Horse Meadows was first identified in Henry Nourse’s 1894 manuscript, History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts: 1732-1893, which lists a number of meadows throughout town, highly valued for their grasses as natural forage in the earliest days of settlement. In the modern era, Horse Meadows became recognized and prized for its untrammeled nature—labeled in the Town’s first Comprehensive Plan (1969) as an “area of special interest” for its “ornithological,” “botanical,” and “geological” features. This unique natural area has been repeatedly recommended for protection as open space for the benefit of all Harvard residents since 1969. The Horse Meadows Knoll project advances this vision, securing roughly 50 acres of Harvard’s best wildlife habitat and expanding opportunities for people to explore and enjoy this special landscape.
The Horse Meadows Knoll property features a central hill with roughly 140’ elevation, rock outcrops, and steep slopes. With the exception of a portion of Horse Meadows reservoir, the entire property is forested with a mixture of hardwood species, white pine, and hemlock. The western slope descends to Horse Meadows wetlands where the property includes the northern end of the reservoir and a portion of an unnamed feeder stream that is a headwater of Elizabeth Brook. The entire 50 acre parcel falls within Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program’s (NHESP) “Priority Habitat” designation for rare and endangered species. NHESP reports the following rare species on site: Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale), Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), and Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina). Blanding’s have diverse habitat needs and are thus wide ranging for turtles; they also do not reproduce until later in life (14-20 yrs). These traits make them particularly sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation. Ecological assessment and mapping completed by The Nature Conservancy ranks the Horse Meadows Knoll property as the highest priority for protection in Harvard—deemed a place, “where the direct effects of climate change are moderated by complex topography and connected natural cover that provide species with options for survival in the face of climate change.”
The addition of the Horse Meadows Knoll property will significantly expand this important conservation area, and provide the opportunity to improve access and create a network of recreational trails in manner that respects sensitive biological areas.