Brehm Trail Re-Opened with Student Trail Work

The HCT has just re-opened the Brehm trail!  It’s a great hike or ride, with some significant hills to climb if you’re looking for a cardio workout.  You’ll find the new trailhead, marked with an HCT sign, just west of 149 Stow Road, on the north side of the street. There’s parking for 3-4 cars alongside the road across the street, or you can park at the town gravel pit, which sits back from the road about 150 yards west of the trailhead.

The new Stow Road entrance trailhead provides easy access into the Brehm lands, purchased by the Trust over 20 years ago. On the land is a 1.5 mile heavily wooded hike or ride that winds along old stone pasture walls. If you want a longer path, the trail connects right into the Great Elms loop, which adds nearly another mile. And a third extension lets you make your way from the Brehm trail, up the eastern edge of the Great Elms trail, and connect right into the Brown trail for a 3.5-mile loop!

The Brehm trail opening has been cleared, and the whole trail refreshed, by HCT volunteer supervisors and a team of Bromfield Seniors as part of a new collaboration with the school, which requires seniors to complete 40 hours of community service work prior to graduating.   This collaboration has been a critical effort as Harvard’s trails are experiencing dramatically increased use since the coronavirus pandemic started.   For more details about the trail, visit

Find a detailed map of the area here.

Top: Kaitlyn Ostrowski and Marley Ferguson take a break from raking for a picture.
Bottom Left: Jake Morine clears a large rock from the trail.
Bottom Right: Nishkal Pisal – Jack Yu – Timur Sahin work to clear dense brush

Choosing What to Conserve

During the past 47 years, the Trust has helped acquire or protect more than 850 acres of land in Harvard. Through the years, decision-making around which land to protect has depended upon the makeup of the Trustees and the opportunities that arose.  The Trust’s land preservation efforts are sometimes in the form of permanently protecting private land by placing a Conservation Restriction on a portion of the land, ensuring that land will never be developed, and will always retain its conservation values. Other times, the Trust has stepped in for land that the town wanted to preserve and acted as the lender, of sorts since the process of securing funding from the Town Meeting form of government takes much longer than the opportunity presented when land comes on the open market. The Trust has also been generously gifted land by residents, sometimes as part of their estate planning. But the Trust also pro-actively pursues land for protection, and that has been the strategy more often used in recent years as the cost of land has dramatically increased. Given limited financial resources, we need to be selective about which land purchases to pursue.

The Trust’s Land Protection Committee has worked deliberately to codify a process for determining the conservation value of land that is under consideration for protection. A two-dimensional matrix uses a point-value system for various attributes that results in an overall score of the value of a particular parcel. Qualities, such as ecological significance, public recreational opportunity, scenic value, project cost, acreage, agricultural value, are all assigned a weighted score that results in a score grade that helps drive decisions about what is worthy of the huge administrative, legal, and fundraising efforts that are required to complete a preservation project.

One characteristic that greatly drives the score is the adjacency, or connectivity to other conservation areas. Our goal is to provide trail connections for public recreation, and larger contiguous permanently protected areas for wildlife habitat and groundwater protection. Harvard has many modest sized conservation areas whose conservation values can be increased by “linkage” to other conservation areas. We have several projects underway to accomplish exactly that goal. We are anxiously working to bring these projects to a close and expand on our mission to compound the value of each protected parcel through these expansions or connections. These connections will provide greater opportunities for expanding our trail network and avoid the fragmentation of habitat that development creates. You can help by contributing to HCT to enable us to cover the expenses associated with the purchases and target more opportunities in the near future.