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The John J. Donovan Reservation and Sagamore Hill Conservation Area is an expansive natural wonderland, where you can walk, ride, run and ski over miles of interconnected trails. The land comprising this 270-acre reservation has a long and varied human history, beginning with Native American encampments, and agricultural use that began with early settlement and continues to this day. The open hilltop landscape offers extraordinary views to the mouth of the Essex River, Cape Ann and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Indigenous people known as the Pawtucket or Agawam were living, farming, and fishing here at the time of European contact. They undoubtedly used the high point with boulders, and the place where there is now a plaque commemorating the Donovan Reservation, as a ceremonial gathering place.
Sagamore Hill was the last home and burial site of Masconomet (Masquenominet), his wife, and unknown others of his band. He was the Pawtucket sagamore of Greater Agawam at the time of English settlement.
Masconomet met Governor John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 aboard the Arbella. In 1637 and 1638 the sagamore sold Castle Hill, his farm on present-day Argilla Road in Ipswich, his fort on the Castle Neck River, and the rest of Greater Agawam to John Winthrop Jr. in gratitude for English help in repelling attacks by Pawtucket enemies from the north.
In 1644 Masconomet and other leaders from Essex County and northern Middlesex County signed an oath of allegiance to the English Crown and agreed to become Christians, obey English laws, and remain neutral in any future conflicts. Masconomet, who died in 1658 and was given a Christian burial, has living descendants today.
The Donovan Reservation has a diverse array of habitats that benefit many plant and animal species. A primary feature are the many fields dispersed across the landscape. Some are active hay fields that are not cut until late summer to allow grassland birds (bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks) and pollinator insects (bees, butterflies, dragon flies) to complete their breeding cycles.
Other fields are mowed annually or even less frequently, creating an open field habitat with some woody vegetation mixed in with milkweed and other annuals that benefits species like monarch butterflies, woodcock and cottontail rabbit. Woodlands and wetlands occur on the remaining land, and are home to mostly hardwood trees and some white pines.
Deer, coyote, red fox, fisher and turkey are abundant. Great-horned and barred owls can be seen and heard with patience and diligence.
In addition to the Donovan Reservation, Greenbelt secured six adjacent, donated conservation restrictions on privately-owned parcels in Hamilton, Essex and Ipswich that together create a 525-acre corridor of permanently protected land. The Sagamore Hill Conservation Area is a key linkage to thousands of acres of open space.
An extraordinary, multi-partner effort helped Greenbelt successfully complete a $5.1M community-based fundraising campaign to acquire this iconic landscape for conservation. Greenbelt is grateful to the Donovan family who provided the time and opportunity to acquire their land for public benefit. Our sincere thanks goes to our partners and supporters of the project:
Latitude: 42.641327, Longitude: -70.821890
From Route 1A in Hamilton, take Moulton Street for about a mile. Turn left onto Sagamore Street.
From downtown Ipswich, take Route 133 East for about 2.5 miles looking for Candlewood Road on your right. Turn right onto Candlewood Road. Follow Candlewood for about a mile until it becomes Sagamore Street. Don't turn onto Sagamore Road!
From the center of Essex, take Route 133 West for about 3.5 miles looking for Candlewood Road on your left. , Turn left onto Candlewood Road. Follow Candlewood for about a mile until it becomes Sagamore Street. Don't turn onto Sagamore Road!
From Route 128, take Exit 47 and head on Route 22 North toward Essex for about 4.5 miles. Take a left onto Sagamore Street.
Total Acres: 525
Year Conserved: 2016 & 2017
82 Eastern Avenue, Essex,
Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.