Conservation Land

Stow Agricultural and Forest Lands

This map shows the agricultural and forest lands in Stow. The lands in this map are taken from the Assessors list of parcels placed under the provisions of Chapter 61 (forest lands) and 61A (agricultural lands). Yellow parcels are woodlands and green parcels are agricultural.

Chapter 61 and 61A allow the farmer to obtain a tax abatement on land used for agricultural or forestry purposes. This is necessary in order to make agricultural operations sufficiently close to being profitable to encourage them to continue. The Assessors may require proof of continuation of the existing use. In return for abatement of taxes, the Town holds certain rights over the land designed to ensure continuation of current use. In particular, if the use of the land is changed, the Town may demand payment of a portion of the abated taxes and in addition has a 120 day option to purchase the land at fair market value.

These lands are not public lands, and the associated map is provided solely for informational purposes to show the extent of agriculture in Stow.

Stow Water Resource Protection District

The Water Resource Protection District shown on the map was established by Town Meeting in January 1988. The purpose of the district is to protect the water resources of Stow. This is a zoning overlay district, which means that the zoning regulations for this district are added to the existing zoning regulations for a given location. A zoning district is administered by the Planning Board and enforced by the Building Inspector.

The Water Resource Protection District prohibits certain land uses which would degrade the quality of the groundwater resources. In particular, land uses involving hazardous materials are prohibited. Septic systems are permitted, but are limited to 110 gallons per day per 10,000 square feet (considered sufficient for single-family residential use). Mining is prohibited, as is making more than 10% of the land area impervious (which limits groundwater recharge).

The Water Resource Protection District is based on studies of the groundwater potential of the Town. These studies were performed in 1976 by IEP and are the basis for much of the evaluation of water resources in Stow. The specific areas on the map are areas with high ground water potential, which is based on the thickness of the aquifer and the permeability of the soils. The long blue region on the eastern edge of Stow is one of the primary aquifers flowing through the Town. The direction of flow is toward the south, opposite the surface flow direction of the Assabet river. Another aquifer flows from the northwest corner of Stow towards the Hudson border.

Stow's Agricultural Heritage by Barbara Clancy

Throughout the western suburbs, land is thought of as a commodity--something to sell, buy, and build on. One of the great things about Stow is that for many residents, land is not just something to put a house on, but something to tend--respectfully--as a source of livelihood. And while Stow is now probably just as well known for golf as farming, much of the town's agricultural heritage is still with us, in everything from large picturesque farms and orchards, to the signs posted in front yards offering eggs, grapes, vegetables, and hay for sale.

These days, the financial pressures to develop farmland are strong, and a number of state programs have been designed to assist farmers in keeping their land in agricultural production. Chapter 61 allows a landowner with a certain number of acres of woods or farmland to pay a lower property tax on the land in exchange for not developing it, and for giving the town first crack at buying the property if he or she decides to sell. When a farm is sold, the state's Agricultural Preservation Restriction program may pay the seller the difference in price between the farm's value as agricultural land and its greater value as house lots. In turn, the state places a deed restriction on the land prohibiting its future development.

Since 1980, this program has helped preserve more than 350 farm properties in Massachusetts, including Shelburne Farm in Stow, and the Nashoba Winery in Bolton, but the available funds cannot keep up with the number of applications for help the program receives.

The more the non-farming residents of a town feel their local farms are an indispensable part of the local scene, the more they'll support preservation efforts.

Think about how much you like seeing apple blossoms in the spring, sheep in the meadows at Pilot Grove Farm, eating fresh-picked corn and other organic vegetables and picking your own flowers at our local organic farms - Applefield Farm and Small Farm. Think also about how much you like picking your own local apples at Carver Hill, Honey Pot, Derby's and Shelburne Farm.

Buy local produce and support your neighborhood farms and orchards!

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Stow Conservation Lands

This map shows the Conservation Lands of Stow. These are private and public lands which have been designated as conservation lands, i.e. they cannot be developed for use as residences or businesses. Conservation lands are used for agriculture, recreation, wildlife refuge and water protection areas.

The SCT purchased Fieldstone from Charlie Lord around 1980. Four 5-acre house lots were sold by the Trust to individuals to fund the Trust’s purchase, and the remaining approximately 50 acres became conservation land. A parking area next to #4 Fieldstone Lane provides access to a loop trail on the upland portion of the property.

The Dorothy and Charles Leggett Memorial Woodlands were a generous gift of the late Dorothy Leggett. Charlie Leggett, her late husband, was the developer of a new variety of squash, later named the Waltham Butternut Squash, in a field across Gleasondale Road from the Leggett Woodlands. Dorothy Sonnichsen facilitated Dorothy Leggett’s 2004 gift of 23 acres between Gleasondale Road and Whitman Street. A loop trail was constructed on the property in 2008.

The Red Acre Woodland
was acquired in 2002 as a result of an agreement reached by the Stow Conservation Trust with the Red Acre Foundation to purchase 196 acres in Stow and 3 acres in Maynard. This purchase represented a key step in a long-term plan to link together the conservation land in Stow into what is now Stow’s Emerald Necklace. Construction of a long boardwalk in 2008 provided a critical connection between the original, main trail off Red Acre Road, and South Acton Road, completing the Necklace.

The Town Forest, also known as Gardner Hill Land was purchased by the Town in 1972 with assistance from the state under the self-help program. This land is part of the C.D. Fletcher estate and boasts several miles of walking and cross-country ski trails. The Elizabeth Brook runs along the northern edge of the land and is a popular fishing stream. The land extends out to the Assabet River. A parking area at the end of Bradley Lane makes the land easily accessible. A more recently-added parcel allows access from Heritage Lane.

