NEWS

Video: Trustees of Reservations celebrates 100th property

Michael Morton

Admirers of Uxbridge's Cormier Woods say the property transports them back to the early homesteading days - even when the occasional exotic animal call emanates from nearby Southwick's Zoo.

"When you stand on it, you can go back 200 years," Mendon Land Use Committee member Anne Mazar said earlier this week during a visit to the Chapin Street property, which overlooks stone walls and pastures. "You just feel it."

A former subsistence farm, Cormier Woods was willed to the Trustees of Reservations by owner James Cormier upon his death in 2005. The 175-acre parcel represents the nonprofit group's 100th conservation property, and will be unveiled to the public during a celebration Saturday.

While the trustees protect 25,000 acres with scenic, historical or ecological value across the state, Cormier Woods represents the first foray into the Blackstone River Valley and the area's National Heritage Corridor. Mazar said the organization's arrival has already brought together Mendon and Uxbridge residents seeking to preserve hundreds of acres of neighboring open space.

"This is like the anchor," she said.

Mike Francis, the trustees Charles River Valley Management Unit superintendent, agreed.

"Our hope is that through protecting this property as kind of a starting point, that other abutting properties could gain protection," he said.

The trustees will offer free admission to Cormier Woods, and visitors can hike, mountain bike, picnic, bird watch, hunt, snowshoe, cross-country ski and pick apples and blueberries, depending on the season. They can also take tours of the property's buildings, some of which have already been restored and some of which are scheduled to be fixed up.

The homestead's house, opened in 1752, was restored by Cormier and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unlocking the door to the gambrel-roofed Cape, Francis pointed out a 9-foot brick fireplace in the living room with side caverns for cooking and a "good morning staircase" where sleepers would emerge from the two upstairs bedrooms face-to-face.

Other buildings include two sheds and a barn, where old metal tools sat jumbled in a workshop and bat guano covered the floor. Francis said staff are trying to figure out how to host the bats while keeping the droppings at bay.

To prepare for the grand opening, the staff blazed four miles of trails into the surrounding woods, some of which have overtaken disused pastures. One walk leads to the cellar holes of a long-since-vanished home belonging to Joseph White, who started the farm in 1686. Nearby sits a large boulder, a large section chiseled off to make rocks for the foundation.

During a tour, Francis walked around a vernal pool producing salamanders and frogs in the spring and past abandoned stone walls covered in lichen and moss. Inside woods filled with red maple, ash, white pine, oaks, hickory and witch hazel, a stone culvert channeled a trickling brook. Later, he emerged into a field filled with native little bluestem grass.

"It really seems like it could be the start of future land protection efforts," Francis said before heading back to the house. "I think it will be a nice resource for the community to enjoy."

Reporter Michael Morton can be reached at mmorton@cnc.com or 508-626-4338.

THE ESSENTIALS:

The Trustees of Reservations Cormier Woods is located at 217 Chapin St., Uxbridge. It is open sunrise to sunset daily. Admission is free.

DIRECTIONS: From I-495, take exit 19 to Rte. 109 west. Turn left onto Rte. 16 and follow for 7.4 miles. Take a slight left onto Blackstone Street, and then a left onto Chapin St. If you hit Southwick's Zoo, you've gone too far.

CELEBRATE: On Saturday, visitors will be treated to free tours, folk music, ice cream and cider. The celebration is scheduled to be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

MORE INFO: Go to www.thetrustees.org or call 781-784-0567.

Visit the Trustees' other properties

While Cormier Woods in Uxbridge will be unveiled to the public this Saturday, the Trustees of Reservations operates 99 other properties. Here are a few:

  • Bridge Island Meadows, Millis: 80 acres of wooded hills surrounded by wetlands, the meadows can only be reached by kayakers turning off the Charles River onto a stream that leads to South End Pond. Cost: free.
  • Cedariver, Millis: This 55-acre former Charles River farm at 161 Forest Road offers woods and open meadows filled with wildflowers. Cost: free.
  • Moose Hill Farm, Sharon: At 450 feet high, the namesake hill at 396 Moose Hill St. sits on 347 acres and offers views of Boston and the Great Blue Hill. Cost: free for members and children under 12, $4 for all others.
  • Pegan Hill, Natick: The 410-foot hill on Pegan Lane sits on 32 acres and offers views of the Great Blue Hill. Cost: free.
  • Rocky Narrows, Sherborn: Visitors to the 227-acre property off South Main Street can walk up for a view of the Gates of the Charles, a narrow cliff through which the river flows. Cost: free.

For more information, visit www.thetrustees.org.