NCLT Acquires New Conservation Area in West Gardner


View of shore and access to Parker Pond
Parker Pond

NCLT announced the acquisition of a new conservation area in Gardner that will be open to the public. 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.

Sandy cart roads provide walking pathways.
The land was prepped for development and the gravel roads provide easy to follow trails.

North County Land Trust, Inc., a regional land conservation organization serving northern Worcester County, is based in Leominster and owns seven other conservation areas including the Rome Conservation Area off Brookside Drive in Gardner.  Executive Director Anna Wilkins, said, “North County Land Trust is happy to accept this land donation and would like to thank Salem Five and Keith Ross of LandVest for helping to facilitate the project.”  The NCLT stewardship team will be exploring options for ecological restoration of the disturbed areas and the development of a long-term management plan.  Ms. Wilkins said, “This land has a rich history and is already used for recreation by many local residents. North County Land Trust will be moving forward carefully and thoughtfully as we develop management plans that appropriately serve both human and wildlife residents.”  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 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.

Features of the property include a small hidden pond that drains to Otter River
Features of the property include a secluded pond that drains to Otter River

Recently a solar array of 86,000 panels was proposed but the project was withdrawn due to connection problems with National Grid. Neighborhood resident Joan Gould has been concerned with the development proposals since 2002 and said, “Knowing that North County Land Trust will be owning the property for conservation purposes is a Godsend.”

NCLT will be organizing an outreach meeting at which they will be soliciting information and input from the public. We are a membership organization and rely on our members’ support. For more information about the property, the upcoming informational meeting, or how to become a member please call North County Land Trust at 978-466-3900 or send an email to



Map of Property

Map of the area
Map of the donated land formerly owned by the Cedar Hills LLC.