Marble Hill Natural Area was purchased by the Town in 1977 with assistance from the state under the self-help program. The land was put together from several parcels by private initiative and is one of the most popular of the Stow recreation lands. Several miles of trails are available for walking or cross-country skiing. A Life Course was established to encourage exercising. Pompositticut School provides parking adjacent to the south entrance to Marble Hill and a small turnoff is available on Taylor Road at the north entrance. Marble was surface mined from the property in the 1700s.

The Captain Sargent Farm (Babricki Land) was purchased by the Town in 1980 with assistance from the state under the self-help program. This land has been in agricultural use since the 1700's and was purchased from the estate of Mr. Babricki, the last farmer to own the land. During the American Revolution it was owned by the family of Nathaniel Sargent, whose name it bears today. A parking lot was cut into the northeast section of the land in 1994 and has encouraged use of the land. Much of the southern section is in use for agriculture, but the public may use the edges of these fields.

The Heath Hen Meadow Woodlands was a part of Shelburne Farm. This land was split off in 1997 and purchased by the Town with Self-Help funds. Virginia Frecha gifted an additional 3.5 acres to provide access from Boxborough Road. The woods feature several trails and can be used for hiking or cross-country skiing.

The Flagg Hill Conservation Land consists of 286 acres acquired and protected by the people of Stow and Boxborough in 1998 to serve as critical wildlife habitat and natural ecosystem. Further acreage has since been added south of Trefry Lane, as well as a crucial trail easement connecting Flagg Hill with Heath Hen. Vernal pools, stands of white pine, abandoned orchards with birdhouse nesting opportunities represent some of the diverse aspects of this property. Stow access is from a large designated parking area by a gray cinder block barn, and a separate, single parking space for the Orchard View connector trail, both on West Acton Road. Visitors can view the parallel stone walls adjacent to the main trail and hazard a guess as to their purpose.

The Spindle Hill land includes the top of Spindle Hill and is accessible from either Wheeler Road or Gates Lane. The Wheeler Road access was purchased by the Sudbury Valley Trust with assistance from the Stow Conservation Trust. Spindle Hill is so named because the hill was covered with dogwood trees when the local mills were in their prime. Dogwood is a hardwood that was used for making spindles for the mills.

The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, encompasses 3.5 square miles located within the towns of Hudson , Maynard, Stow and Sudbury. Formerly part of Fort Devens, this area was known as the Sudbury Training Annex. The U.S. Army transferred 2,230 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the fall of 2000. It is one of eight refuges within the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, which is headquartered out of Great Meadows NWR on Weir Hill Road in Sudbury. A total of 16 miles of trails and roads are open for wildlife-dependent public use at the refuge. (from the ARNWR website at

The Delaney Project
, managed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, is open to public use for recreation, including hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing and hunting (October – December). The original purpose of the project was flood control on Elizabeth Brook and waterfowl management, to include hunting. The Project’s lands consist of two parcels straddling Harvard Road (Stow) / Finn Road (Harvard), with primary access from a large parking lot and boat ramp off Harvard Road; both parcels may also be reached from Finn Road.

The Kalousdian Wildlife Sanctuary was offered to Stow by Mr. Vohan Kalousdian in 1989. With a combined effort by the Organization for the Assabet River (now known as OARS: For the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord Rivers), the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Stow Conservation Commission, the land was taken over by OARS for permanent protection; the Town holds a conservation restriction. The forest has remained undisturbed since 1940, and is very mature without dense underbrush in most areas.

A portion of the Marlborough-Sudbury State Forest lies in Stow, adjacent to the Assabet River NWR and the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. The State Forest was given to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental management by the US Department of the Interior in the 1970s. A trail system connects the State Forest with the NWR.

The Annie Moore Land straddles the Bolton-Stow Border off Annie Moore Road, with trails accessible from the Bolton side.

The Herene Property along Elizabeth Brook was a 2007 gift to the Sudbury Valley Trustees from Framingham resident Candace Herene. The property is mostly wetland, with a diversity of plant and wildlife habitat.

The numerous parcels comprising the Along Assabet land were donated to the Sudbury Valley Trustees by the Hewlett-Packard Corporation in 2006. SVT subsequently transferred the land to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for addition to the Assabet River NWR. The land is maianly marshy or inundated, and is best viewed from the river, but some portions may also be seen from the proposed Assabet River Rail Trail corridor between Sudbury Road and White Pond Road.

Moving deliberately and strategically, SCT purchased a 31.6 acre parcel from the Corzine family in the southwest quadrant of Stow in October, 2008.  This parcel abuts the Hale Woodlands (24.3 acres) purchased by SCT in 2005.  SCT’s purchases provide for a total of 55 acres in a part of Stow that previously had relatively little conserved, open land.
There is history to both parcels.  Hale Woodlands was left in the Hale estate to two entities, one in Stow and one in Boston.  SCT paid $70,000 for the Hale Woodlands parcel.  The Stow Town Meeting subsequently approved the purchase of a Conservation Restriction (CR) for $35,000 of the total of $70,000.  The Corzine property was purchased from Mrs. Gwenyth Corzine, widow of Dick Corzine.  Dick was an early conservationist in Stow who played an important role in the purchase of Gardner Hill (Town Forest) over thirty years ago.
The financing of the Corzine purchase required $50,000 at the October, 2008 closing and $50,000 at each of the subsequent three annual anniversaries, for a total of $200,000.

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Last modified January 6, 2022

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