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Welcome to Bright Water Bog

As a retired psychiatrist, Dr. Julian Janowitz cared about people. He also loved art and nature. Believing in the power of those things to make people’s lives brighter, Julian spent 40 years creating a magical place to bring them all together on 147 acres surrounding Ames Pond in Shutesbury.

Kestrel Land Trust worked with Julian to conserve this land in 2003 with a Conservation Restriction held by the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation. He continued to own the land, encouraging his neighbors to visit the trails and sculptures he built. Then, to ensure the public would always be able to experience this special place, he passed ownership of his beloved land to Kestrel in his will in 2021.

The land is centered in the West Quabbin region—a key area for protecting forests to benefit wildlife, climate, and recreation. To the west is Brushy Mountain, where Kestrel helped conserve 3,486 acres of working forest with W.D. Cowls in 2012. Kestrel’s lands surrounding Ames Pond are protected as wildlands, never to be harvested for timber.

This spring we’re pleased to reintroduce this unique place as Bright Water Bog Nature Retreat. This is Kestrel’s 7th and largest Nature Retreat—conserved lands under our permanent ownership that the public is welcome to enjoy for hiking, birding, and other passive recreation.

While Julian Janowitz did not request that the conservation area be named for him, the new name reflects the spirit of the place as he envisioned it: a place of inspiration both natural and artistic. “Bright Water Bog” also highlights one of the area’s dramatic features: the sparkling ponds and adjoining bog that support a diverse array of life. Here you’ll find wild cranberry and carnivorous sundew and pitcher plants, as well as moose, bear, beaver, and more.

Approximately five miles of trails wind through forest and bog, leading up to a dramatic cliffside overlook. And the whimsical sculptures Julian created around the pond will remain a special feature of Bright Water Bog.

Volunteers building boardwalk in winter at Bright Water Bog
Volunteers building a boardwalk at Bright Water Bog in winter 2024.

Making the Magic Sparkle Again
In 2022, our team embarked on an ambitious trail improvement plan to restore access to the land’s many remarkable features while protecting the sensitive natural ecosystems. Improving many deteriorating portions of the trail network to protect both users and the environment comes at a cost of $270,000. Seed funding for these improvements came from our Promise to the Valley Campaign, with generous support from the Town of Shutesbury, Mass Trails grants, as well as foundations and individuals. Community support is still needed to finish the work: See how you can help, below.

An accessible raised pathway now provides a welcoming entrance from a new 8-car parking area, while also minimizing foot-traffic damage to the meadow vegetation by replacing several user-made paths. The path leads to an accessible pond-side viewing platform with a built-in bench near one of Julian’s iconic sculptures.

Decades ago, Julian spanned the bog with a boardwalk that eventually sank and began rotting away. Now, we’re building 870 feet of durable boardwalk using materials and techniques to protect vegetation, including metal supports that don’t displace wetland soils.

Our team also built a new 190-foot boardwalk to reconnect a trail flooded by a beaver dam. Finally, a third boardwalk of roughly 140 feet through a wooded wetland is being replaced this spring. To minimize its impact, this work was targeted for winter and early spring while plants were dormant, and each boardwalk makes use of low-impact support structures suited to its site.

On the upland forest trail, another big lift—literally!—is stabilizing the steep stone stairs. This work will continue so that adventurous hikers can more safely follow the trail up along dramatic rock outcrops to reach the cliffside overlook.

Though more improvements are to come, including trail markers and signs, we invite you to visit Bright Water Bog later this spring to enjoy the magic yourself. Julian’s legacy will continue to be celebrated in his sculptures on the land, his poetry along the trails—which will be reproduced on more durable signage—trail names, and new interpretative signage to come. Above all, Julian’s legacy will be reflected in the land and waters that he loved, and in knowing that his goal of keeping these remarkable places safe and open to the public has been achieved.

Dancers sculpture in spring at Ames Pond

As we enter the final phase of improvements at Bright Water Bog, you can help meet a $50,000 challenge gift to complete the work. Go to kestreltrust.org/give/one-time-gift and select this nature retreat from the dropdown menu. Or, mail a check with “Bright Water Bog” in the memo line.

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