Farmland Preservation Project Milestone!

Sweet Brook Farm pasture on Oblong Road

A milestone is reached. Earlier this week Williamstown Rural Lands took a definitive step toward preserving a landmark farm and viewshed on Oblong Road. We accepted the Select Board’s assignment of right of first refusal to purchase the parcel, which was, until Tuesday, under contract for sale to a developer.

This ten-acre farmland parcel affords spectacular views of the Greylock massif—with the highest peak in the Commonwealth—and the entirety of the picturesque Sweet Brook Farm. The daily foot traffic—runners and walkers—and bicycle tracks on the road is a testament to the cultural value, and health benefits, of preserving scenic by-ways. The eventual permanent conservation of this land under an easement will anchor a 2.5-mile stretch of preserved farmland from Woodcock Road to Hancock Road.

In November last year, after protracted deliberations between Rural Lands and the Municipality, the Williamstown Select Board, noting the ecological, economic and cultural significance of the parcel, voted to assign the right to purchase the property, currently registered under the Chapter 61A program, to Rural Lands.

The Williamstown Agricultural Commission noted this in a letter to the Select Board supporting the assignment of rights to WRL: “With about a dozen farms remaining in town, and many of these intending to go out of business within the next 5-10 years, Sweet Brook Farm may be one of the few farms left in 2030.” Community food security is at stake, as well as rural livelihoods.

The farm is situated between the Mt. Greylock Reservation and the Taconic Crest, an area designated a ‘Distinctive Landscape’ by the State’s Department of Environmental Management (now DCR), which cites the impressive vistas and the most picturesque mountain scenery in the Commonwealth. The Williamstown 2016 Open Space & Recreation Plan states that this vicinity is entitled to the highest level of protection (called ‘Class A – Distinctive’) as a scenic resource.

The benefits of this conservation project extend further than economic and scenic. The parcel is bordered on its south side by Sweet Brook, a priority habitat for cold-water fisheries. If this land were to be developed, the soil disturbance from building and subsequent lawn management and interventions might have imperiled the brook and the wetlands it feeds below the property. The permanent farmland preservation that WRL will pursue through an agricultural land easement will help to protect these sensitive aquatic habitats.

WRL is grateful for the support and interest of members of this community in conserving natural and working landscapes throughout the town. We hope you will enjoy the public access we will eventually provide on the parcel.

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