George Knowlton Preserve
G. Knowlton Preserve consists of upland forest, wetland, and cleared open fields. These resources currently provide habitat for many native species of plants, lichens, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
The property is used for passive recreation including hiking, hunting, horseback riding, geocaching, mountain biking and wildlife observation. The property is adjacent to another 307 acres of protected land which further enhances the wildlife, recreation and scenic attributes.
The G Knowlton Family
The story of the acquisition of the G. Knowlton property actually begins in another part of town on Milford Road. A 5-acre parcel on Milford Road had been donated to the Trust in 1969. It was originally owned by George W . Knowlton, Jr. Upon his death, it was transferred to his sons, George III, Elliott, and John. George III died at the age of 28 in an airplane accident at the Grafton airport (now the Airport Road neighborhood). He left a wife, Mary Wheeler and a son, George Knowlton IV.
In an unrelated event in 2002, Mr. Wesley Elvidge planned to sell 60 acres of his property on Potter Hill to a local developer. This land was "described as a wildlife corridor; and a particularly spectacular piece of real estate." Because the land had been assessed as Chapter 61 Agricultural Land, the Grafton Board of Selectmen was able to match the developers offer. In 2006, GLT in turn purchased the property from the Elvidge Estate for $500,000.
The Grafton Land Trust financed much of the acquisition by taking the "unprecedented action" of selling the land which had been donated in another area of Grafton previously in 1969 by the Knowlton family. The Knowlton property had become entirely surrounded by development and this trade off decision was one of the most difficult for the GLT given due respect for the donor, the land, and the GLT responsibilities in general. The original owners' wife, Sallie Coe Knowlton, suported this decision and wrote to the GLT Secretary that she "had no doubt that my husband, his brother, and his nephew would want to see their gift being used for land conservation in the most effective way possible." (Sallie Coe Knowlton, April 9, 2002).
“My Grandparents were remarkable people who were true philanthropists! It is not surprising to me that they would give the gift of land in order to preserve natural resources and wildlife areas for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations! I hope to follow in their footsteps." - Dana Knowlton Harper Bullard ("Sale of Land Blocked, Worcester" Telegram & Gazette, April 24, 2002 by Dan De Leo)
In order to get additional funds to protect another 29 acres of abutting land from the Elvidge Trust, Dick Dion, a board member of GLT, approached Wayne McCallum of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) since the DFW already owned the abutting 182-acre Martha Deering Wildlife Management Area. GLT proposed a bargain sale of the CR for the Knowlton Preserve and agreed to place another CR on the abutting Elvidge land at no additional cost, should they be successful in acquiring it. They further pledged to do the same should they eventually acquire a portion of the Brigham Hills property to the north as part of that subdivision process. The CR on the Knowlton Preserve was sold to DFW in 2007 for $100,000. Ken Crater, board member and chair of the GLT's Land Acquisition and Conservation Committee, was the primary contact for that group. Substantial help in the discussions came from the GLT President Ed Hazzard, and GLT vice-president Ken Holberger, and GLT's attorney George Dresser. Phil Truesdell, Land Agent for DFW, was the primary negotiator for that agency.
DFW's purpose in acquiring the CR was to enhance the protection of the land beyond what GLT as a private entity can provide, considering that their land is considered an asset and could be at risk if there is a legal judgement against the Land Trust. DFW made it a requirement of the CR that the public be allowed to access the property for recreational activities including hunting. The terms of the CR are fairly standard, except for an easement that allows the use of an unpaved road by the abutting landowner for equipment to access and maintain his septic system. The septic system is on the abutter's property but because it is down a steep hill from his house, the only way for him to reach it is by crossing the GLT property. The most recent agreement between the abutter and the GLT allowed excavation until June 1, 2007.
A registered plan of the property (843-33 by Blackstone Valley Survey and Engineering Co. for the Trustees of the Elvidge Estate) shows that a sliver of the property lies just over the Millbury town line. Such sliver does not exist at the Millbury Assessor's Office but these maps are known to be incorrect along this boundary. GLT's purchase of the additional 29 acres of land from the Elvidge Estate has just been completed, and the process of DFW's acquisition of the CR for the land has begun.