By Barbara Allen
This past Sunday, the pavilion at Nashoba Valley Winery, 100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, overflowed with guests who had gathered for the Local: Land, Lore and Libations festive dinner and auction hosted by the Bolton Conservation Trust.
The air was ripe with expectancy as those in attendance sipped wine and perused the more than 900 events, services and treasures displayed on nine silent-auction tables. A small sampling of the treats and treasures up for bid: themed dinners, rides in a fire truck or police cruiser, lessons in knitting, woodworking, blacksmithing, yoga and horseback riding, gift baskets and gift certificates, photography sessions, a four-week delivery of farm-fresh eggs, handicrafts by local artisans, and antiques.
Decisions were made all the more difficult by the distraction of delightful hors d’oeuvres spread on a table in the patio, and by the “raw bar” table tucked into the corner, heaped with succulent oysters and clams on the half shell.
Members of some of the oldest families in Bolton mingled with brand-new arrivals to town. They were all gathered under the pavilion for a common cause: to support and learn more about the latest and most ambitious project undertaken by the Bolton Conservation Trust (BCT) to date.
The project is truly a “common” cause: the transformation of the eight acres of the former Smith property into an outdoor community gathering place, a new Town Common for Bolton.
Dinner-goers learned more about that project, the BCT, and tidbits of Bolton lore as the night went on. After those in attendance had had an opportunity to visit the various food stations and had settled at their tables with their meals, master of ceremonies David Goulding, with his wry-witty repartee, related some of his own memories of the Smiths and the Smith property, and his growing awareness of the role of the Bolton Conservation Trust. He then introduced BCT President Michael Zelenkov, who gave a brief history of the Bolton Conservation Trust.
The Bolton Conservation Trust, a volunteer, nonprofit organization, was founded in 1974. Then called the Bolton Conservation Associates, the name was legally changed in 1975 to its current one.
“We have 39 years of land protection and conservation,” said Zelenkov proudly, explaining the results of BCT efforts in town. “Farmlands, open spaces…”
According to its mission statement, the BCT assists in and promotes “the preservation of the rural character of the Town of Bolton in order to preserve and maintain areas for conservation of public water resources; for preservation of marshland, swamps and other wetlands and the animal life therein, sections of unique historical significance or natural beauty, green-belt and similar open sections; for the education of the public concerning the wise use of natural resources; for general public outdoor passive recreation; and for the encouragement of the study of plants, animals, birds and other wildlife, and the sylvan culture of the Town of Bolton.”
But long before the Bolton Conservation Trust came into existence, there was a historical precedent within the Bolton community for transforming an unsightly area into one of beauty as well as utility. One hundred years ago, Pond Park was a tumble of ramshackle buildings and an abandoned sawmill until concerned citizens banded together with private funds to purchase the property, tear down the dilapidated structures and turn the spot into the well-loved place it is today.
“Conservation is good stewardship,” asserted Reverend Richard Jones, pastor of the First Parish Church. “Taking care of what is left and leaving it for others in improved condition.” Jones, an avid historian, went on to entertain eager listeners with stories of Bolton lore. The derivation of several place names in town was discussed: Pan Cemetery (the residents in that part of town were reputedly so poor they couldn’t afford individual bed-warming pans and had to share one from house to house); the stolen cone of sugar that resulted in Sugar Road being called what it is today; the correct pronunciation of “Nourse” (Nurse) Road (the “o” was added later to protect descendents of the infamous Rebecca Nurse, hung in Salem for witchcraft). He also mentioned Lafayette’s stay at the Wilder Mansion and the town’s strong abolitionist history.
With the Bolton Conservation Trust PowerPoint presentation that followed Jones’ talk, Meg O’Leary, co-chair of the Town Common Capital Campaign, eased listeners from the lore of the past to the hope of the future, as she explained the Bolton Town Common Trust-led initiative and the positive impact the project will have on the town.
“Bolton is an extraordinary place to be,” said O’Leary, who moved to town 11 years ago. She referred to other times when the town has rallied together as a community to get things done: the renovation of the Bolton Public Library, and the construction of a new elementary school playground.
She mentioned the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this project represents to create a focal point for Bolton Center to make walking and other activities even more attractive than they are now.
“If there was ever a town with a sense of community, that’s Bolton,” O’Leary asserted. “The Town Common can be the manifestation of that sense of community.”
But, she added, it won’t happen without community input and involvement. O’Leary emphasized that the Common has not been designed, nor will be, until the Bolton Conservation Trust has heard from everyone. There will be townwide surveys sent out, in which residents will be asked how they see themselves using the Common, and a series of design workshops will be available for public participation.
She shared the timeline going foward: 2014-SHAPE, 2015-SUPPORT, 2016-BUILD, 2017-CELEBRATE.
Support, however, was clearly already on the minds of those in attendance that night, given the enthusiastic response to the Live Auction that followed the presentation. Auctioneer Marie Keep encouraged paddle-raising with her lively banter and humorous descriptions of the items up for bid. One of the items garnered some chuckles: A Fully Installed Mailbox.
“And why would we be interested in that in Bolton?” quipped Auctioneer Keep.
“Snowplows!” chorused the crowd.
After all the other items—custom dinners, vacation weeks, antiques, handcrafts, opera tickets, to name a few—had been auctioned, Keep offered “demolition opportunities,” the removal of walls at the former Smith property for specific amounts ranging from $500 down to $25.
“It’s a large project ahead,” Keep stated. “We’d like to start with a ‘tabula rasa’.”
“This initiative is bigger than the Trust,” said O’Leary. “We need everyone to help rally support.”
For more information about the project and how you can help, visit: