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The Yankee Express

Slater Woods Conservation Land Expands with New Purchase

By Patty Roy

The Dudley Conservation Land Trust (DCLT) has announced the acquisition of a 56-acre parcel of conservation land that offers over 1900 feet of water frontage on Peter Pond. 
The parcel, which adjoins existing Slater Wood properties owned by the land trust, was purchased from Dudley resident Richard Lavallee on April 8. 
A land trust is an organization that acquires land with the goal of conserving and protecting it. According to its website, the mission of the DCLT is “to provide for and promote the conservation, acquisition and protection of land and open space for education, wildlife habitat, and the preservation of the rural, natural and scenic character of Dudley and surrounding communities for current and future generations." 
Keith Kirkland, DCLT president, said the $170,000 acquisition was made possible by the combined legacies of the late Chet Kulisa and Nancy Vajcovec. 
Kulisa, for many years a local dairy farmer and soil conservationist for the Department of Agriculture, founded the land trust and fostered land conservation in his hometown.  He was also instrumental in getting the Mass Audubon property, Pierpont Wildlife Meadow, started from lands he donated from his former farm property.
Nancy Vajcovec was a long-time Dudley resident and board member of the land trust. 
“She had a lot of different passions, but one of them was what the DCLT did for land conservation,” Kirkland said. “We’re very grateful to Chet and Nancy for making the purchase possible and to the Lavallee family for providing the opportunity.” 
The parcel is especially welcomed because it abuts land already owned by the DCLT in addition to the frontage on Peter Pond, Kirkland said. 
“We are honored to give folks a unique opportunity to connect with nature on a scale that can’t be found in any other part of Dudley,” he said, adding that  he land trust also wants to recognize the history of the area. 
“In fact, one of the prior owners of the 56 acres dating back to 1839 was Samuel Slater and Sons, and an adjoining landowner was the Dudley Woolen Company,” Kirkland said.
He believes the pond was manmade back in the days of the mills. With just four or five houses by it, the water has remained clean, he said.
In total, the DCLT has conserved 200 acres in the area called “Slater Woods”, a designated area of more than 1000 acres, identified as a “Priority Core Habitat” by to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. 
Priority core habitat is unfragmented land where there is little or no housing and no roads that is “pretty much in its natural state with forests, streams and small ponds,” he said. 
Counting in the 150 acres of adjoining Mass. Audubon holdings, there are now more than 350 acres of protected land in Slater Woods, with two more parcels of conservation land under negotiation, according to Kirkland.
 DCLT prioritizes the acquisition of land which adjoins existing conservation land. These “wildlife corridors” are critical to ensuring the future of our native species.
According to US Fish and Wildlife, wild animals need to move along safe routes to complete their life cycles. These wildlife corridors are vital to connecting and maintaining safe travel routes for birds, fish and mammals over their life spans.
“It’s unusual to have that much land, especially in south Central Massachusetts,” Kirkland remarked of the 1000 acre parcel.
Naturally, over the course of the past 200 years, the Slater Woods land has reverted back to its natural state and the DCLT intends to leave it that way.
There is a trail system from Dudley Oxford Road right to Peter Pond that’s about a 2 ½ mile hike round-trip, Kirkland said, adding that in time the DCLT will work with Mass Audubon to cut a spur trail to give hikers additional access to the pond.