Middlesex School: do the right thing!
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.