As development pressure continues to grow across Massachusetts, the accelerating loss of open space and agricultural land continues to be a concern for many communities. When the Community Preservation Act (CPA) was passed in Wayland back in 2001, many residents saw its potential value in helping to preserve their community’s unique agrarian heritage. And thanks to that foresight, the town was able to protect the rolling pastures and wooded hillsides of Mainstone Farm.
The Mainstone Farm property has close to a mile of frontage along Old Connecticut Path and Rice Roads, as well as 89 acres of working farmland. An additional 124 acres of woodlands feature mature stands of American beech, yellow Birch, sugar maples, and towering white pines. The property is the largest remaining piece of undeveloped land in town and has long been a priority for protection by the town of Wayland and the local land trust, the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT). In 2016, the moment had come: Wayland residents voted “yes” at town meeting to secure a permanent conservation restriction (CR) to preserve the Farm.
The conservation restriction was purchased from residing Hamlen family for $15 million, which represented a discount from an appraised value of $17 million. Wayland voters approved spending $12 million for the CR with Community Preservation Funds, and SVT raised the remaining $3 million from individuals and foundations. It was SVT’s largest fundraising effort ever.
Gretchen Schuler, Chair of Wayland’s Community Preservation Committee, played an integral role in bringing the project to fruition. She saw the opportunity to preserve Mainstone Farm when the Town first adopted CPA in 2001, and through the years she never lost sight of this goal. A resident of Wayland for over 40 years and a longtime friend of the Hamlen family, Schuler kept the discussion about the future of Mainstone Farm in play and brought together the Hamlens, the Town of Wayland, and SVT to negotiate the preservation of the of the property.
Being a neighbor of the property, Schuler has been walking, hiking, and horseback riding along the wooded trails for many years. Her enthusiasm for the project is apparent as she describes her vision to ensure that the property would be preserved in perpetuity:
“Mainstone Farm came to mind immediately as one of the big reasons for why the Town of Wayland should adopt the CPA back in 2001. It’s unique, with views of Mount Wachusett and Mount Monadnock on a clear day.” Highlighting the local public benefit, Schuler noted that two local farmers will be raising vegetables for the farmer’s markets and selling fresh produce at the roadside farm stand. “There is also beef raised here, which will be sold locally,” she said, “and the public will have access to many of the trails and hilltop views.”
Nan Balmer, Town Administrator for Wayland, and Lisa Vernegaard, Executive Director of SVT, announced that conservation of Mainstone Farm was completed on April 12, 2017. A conservation restriction was recorded that permanently protects 208 acres of the farm’s pastures and forest. A second restriction also protects an additional 10-acre area of the farm, within which one single family home may be built in the future.
“It is an extraordinary win for conservation, for wildlife, for hikers, birders, and the Town,” said Schuler.
The permanent restriction will allow the Hamlen family to continue farming on the property, growing vegetables for local Farmer’s markets, and raising beef cattle and other livestock. Sudbury Valley Trustees, together with the Town of Wayland, will maintain trails that are open to the public and are currently accessible from the Hamlen Woods conservation area on Rice Road. Additional parking will soon be available off Forest Hill Road.
The protection of this beautiful property was only possible due to careful planning after adopting CPA in 2001. Together with the contributions of the town residents, the Hamlen family, and the local land conservation trust, Wayland was successful in preserving an important link to the community’s 18th century agrarian roots.