The former “Deer Park” in Webster Conservation Area is now open to the public. A half-mile trail loops around the property. Access points are on Hammond Pond Parkway (just north of the MBTA tracks) and from the dirt road on the western side of Houghton Garden Conservation Area. A map and directions appear below.
The Deer Park trail is marked with white blazes. It forks in several places.
The trail is named in memory of Ira Wallach, who was a member of the Conservation Commission for 28 years and its chair for 23 years.
Bee hives are now located on the foundation of an old barn.
The Deer Park land was bought by Edwin and Jane Webster in the late 1800s. Jane, a noted conservationist, introduced deer to their estate. The Websters later donated much of their land to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for preservation as a conservation area. The donated land is now part of the DCR Hammond Pond Reservation. (A fanciful history of the area appears on this website as “A Letter from Edwin Webster.”)
In 1968, the City of Newton acquired a large parcel of land from the Webster estate by a “friendly” eminent domain taking. In a friendly taking, the property owner wishes to sell to the government, but needs to have the government use its eminent domain power to eliminate title problems or other legal issues.
This land, including the Deer Park, was named the Newton Webster Reservation in honor of the family. A plaque near the Hammond Pond Parkway entrance to the Deer Park commemorates the 1970 dedication of the reservation:
This area was later combined with land acquired in 1974 and 2019 to form the current Webster Conservation Area.
The Deer Park was eventually surrounded by a chain link fence. The deer were fed by the staff of the Conservation Commission and the Parks & Recreation Department. A barn was used to store maintenance equipment and food:
The last deer died in 2010. By 2014, the fence was in rough shape:
With the deer no longer taking care of property maintenance, the area became overgrown with vines and brush. Prior to creating the trail loop and opening the parcel to the public, Conservation Commission staff brought in a herd of goats to clear the Oriental bittersweet. They were not able to make a noticeable dent in the invasive bittersweet, so the Conservation Commission contracted heavy mowers and brush cutters. Now, routine mowing is helping to reestablish and maintain the meadow.
Map and Directions
The Deer Park is located on the north side of the MBTA tracks, just east of Hammond Pond Parkway. To the west (across the parkway) is an area with a trail that leads around and over prominent ledges. To the east is the Houghton Pond Conservation Area. A visit to the Deer Park can easily be combined with visits to either or both of these areas.
Two trailheads (shown as red arrows on the map above) provide access to the Deer Park:
- on the west side, from Hammond Pond Parkway, just north of the bridge over the MBTA tracks.
Parking is prohibited on the east side of the parkway near this gate. The nearest parking is on the opposite side of the parkway, 300 yards north near Beacon St. (Use caution crossing the parkway.)
- access to the Deer Park is easier from the east side, from the dirt road that extends south from Suffolk Road on the west side of Houghton Garden. You can also reach this dirt road by taking an easy half-mile walk from the DCR parking lot at Hammond Pond. Walk on the Blue Trail next to the pond until it turns left just before the MBTA tracks. Continue straight across the tracks, walk past the entrance to Houghton Garden, and turn left before the chain link fence.
If you enter from the east side, go straight through the gate in the old Deer Park fence. (The trail that goes to the left, around the fence, is a rough route adjacent to the MBTA tracks. It leads to Hammond Pond Parkway, and doesn’t offer access to the Deer Park.)