For Immediate Release: 10/26/2015 8:31 am
Worcester, MA (October 26, 2015) - Mayor Joseph M. Petty, District 5 Councilor Gary Rosen, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. on Saturday joined members of the Greater Worcester Land Trust (GWLT) and Conservation Commission for a walking tour of Donker Farm, one of the City's newest conservation land acquisitions.
The 23 acre Donker Farm was purchased in April 2015 by the GWLT, which partnered with the City of Worcester's Conservation Commission to protect the land.
The City owns the Conservation Restriction, which is under the care and custody of the Conservation Commission for the land, assuring that the property will remain in its "present natural, scenic and open condition" for conservation purposes, while allowing passive recreation such as hiking, bird watching, educational activities and more.
Donker Farm is the newest parcel of land to be added to the Four Town Greenway, a corridor of conservation land extending from Salisbury Street in Worcester to Paxton, Leicester and Holden. In addition to serving as a vital open space connection in the greenway, the property has diverse natural habitats such as a stream, wetlands and upland forest. Protection of this land will continue to contribute toward water quality and groundwater recharge in the Tatnuck Brook watershed.
The land is accessible for passive recreation via a small parking area on the eastbound side of Tory Fort Lane.
Donker Farm is an important link to the City's agricultural past. Over the years, the Donker family has raised pigs, chickens, geese, bees, milking goats, sheep and ducks, and cultivated a vegetable garden and orchards. Elisabeth Donker and her late husband purchased the property in 1978 and have been living on it since. They decided to sell the land in order to preserve it in its natural state.
"It's like a whole world here. Everything connects. It's the way it has been for the past 200 years," Elizabeth Donker said.
Mrs. Donker sold the property for $628,000 to GWLT. The Conservation Restriction was purchased by the Conservation Commission from the GWLT with the help of a generous $400,000 L.A.N.D. grant, administered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Division of Conservation Services.
Mrs. Donker sold her entire property but retained a life estate which allows her to continue living in the house and barn. The GWLT will take over the management of Mrs. Donker's house and barn when she decides to move.
The Donker property is part of a concerted effort by the City of Worcester to protact and preserve open spaces.
Donker is one of three recent conservation land acquisitions by the City of Worcester. The City purchased 13.7 acres at Crow Hill North in June 2014 and a 6.3 acre conservation restriction at EcoTarium West, owned by the Worcester Natural History Society (aka EcoTarium), in May 2015. These properties are located off of Harrington Way near North High School in the south-eastern portion of the City.
Worcester has approximately 873 acres of publicly and privately owned conservation land which is available for passive recreation purposes. Fifty-seven percent, or 494 acres, is owned by the Worcester Conservation Commission. The remainder is owned by the GWLT and Mass Audubon.
Additionally, the City has around 1,200 acres of park properties. Since 2003, the City has acquired 63.2 acres for parks and active recreation purposes including: the Ball Property, Betty Price Playground, Coes Knife Park, Indian Hill Park, Knights of Columbus, Fenton Parcel (aka Columbus Park), Korean War Memorial, Winslow Park (aka Peace Park), Trinity Avenue, Worcester State Hospital and Worcester City Campus Association parcels at Green Hill Park, and Chilmark Parcels (at East Park).