FLT Completes Acquisition of Edge Hill Golf Course

The Franklin Land Trust (FLT) is proud to announce that it has completed the acquisition of Edge Hill Golf Course in Ashfield, Massachusetts.

The purchase was made possible by the generous donations of FLT supporters and an anonymous foundation grant.

“We would like to thank the Graves Family for their partnership and patience throughout this process, and for being open to the possibility of conservation” says Mary Lynn Sabourin, Executive Director of FLT.

In 1893, when Nellie Graves Wheeler, Mark Graves’ great-grandmother, moved from New London, CT, and purchased the property, the land had been entirely cleared. Nellie named it Edge Hill. The family raised dairy cows, established orchards and a sugar bush, and grew hay and a large vegetable garden.

By the time Mark and his sisters, June Heideman and Suzanne Connell, inherited the property in the 1980s, dairy farms were struggling throughout the region. Determined to keep the family land intact, Mark returned in 1994 from his 20-year career in the golf industry in New York State to convert much of the land from hayfields to a nine-hole golf course. The 1910 barn became the clubhouse, with pro shop and full kitchen. Expanded by 2015 to 18 holes, the course is laid out on approximately half of the property’s 160 acres.

The woodlands, now 100 years old, are diverse, with pine, maple, black locust, ash, hemlock. Other than the golf course’s open areas there have been some occasional timber harvests and the maintenance of a successful sugarbush. These woodlands house abundant wildlife: bear, deer, turkey, coyote, bobcat, otter, mink and weasel are common. Grouse, pheasant and innumerable songbirds frequent the land. In addition, the pond and multiple streams that course through the land feed the Bear River below.

The fourth generation of Graves to manage this land, Mark and his sisters felt a commitment to keep it intact. Edge Hill abuts more than 1000 acres of protected woodland, and the Graves family had been in conversation with the Franklin Land Trust about extending protection across the whole property. Rather than sell the property for development (it could provide 17 new house lots), Mark and his sisters agreed to sell it to the land trust.

FLT announced in February that it had reached its fundraising goal to purchase the property, thanks to the overwhelming support of the community. Since then, FLT has been working to finalize the sale and transfer ownership. Yesterday, November 15th, FLT closed the deal and officially took on ownership of the Edge Hill property.

“We are thrilled to share this news with our supporters and friends, who have made this possible. Your donations, your advocacy, and your passion for the land have helped us save Edge Hill and protect this scenic landscape and its biodiversity,” said Mary Lynn Sabourin.
The land trust plans to hold a grand opening in spring of 2024, and will rewild the property, turning it into grassland and shrubland habitat.

In the coming months, Franklin Land Trust will be working to improve parking and public access. FLT has been in discussions with a number of professionals and resource management organizations about working toward restoring the property’s riparian and wetland habitats. This effort is part of a longer conservation effort on the part of FLT to protect the integrity of the headwaters of the Bear River and their cold water fisheries.

The Franklin Land Trust will be working to develop a dynamic habitat type in the uplands of the property. It will contain grassland, shrubland and young forest habitat.

This large open space will provide habitat for woodcock, meadowlark, and a number of migratory songbirds. The property is near large unfragmented woodlands and provides opportunities for greater biodiversity in the region.

When a piece of land is protected, it’s easy to think the work is over. But FLT is committed to stewarding land in-perpetuity, and their labors have just begun.

FLT is a grassroots organization, built by members of the Western Massachusetts community, to serve the community. FLT relies on donations to conserve and steward land.

That is why FLT is inviting everyone to keep the momentum going by celebrating Giving Tuesday, a global day of generosity that will take place on November 28th. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for people to give back to the causes they care about and make a difference in their communities. By donating on Giving Tuesday, you can help FLT complete more projects like Edge Hill.

Not only does conservation preserve the historic character of our region, it also allows the Franklin Land Trust to protect healthy mature forests that sequester carbon, save wildlife habitats from development, ensure clean water for our community by conserving water resources, and provide recreational opportunities for those looking to enjoy hikes and open spaces.

“You can donate online at FLT’s website, www.franklinlandtrust.org, or mail a check to Franklin Land Trust, P.O. Box 450, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. Any amount is greatly appreciated and will make a lasting impact on the land we love” says Mary Lynn Sabourin.

“Please mark your calendars for Giving Tuesday and join FLT in this global movement for a better world.”