The Old Dean Farm

The Franklin Land Trust (FLT) is pleased to announce that Catherine “Kiki” Smith, wife of the late Charlie Cohn, FLT’s former board President and Treasurer, has generously donated a conservation restriction (CR) on approximately 47 acres of land on the east side of Reynolds and Patten Roads in Shelburne. The land, which was part of the “old Dean Farm” purchased by Charlie and Kiki in 2016, contains a well-maintained sugar bush, old pasture, and wetlands edge habitat.

“The Dean seniors had passed away” explains Kiki “leaving the children to sell. We had bought at Charlie’s instigation, that beautiful little schoolhouse across the street, which has the most extraordinary view of the valley you can imagine. And it looks right over the Deans. So, to be frank, Charlie was concerned that if this property were bought up, which it could easily be, the area would lose its unique character, which was really created by rural farming families. We stepped in and conferred with the Dean family who very graciously worked it out with us that we could buy this property in order to get it conserved through the land trust.”

This donation is the second phase of a two-part conservation project that began in 2018, when FLT closed a CR on the west side of the property. The west side CR protects prime and state important farm soils and scenic views along Reynolds Road. The east side CR will protect a large sugar bush managed by Norm Davenport, a local maple syrup producer, and the edge of a highly valuable wetland area connected to Dragon Brook pond. This wetland is home to endangered species listed by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). Conservation of this parcel will ensure the continued wildlife habitat is protected from fragmentation and degradation from development.

“The property ended up being divided into two pieces of land and each has now been preserved and protected. In the building envelope or area surrounding the original family house, there can only be one house. Either the current one gussied up or a new one. The second piece was partially an orchard and more significantly, a maple sugaring area that was of interest to at least one significant local farmer who likes to harvest that” explains Kiki “Because it got divided, I decided that to make the second piece of interest to anybody up there, we needed to define a house lot. So, there will be one more house up there in the area, but just one. The Dean’s property has been bought by the daughter of a local family. And I’m thinking likely the upper piece on Reynolds Road will also be bought by a local family in order to allow their own children to continue to live in the area. And I’m sure that Charlie’s aim was to keep it in the community and belonging to the community which he so loved and respected.”

Kiki, who splits her time between Northampton and New York, said she decided to donate the CR to honor her husband’s legacy and love for the land. “It’s really my late husband Charlie’s vision and a tribute to his absolute devotion to that community and to supporting it in the best way he and I could.”