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‘Iconic’ Shelburne Center property to be preserved

McKinnon property in Shelbure Center, protected from development.
Franklin Land Trust photo.

McKinnon property in Shelbure Center, protected from development. Franklin Land Trust photo.

SHELBURNE — Before she died in 2009 at age 85, Madeline McKinnon used to talk with neighbors about wanting to preserve her land, a rolling hayfield on the other side of Bardwells Ferry Road, across from where she lived from the time she was a child.

The 10.6-acre “iconic property” in the heart of Shelburne Center was protected by nine neighbors last week with the help of the Franklin Land Trust. The organization, based in Shelburne Falls, has protected nearly 27,000 acres, of which it owns 414 acres in seven Franklin County towns as either managed primarily for public use or as wildlife habitat.

“Her pride and joy was keeping it open,” said David Schochet, who was among the neighbors who worked to build community interest and raise the $320,000 for the property, which has been rented for hay production through the years but also is partially wooded and is bisected by a brook. “It’s absolutely beautiful as it is, just perfect for the hilltowns.”

He added, “Madeline often told us, and many others, about her hope that this land would remain always open. And now Madeline’s vision for her cherished meadow has become a reality.”

The property, which had been subdivided and marketed as four house lots after the woman’s death, had even been the subject of a meeting McKinnon initiated with Land Trust Executive Director Richard Hubbard at one point.

The property, between Bardwells Ferry and Shelburne Center roads, features a view from the southwest corner, across the tiny village, to the steeple of the First Congregational Church of Shelburne across the Mohawk Trail.

“We’re thrilled to have conserved such a beautiful piece of land that plays such a defining role in the scenic rural character of Shelburne Center,” said Hubbard. “This was a true neighborhood conservation effort. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the local community.”

“We celebrate this gem of land every day,” added Lisa Ganci, who lives next door to the land.

After years of negotiation, McKinnon’s heirs agreed to sell the land to Land Trust for its appraised value, with the only condition being that the trust owns and manages the property.

The trust will open the property for public access for passive recreation, and it hopes to lease it for farming and keep it on the tax rolls under Chapter 61A.

The Land Trust plans to celebrate McKinnon’s memory with a memorial in her honor to forever mark “Madeline’s Meadow” with a public dedication next spring.

On the Web: www.franklinlandtrust.org You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

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