This beautiful property on two sides of Battis Road abuts the 311-acre Merrimac Town Forest, where Cobbler’s Brook winds its way through mature woodlands and boggy wetlands on its way to the Merrimac River.
The current reservation with its groves of oaks and hickories would have been familiar territory to the Indigenous People who lived in this area at the time of European contact. The Algonquians would have canoed from the Merrimack River up the Cobbler Brook tributary to establish a winter camp here. They used frozen beaver dams as highways to safely cross ponds in winter and selectively harvested beaver pelts for the fur trade.
They tracked game in winter snow and set trap lines along the trails for fur bearing animals such as squirrels, foxes, and hares. Squirrel tails sewn onto winter cloaks were prized for decoration as well as extra warmth. Indigenous women gathered hickory nuts to make nut butters and processed the nuts of the white oak to make acorn flour, which they baked into cakes along with shelled sunflower seeds and dried berries. The people stored nut flour and meal made from wild grains as food reserves in case of corn crop failure. Around a thousand years ago Algonquians were growing maize in Essex County.
Footpaths now lead visitors to views of a stunning beaver pond, as well as a heron rookery nestled in the Town Forest. Wildlife and wildflowers abound on this parcel, whose waters have been designated by the state for their rare species habitat. This area of town is entirely on well water and preserving the property helps to further protect its drinking water.
Greenbelt worked with Merrimac’s fourth graders, that “future generation” that inspires much of our work, to name the property as part of their open space curriculum.
An already-permitted homesite on Battis Road had threatened development of this unspoiled, precious parcel. With funding from the Merrimac Open Space fund and private fundraising by Greenbelt, the property was conserved in two stages.
The first project in 2019 conserved 23 acres, and 15 acres on the other side of Battis Road were conserved separately in 2020. Greenbelt owns and manages the Town Forest addition, free and open to the public from dawn to dusk for hiking through protected woodlands.