MARLBOROUGH – Callahan State Park gained 33 additional acres on June 28, after the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) purchased the O’Donnell Property in Marlborough. This purchase was the culmination of a long-term, collaborative effort to protect the property, which shares a ½-mile boundary with the state park.
DCR identified the property as a priority for protection nearly 20 years ago due to its critical location within an actively used portion of the park. In addition to the $1.25 million that DCR contributed to the acquisition price, the City of Marlborough contributed $150,000 and Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) raised $100,000 from foundations and local individuals.
“By protecting this important property, DCR is able to expand the Callahan State Park trail network and secure this pristine natural resource for future generations to enjoy,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “Callahan State Park provides essential outdoor recreation opportunities to people seeking respite in our state parks, and DCR is grateful for the ongoing partnership and collaboration with the City of Marlborough and Sudbury Valley Trustees, which were critical to the successful completion of this acquisition.”
Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant said “The City has been interested in this land for quite some time and we are appreciative that the O’Donnell family decided to allow us to purchase it to preserve it as conservation and recreational space for the public to enjoy. I’d like to thank the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Sudbury Valley Trustees staff, and all who worked with us to secure this asset.”
Priscilla Ryder, Marlborough Conservation Officer, said “We are thrilled to have this property protected to enlarge Callahan State Park. Any time we can enlarge existing open spaces, it helps the environment and wildlife habitat. Many people from Marlborough and the region use this park, so it is wonderful to have the land and trail system protected for future generations.”
Visitors to Callahan State Park have likely crossed the O’Donnell Property without realizing that it was privately owned.
Nearly ¼ mile of the Beebe Pond Loop Trail cuts through the property, so by conserving this land, the project partners have protected a popular recreational resource.
“It’s amazing to see what can get done through partnerships,” said Christa Collins, Director of Land Protection at SVT, a nonprofit land trust that conserves natural areas in the region. “State, city, and private dollars came together to protect a beautiful piece of land in the public interest. We couldn’t be more delighted at the outcome.”
Left unprotected, the property could have been carved up into 20 or more house lots, which would have fragmented the forest habitat, harmed wildlife, and increased runoff and erosion into Angelica Brook.
In fact, Colie and Nora O’Donnell acquired the property several years ago to protect it from a proposed development project. But they always intended to sell the land for permanent conservation once an agreement could be reached with an appropriate organization.
Discussions with DCR picked up over the past year, with the City of Marlborough and SVT stepping in to raise public awareness of the project and to provide supplemental funding.
Along the way, the project also received much-needed support from several state legislators who understood the importance of protecting this land.
State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), who is Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, was enthusiastic about the success of this project.
“For the past three years, I have been proud to work with the city of Marlborough, the Department of Conservation Resources (DCR), Sudbury Valley Trustees, and Representatives Danielle Gregoire and Carmine Gentile advocating for state funding to purchase 33 acres of
what is now known as Spring Hill Farm, to be preserved in perpetuity,” said Senator Eldridge. “I am grateful to land owner Colie O’Donnell and his family, who have protected the land for generations, for partnering with DCR to ensure that this open space can be enjoyed for
all Massachusetts residents.”
Representative Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury), whose district includes part of Marlborough, agreed. “This is a tremendous acquisition for the Commonwealth,” he said. “I want to thank the O’Donnells who purchased this land of forest and meadow near their home several years ago
for the express purpose of holding it until we were able to repurchase it from them so that the public may enjoy it in its natural state forever! I walked the land with them a few years ago as did Representative Gregoire and Senator Eldridge. I thank DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery, the Baker administration, SVT, and the City of Marlborough for seeing it through!”
Representative Danielle W. Gregoire (D-Marlborough) also expressed gratitude to the O’Donnell family. “I am so proud to have played a small role in this endeavor,” she said. “It was such a pleasure to get to know the O’Donnells and tour their beautiful property. Hikers and lovers of nature are indebted to them for their care of this land and should be grateful of their sacrifice, which will prevent it from being developed and protect it for generations to come.”
Trail maps for Callahan State Park are available on the DCR website at www.mass.gov/dcr
Photos by Dany Pelletier, submitted to SOURCE by Sudbury Valley Trustees
In full transparency, the report was submitted to SOURCE for publication