key organiziers, funders, and many supporters.
Trails are open – check out Blodgett Road trailhead parking area in Holland to enjoy a walk in the woods!