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Help Us Make Magic in Shutesbury

Viewing platform at Ames Pond

There’s a magical place in Shutesbury where rocky forest ledges rise above wetlands, hemlocks and oaks surround a 22-acre mill pond, and cranberry and sundew nestle among other native plants in a natural bog. This remarkable 152-acre conservation area surrounding Ames Pond is Kestrel’s newest Nature Retreat.

Ames Pond bog summer old boardwalkMore than 20 years ago, Kestrel helped conserve much of this land through a conservation restriction that’s held by the MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation. At that time, public access to the land was not ensured beyond the lifetime of its owner, Julian Janowitz, a psychiatrist and amateur artist who lived next to the pond for 40 years. Julian relished his proximity to nature and engaged with the land by establishing a network of recreational trails and installing many sculptures near his home.

Wanting to ensure that this special place continued to welcome the public, Julian included in his will a bequest of the land to Kestrel. In the two and a half years that Kestrel has stewarded the Ames Pond property, we’ve embarked on an ambitious trail maintenance plan to restore access to its many remarkable features, consistent with Julian’s wishes.

Last year, Kestrel’s stewardship team expanded the parking area, removed invasive plants between the parking area and entrance meadow, installed a kiosk, and created a 400-foot accessible raised pathway and 10’x24’ viewing platform looking out on the pond.

Entrance to Ames Pond/BWB before and after

In early 2024 we’ve undertaken the second phase of trail improvement efforts*, including:

  • Replacing 900 feet of boardwalk through the bog,
  • Constructing approximately 190 feet of boardwalk over a beaver-flooded walkway,
  • Replacing and extending a 140-foot wooden wetland walkway,
  • Stabilizing rock steps to the ledge overlook,
  • Installing directional and interpretive signage.

Flooded trail before with boardwalk after

The overall project budget is $270,000, with seed funding provided by Kestrel’s recent Promise to the Valley Campaign. To date, additional funding for these ambitious trail improvements has been provided by individual donors and:

  • The Town of Shutesbury Community Preservation funds,
  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Mass Trails grant program,
  • The Fieldstone Foundation,
  • The Fields Pond Foundation.

As we enter the final stage of this ambitious project, we’re seeking support from the community to help create a safe trail experience that opens up the beauties of this place to all.

Impressed by the progress to date, a donor recently offered a $50,000 challenge gift to inspire Kestrel members and others who love Valley lands to help complete the Ames Pond trail improvements this spring.

If you already love this special place, or you’re excited to explore the bog boardwalk and admire the view from the ledges, please consider a gift to help meet the Ames Pond $50,000 challenge. Every gift counts! Make a special project gift online here or mail a check with “Ames Pond” in the memo line to Kestrel at PO Box 1016, Amherst MA 01004.

Thank you for helping us create a magical place for all!

Dancers sculpture in spring at Ames Pond
One of the whimsical sculptures created by Julian Janowitz along the shore of Ames Pond.

*All of this work has been granted appropriate permits and approvals by the Shutesbury Conservation Commission, MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, MA Historic Commission, and the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

Other ways to give:

  • Do you have a Donor-Advised Fund? Consider making a gift from your DAF.
  • If your 70th birthday was more than six months ago, consider making a gift from your retirement account.
  • If you have investments, this may be a good time to consider donating appreciated securities and avoiding capital gain.
  • Make a tribute gift in honor of a loved one who cherishes Valley lands.
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