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At Greenbelt, our mission is to help landowners, farmers, cities and towns realize their conservation vision. The Indian Hill Conservation Area is a perfect example of how Greenbelt works. Throughout the project, we partnered with landowners, local officials and many others, establishing a deep sense of trust in the community. The process took time – 26 years – but we couldn’t be happier with the end result. Greenbelt protected multiple unique properties, assembling them under one umbrella, and now this magnificent natural and cultural resource can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Greenbelt is delighted to welcome visitors to the Indian Hill Conservation Area, a 315-acre ribbon of open space in West Newbury that showcases the region’s natural beauty and its rich cultural history. Consisting of multiple properties owned and managed by Greenbelt, as well as protected private properties, this conservation area provides natural wildlife corridors and allows visitors to walk for hours on an extensive system of interconnected trails.
Step foot on these properties and you will find a beautiful and varied landscape. The Indian Hill Conservation Area features wetlands, open meadows full of wildflowers, woodlands with towering oaks and maples, and a legendary birding location known as “Warbler Alley.” At dusk, the woods echo with a symphonic chorus of spring peepers and wood frogs.
The Indian Hill Conservation Area’s history spans from the days of Native Americans to colonial settlers and twentieth-century farming families. Indian Hill Farm – considered to be one of the most important and historic estates in New England – has left an indelible mark on the landscape. Visitors will find exceptional dry-stacked stone walls and cart paths that meander through the woods to this day.
View towards South Street Woodlots
South Street Woodlots
The Indian Hill Conservation Area is the result of a decades-long partnership between Essex County Greenbelt, local officials, citizens of West Newbury and several property owners who were committed to protecting their land from development.
The vision for the conservation area began in 1990 with the acquisition of a 10-acre woodlot in West Newbury. Over the next several decades, Greenbelt worked patiently with landowners, exploring ways to secure land and achieve a contiguous greenway around Indian Hill. Piece by piece, the project came together until the last significant property – Walker Farm – was secured in 2015.
Greenbelt used many different conservation tools and funding sources along the way. Some of the properties were generously gifted to Greenbelt. Others were purchased outright by Greenbelt using a mixture of public and private funds. Still others remain in private ownership but are protected by a conservation restriction (CR), assuring that they can never be developed in the future.
Indian Hill Farm Reservation
Dry-stacked stone walls
Thanks to Greenbelt’s involvement, we feel great pride in knowing the land will continue to serve as a resource for the local community and as a haven for the abundant wildlife that lives there.
~Callie Currier, Lee Atherton’s daughter
Indian Hill Farm reached its heyday under the ownership of Major Ben Perley Poore, a famed editor and newspaperman. Poore also was a gentleman farmer and avid horticulturist who planted many trees and designed extensive terraces, formal gardens and intricate cart paths throughout the property. Poore’s eclectic home, with a collection of Americana that included the rug Lincoln stood on for his second inaugural address, was a magnet for friends and European royalty. A fire destroyed much of the original mansion in 1959, but portions of the original house remain standing, and Poore’s descendants live on the property today.
In 2001, the Atherton family donated a conservation restriction to Greenbelt providing a critical link to create West Newbury’s own emerald necklace – protected lands and public trails that provide opportunities for walking and riding – connecting Indian Hill Street to Pikes Bridge Road. The trails that still cross the property today were cleared in the 1950s by Lee Atherton of Amesbury. He loved the land and wished for others to enjoy it.
The farm was first owned by the Sawyer family who built the original farmhouse in about 1780. The Walker family acquired the farm in 1895 and during the Depression introduced a herd of goats onto the land. When Greenbelt got involved with the Walker Farm, the threat of development loomed large. But, as luck would have it, Steph and Jake Cormier appeared on the scene. The couple was interested in buying a portion of the property and restoring the original farmhouse from top to bottom (as well as reintroducing a herd of goats). This arrangement between the Cormiers and Greenbelt allowed the Walker property to remain part of West Newbury’s agricultural history, while also preserving the site’s historical integrity.
Walker Farm owners: Jake and Steph Cormier
Director of Land Conservation
(978) 768-7241 ext. 18
Assistant Director of Land
(978) 768-7241 ext. 16
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider