Estabrook Woods Alliance
"Surely the grandsons of boys now in school will rejoice to live beside this quiet protected area."
- Monk Terry, former Head of Middlesex School
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Middlesex School: do the right thing!
Carlisle Mosquito
Friday October 7, 2005
by Marilyn Harte

As I head into the Estabrook Woods on the trail leading from Estabrook Road in Carlisle, I take note of the Estabrook Council sign on my left. It reads: "You are entering the Estabrook Woods, a collection of mostly private lands preserved for habitat protection and field research. Please treat these woods with respect and remain on established trails. If you wish to report any inappropriate activity, please call 1-978-402-1488."

Yes, I certainly would like to report inappropriate activity in the Estabrook Woods. I am referring to the Middlesex School's move into the Woods in July with bulldozers to clear-cut the forest to make way for new tennis courts and playing fields. Yes, the school owns the land they wish to develop. But unlike Harvard University, which has put its 700 acres under permanent protection, and neighboring land owners and conservation groups that have placed permanently conservation restrictions on an additional 1,050 acres, Middlesex is not committed to protecting the northern 85 acres of its 198-acre Estabrook Woods holdings. This is in spite of former Middlesex School headmaster Monk Terry's commitment in the 1960s to be a responsible steward of all the land.

Take a walk in the woods to see for yourself. It's about a 3/4-mile hike down the Estabrook Trail to the Estabrook cellar hole, where you turn right and head west up the hill. After crossing into Middlesex School land, the path swings to the right and shortly afterwards joins a wider trail where you turn right again. Going a short distance you will come to the area, part of the so-called "A land," with a section of new road across the wetland, eight tennis courts, and part of what is planned to be a much larger clearing for two soccer fields.

But beyond this fait accompli, Middlesex School owns another 40 acres further east and close to the Estabrook Trail, the "B land," with a restriction expiring in 2017. Will the trustees do the right thing and protect this forest in perpetuity, making the expensive and intrusive 300' bridge they have planned unnecessary? Hopes are not high, since these same trustees have rejected an offer of over $4 million from a concerned benefactor to endow a state-of-the-art environmental program, with Harvard University, provided Middlesex puts the B land under a permanent conservation restriction.

With the Middlesex School trustees meeting at the school this past weekend, opponents to the Estabrook Woods development, who were concerned 13 years ago, were out rallying for their cause both Friday and Saturday. Townspeople from Concord, Carlisle, Acton, and Harvard held signs in Monument Square late on Friday, signs that read "Middlesex School Trustees please don't destroy the Estabrook Woods," "Concord Cares about the Estabrook Woods," "Carlisle Cares about the Estabrook Woods." Did the trustees staying at the Colonial Inn see the protest? On Saturday, Middlesex graduates, students, and parents, led by 2000 graduate Molly Tsongas, protested on campus.

There is still time for Middlesex School trustees to limit their grand plan of development into the Estabrook Woods. Cancel the bridge, which is certainly not needed to access the new tennis courts or soccer fields, if built. And accept the environmental program, which will use the wild treasure in the school's back yard in the way it should be used, instead of destroying it. Isn't it time for the school and its trustees to show some responsibility to the communities of Concord and Carlisle? It is time to show respect for the Estabrook Woods and a true understanding of its value.

The Estabrook Woods Alliance seeks to preserve the integrity of the Estabrook Woods as an educational, ecological, and historical resource for Middlesex School and the State of Massachusetts.