Preserving the Dell

Awtrey Dell is a hollow that occupies several acres in Newton Corner. The Hyde Brook starts there at a spring and heads downstream through the hollow. A few hundred years ago, the stream would have been a trickle in a forest. A lot has happened to the Dell in a few hundred years: foundation holes that are lined with rocks, an abandoned gazebo and concrete at the stone banks of the brook. A two-car garage sits atop the spring. An occasional pipe marks a property corner. A hundred years ago, the Dell was cut up into people’s yards. Today, it is a mix of lawn and woods. Much of it is going back to nature. Big trees have grown up on the untended parts. The Hyde Brook still flows down through its bottom. Wildlife makes its home in the Dell. Neighborhood kids go back there and find adventure.

Tony and Pamela Awtrey owned a part of the Dell until recently. Tony is a retired architect. He and Pamela bought a house in the 1970s that backs up to the Dell. They also bought a big, one-acre empty lot that ran downhill into the Dell.

Tony believes in what he calls the “missing teeth” in our suburban landscape, the empty lots and protected places that preserve a less disturbed past. The Awtreys pretty much let nature have its way with the land. In the 30 years they have owned it, the trees have grown. The foundation holes from the stable and the gazebo that aren’t there any more have crumbled a little. Tony has seen plenty of wildlife in
The Dell—deer, coyotes and wild turkeys. A brush pile and a big dead tree make good nesting places. Kids built up the foundation hole of the gazebo with branches and use it as a fort. Tony walks his dogs out in the woods.

Tony and Pam wanted to see their part of the Dell preserved as open space. In December, they made a gift of their half-acre that is in the hollow to The Conservators. The Conservators will manage the land as the Awtreys have, as open space. The Awtreys gave us an easement through their side yard so that we can get at it, to observe what is happening with the land. We will watch for downed trees that may pose a hazard. We will take an inventory of the trees and other growth there. In time, we may perform selective thinning, to favor native species and remove invasives. The Awtreys accompanied their gift of land with an endowment for its management. They also included their neighbors in the gift. They gave each neighbor a “view easement,” a right to a view of the land in its natural state. That part of the gift enlists the neighbors as a group to help provide good stewardship for the land.

The Conservators and the Awtreys hope that others may join in dedicating other chunks of the Dell for protection. A place like The Dell is important to a neighborhood. Our vision and the Awtreys’ is that more and more of the Dell will come under protection so that the community can always enjoy it as open space.

Eric Reenstierna
March 2006

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