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Reynolds parcel connects to Half Moon Swamp property

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GROTON — Officials and residents braved a cool autumn morning to help the Groton Conservation Trust and members of the Reynolds family celebrate the transfer and dedication of environmentally sensitive open land along scenic Indian Hill Road.

The simple dedication ceremony last Saturday, held on marshy ground drained by 17th century irrigation ditches, was well attended not only by long-time neighbors and well-wishers, but conservation enthusiasts and family friends as well.

“This is really an incredible day!” declared Joan Reynolds, who worked with members of the Groton Conservation Trust for over two years to make sure her land donation was free and legal.

“I’m delighted with having been able to do this,” Reynolds said. “It was a good move and the kind that I’d like to see more people in Groton do. The whole transfer process was very complicated but we finally got it done and it all worked out well. It was wonderful to be able to do it and I’m pleased we did it.”

Although a relatively small land donation compared to others, preservation of the 18-acre Reynolds tract is an important addition to the town’s stock of open land, due to its designation by the state as a “BioMap Core Habitat.” Such designations identify the most sensitive of all environmental areas, due their unusual concentration of rare and endangered species.

Because of its swampy nature and a lack of hiking trails, the Reynolds Tract is an attractive place for certain endangered species of frogs, turtles, and salamanders to make their homes.

From Indian Hill Road, the land moves from swampy bottom land through stands of stunted trees, until it begins to rise again with a rocky, pine-covered highland dominating the horizon.

According to Groton Conservation Trust past president Edward McNierney, acquisition of the Reynolds tract was important for a number of reasons, not just because it is contiguous with existing areas of protected land.

“It is also an example of the trust being willing to work with landowners,” McNierney explained. “Due to taxation, legal and boundary issues, the transfer of this land from the Reynolds family to the trust was a very complicated, two-and-a-half year process. But because the trust is willing and able to work with landowners, such as Joan, to help them achieve their conservation goals, it can be done. In Joan’s case, she knew what she wanted to do but had no idea how to proceed.”

As time goes on, McNierney said, the transfer process will only get more complicated and the need for such groups as the Groton Conservation Trust, with experience in such transactions, will become even greater.

Although Reynolds daughter Erica Hager still lives at the family’s Indian Hill Road home, Joan Reynolds is now a resident of Topsham, Maine.

“The Reynolds family has contributed to the town in many ways,” observed Groton Conservation Trust President Richard Muehlke, in remarks during Saturday’s event. “Joan’s husband, Fred Reynolds, was chairman of the board for Nashoba Hospital, president of Indian Hill Music, and was on the Groton Public Library endowment board.”

Muehlke added that Joan was a volunteer at Nashoba Hospital, helped out at the Groton Senior Center, fund-raised for the Surrenden Farm purchase, and served the town as a trained EMT, and raised their four children.

“The Reynolds have been very giving to the town over the years,” Muehlke stated. “They have been very generous people and by their example here today, they are showing what others can do to help save the town’s open land.”

According to Muehlke, the donated parcel was created a few years ago when the Reynolds bought land adjacent to their home and then decided to donate 18 acres of it to the trust. With the transfer, the property connects other tracts of open land managed by the town’s Conservation Commission, collectively known as Half Moon Swamp. Together, all of the parcels make up a 33-acre area accessible by determined hikers from both Old Indian and Half Moon Roads.

A private, nonprofit organization, the Groton Conservation Trust was founded in 1964 to receive, preserve and provide public access to open land in town and over the years has acquired a total of some 2,369 acres including Brooks Orchard, the Gamelin Crystal Spring Conservation Area, and the Mason Back 100.

“It’s great to have donations like this made to the town’s stock of open land,” said School Committee member Paul Funch, who helped celebrate Saturday’s dedication with some appropriate music. “It was a wonderful thing for the Reynolds to do, with Joan being the latest person to make such a contribution to the town’s legacy.”