To keep track of enemies, our vigilant species wants eyes in the sky. If you lacked satellites or airplanes, you’d post a lookout on the highest place around. For Native Americans in the Sudbury Valley, that was a hill they called Penobscot, “the steep rock place.” On its summit they built a stone platform from which, at 600 feet above sea level, they could view broad swaths of countryside in every direction.
The colonists of Sudbury and Framingham shortened the name of their loftiest hill to Nobscot. Its history is rich—and its future is about to be decided. Will it continue to be a wild place to be explored by human visitors and protected as a home for plants and animals? Will we still be able to walk to Tippling Rock and see the magnificent view of the Boston skyline? Or will the 452 acre property remain exposed to market forces, vulnerable to eventual conversion into a large and unusually visible subdivision?
The Knox Trail Council, owner of Nobscot Scout Reservation, has offered Sudbury Valley Trustees and the Town of Sudbury a chance to protect 300 acres of this remarkable place. Sudbury’s Town Meeting, which begins April 7, will decide whether to invest Community Preservation Funds in a conservation restriction that will protect the current character of the property without increasing taxes.
Nobscot is mentioned many times in the histories of Sudbury and Framingham, as an ancient lookout and as the residence of an Indian family notable for its participation in King Philip’s War. In colonial times it was the site of a smallpox “hospital” and burial ground. In the early days of the new republic, Nobscot was home to several prominent families.
Ralph Waldo Emerson climbed Nobscot in 1848, and Henry David Thoreau five years later. Both parked their horses at the nearby Howe Tavern, later renamed the Wayside Inn after Longfellow made it the location for his famous poem.
Beginning in 1928, Scout troops in Newton, Wellesley, and Weston built cabins on the side of the hill. Today, this exceptionally large tract of forest represents a critical link in a complex of protected lands that includes Callahan State Park and Sudbury’s Tippling Rock and Nobscot Conservation Areas. If the funds can be raised, a permanent conservation restriction on 300 acres of the property in Sudbury can be acquired, to be co-held by SVT and the Town. The transaction has two parts. The agreed-upon price of the restriction for the first 160 acres is $6.6 million. As I write, the price of the second piece has been set but has yet to be ratified—see SVT’s website (www.svtweb.org/nobscot) for the latest public information.
Permanent protection for Nobscot has been the hope of local leaders for many years. If Sudbury Town Meeting does vote to preserve Nobscot, town money will need to be supplemented with significant private funds. Recently the Sudbury Foundation committed $800,000 for the purchase. Other private donors have already contributed, but more gifts are needed to complete the transaction. If you wish to participate, please contact Rachel Sagan or me at SVT.
Nobscot Reservation spans the boundary of Sudbury and Framingham. The portion in the latter town is also of great interest for conservation. SVT and the Knox Trail Council will work to create an opportunity to protect an additional and very important 150 acres in Framingham at the conclusion of the Sudbury campaign.