The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation is a private, non-profit, member-supported land conservation trust. It was founded in 1986 to address the loss of open space and public access, the disappearance of family farms in the Williamstown area and to encourage responsible development.
The legal name of the organization is: “Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, Inc.” However, as of 2021, it does business as: “Williamstown Rural Lands.”
Mission statement: Williamstown Rural Lands conserves and promotes the forests, fields, farms and natural habitats of our region for the benefit of our communities and future generations.
In support of this Mission, we are committed to:
- Conserving land selectively with important wildlife habitat value, land in close proximity to other preserved open space, and working landscapes such as farms and forests;
- Promoting outdoor recreation by establishing public access to conservation lands wherever possible.
- Offering nature-based education programs, workshops and events to learn about our natural and cultural heritage, and to encourage participants to experience the land firsthand;
- Owns over 910 acres in 17 parcels that are open to the public for hiking and recreation
- Holds 11 Conservation Restrictions on over 280 acres
- Maintains over 100 miles of trails in cooperation with partners
- Hosts programs and events for all ages and open to the public year round.
In cooperation with partner organizations and agencies and including the holdings noted above, WRL has preserved more than 3,500 acres of prime agricultural, forest and habitat lands including the Petersburg Pass Scenic Area, the Haley Farm on the Hopper that’s now part of the Mount Greylock Reservation, the Phelps Farm in South Williamstown, and our scenic and historic Sheep Hill headquarters.
Sheep Hill is the site for programs and events highlighting the natural and cultural history of the former farm, the town and the surrounding region. An old dairy barn is now the Dietze Interpretive Center. Programs, events, and informal exploration are available year round. Children’s nature programs include school field trips, pre-school, after school and summer nature and science.
- David A. McGowan, Executive Director
- Cathy L. Talarico, Assistant Director
- Dan Gura, Lands and Trails Coordinator
- Greg Islan, President
- Barbara Carr, 1st Vice President
- Phil McKnight, Vice President
- Geraldine Shen, Vice President
- Peter Thomsen, Treasurer
- Robert D. Kraus, Secretary
- Stephen N. Pagnotta, Esq., Counsel
Names in italics are deceased.