Kestrel Land Trust gets grant to help purchase 120-acre Whately parcel

  • Part of the Dauchy property, being referred to by the Kestrel Land Trust as the Whately Center Woods Project, in Whately. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MARK WAMSLEY

  • A topographical map of the Dauchy property, being referred to by the Kestrel Land Trust as the Whately Center Woods Project, in Whately. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2019 1:02:16 AM

WHATELY — A land conservation organization in Amherst is one step closer to purchasing 120 acres in Whately after receiving an $85,000 state grant that must be matched.

Kestrel Land Trust was awarded a Conservation Partnership Grant from the Division of Conservation Services at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to assist in acquiring land encompassed by Westbrook, Chestnut Plain and Haydenville roads near Whately’s center. The property is currently owned by husband and wife Charles Dauchy and Judith Weinthaler, former Western Massachusetts residents now living in Hopkinton.

Mark Wamsley, conservation and stewardship manager at the land trust, said there are plans to apply for Community Preservation Act money next month to cover as much as possible of the required match. He said there will also be an additional $30,000 in costs for trail improvements, signs, bridge repairs if necessary, and to build a kiosk with a trail map and information about the land and construct a small parking area. Wamsley said Kestrel Land Trust will also hold a public fundraiser to offset costs.

He said this effort is called the Whately Center Woods Project. It would place a conservation restriction on the land prohibiting infrastructure development.

“It’s really a gorgeous, unique property,” Wamsley said. “It was a nice property just to begin with, but (Dauchy and Weinthaler) took care of it very, very well.”

Wamsley previously said Dauchy approached the land trust about conserving the parcel, leading Wamsley to speak with neighbors and learn that locals care greatly about the well-used site. He said Kestrel Land Trust would, under the conservation restriction, own the land.

According to information from the land trust, small streams run through the property and provide a cold-water habitat for brook trout. These streams feed water to the Mill River, considered by The Nature Conservancy to be possibly the most significant river in the state for rare and endangered species. At least one classic vernal pool on the property supports healthy populations of spotted salamanders and wood frogs.

The land also sports many tree species associated with northern forests such as sugar maple, American beech and basswood, which intermix with species including tulip poplar, sassafras and black gum, which are characteristic of southern forests.

Whately Conservation Commission member Montserrat Archbald previously said certain sections of the land are resilient to climate change, and there are trails popular for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. She said trail maintenance is the only work that would be allowed under the conservation restriction.

Dauchy and Weinthaler have owned the land since around 1980. They have previously lived in Amherst and Leverett.

“The (property) is significant as an open space because of its location,” Dauchy said in July, adding that he hopes to recoup the value while also preserving it. “People use it now and we’re glad to see that.”

Bob Sabola, president of the Greater Whately Snowmobile Club, attended a Whately Community Preservation Committee meeting earlier this month to throw his support behind the Whately Center Woods Project. He said the land is used by all types of outdoors enthusiasts.

“We have a trail on that property and we definitely don’t want to lose it,” he told the Greenfield Recorder. “It’s been in the system (of local trails) as long as I can remember. Having something like this, you just can’t put a price on it.”

Sabola, a 61-year-old Sunderland resident who has been snowmobiling since 1969 or 1970, said the property’s majesty ties in well with the concepts of wildlife and open land preservation.

“For me, it’s a place for self-preservation,” he said. “To go to get out of the everyday world of electronics, to break away, go into woods, look around and see what it has to offer.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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