The 157 acre property, located off Keyes Road and Princeton St in West Gardner, consists of a mix of woodlands, small ponds, an open sand lot area, a certified vernal pool, access to Parker Pond and provides watershed protection for the nearby Otter River. The habitat connects via an adjacent private parcel of woodland to the City-owned 122-acre Cummings Otter River Conservation Area, established in 2012. Due to former development plans, there are paved and gravel roads that will form the backbone of an excellent trail system with scenic views. The land was donated to North County Land Trust by Salem Five Bank.
The new conservation area is the site of the homestead of Ebenezer Keyes, one of the founding fathers of the City of Gardner. The cellar hole of the house, located on highest point of the property, is still visible. At one time the land belonged to Chris Watkins who owned Simplex Time Recorder in Gardner. He developed the land as a recreation area for his employees. Many may still remember the annual Simplex summer outing held on the Keyes Road property. In 2000 the property was sold to a developer and, in 2004, the land was prepped for an approved 100 lot subdivision including earth removal and installation of paved roadways and underground utilities, despite strong local opposition.
NCLT’s conservation areas are open to the public for passive recreation including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting (by special permit only), cross country skiing and sledding.
The NCLT stewardship team will be exploring options for ecological restoration of the disturbed areas and the development of a long-term management plan. This land has a rich history and is already used for recreation by many local residents. NCLT will be moving forward carefully and thoughtfully as we develop management plans that appropriately serve both human and wildlife residents.
Join us on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, from 7-9pm for an informal virtual meeting to learn more about North County Land Trust and to discuss the future of the Ebenezer Keyes Conservation Area! Follow the link to register: https://northcountylandtrust.org/events/keyescameeting/
Volunteer with Us
If you would like to sign up to volunteer and help in the stewardship of this conservation area please visit our volunteer page and fill out the form.