Conservation planning and design is a growing field that works to protect the best, most intact and most significant land, including wildlife habitat, farmland, historic and cultural resources.

Recent clients have hired the school to plan open space resources including a wilderness area in upstate New York, an equine trail system in southern New York, a 185-acre farm in western Massachusetts, and Walden Pond State Reservation in eastern Massachusetts. Students who work on these projects learn GIS mapping and analysis, how to identify the unique aspects of landscape and prioritize its best use, methods for land preservation, and best practices for land management.

Recent conservation projects include:

Managing the Barber Reservation

Lying within the urbanized area of the greater Boston metropolitan area is Sherborn, a small town that prides itself on its rural character and abundant open spaces. One of the large open spaces in the town is the Barber Reservation, a 200-acre town-owned forest. This management plan provides the Sherborn Conservation Commission with vision alternatives for the Barber Reservation, and identifies a plan to integrate utility corridor maintenance with the needs of the residents and wildlife that use the site. Design features and management recommendations include details for a native meadow establishment, a parking area schematic design, invasive species management, forestry recommendation, and trail re-design.

Lead Mills Conservation Area Design

The Lead Mills site is an historic parcel of land jointly owned by the Town of Marblehead and the City of Salem, Massachusetts, located at the confluence of the Forest River and Salem Harbor. The site was historically an industrial hub for both communities, and most notably home to lead mills that have heavily impacted the soils on site with lead contamination. The Lead Mills parcel became conservation area, and went through a series of remediation techniques to stabilize the site’s lead-impacted soils. There are still limitations to the uses of the site due to the fragility of the stabilized soils and the establishing vegetation. The final design provides over two acres of grass-and-meadow-lands that require minimal maintenance once established, and combined with an acre of shrubs, the site mimics the stages of forest succession offering needed habitat and food for migratory birds. A universally accessible loop trail that is approximately one third of a mile takes visitors through the site and offers gathering and picnic spaces as well as views of Salem Harbor. There are also signs that tell the history of the site and guide visitors to neighboring conservation properties and their trail systems.

Concord Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

“‘Each town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of 500 or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation.’ These words spoken by Henry David Thoreau, the great naturalist born and raised in Concord in the mid-nineteenth century, are early evidence of the strong conservation and preservation tendencies that have characterized town planning since the early 1960’s. In the face of development pressures, the Town and its citizens have consistently placed a high priority on protecting the integrity of the abundant natural resources of the region. To this end, this plan builds on earlier open space plans, further developing the innovative Open Space Framework introduced in 1992 by adapting it to today’s changing landscape and resource protection needs. By continuing this strong tradition of open space planning these resources can be improved, protected, and enjoyed by all Concordians well into the future.”

Lenox Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

“The Lenox community desires to maintain its small-town feel, pastoral views, and ecological richness. Lenox’s 2013 Open Space and Recreation Plan works to realize the town’s collective vision by setting goals to preserve and improve water resources such as Laurel Lake, protect rare species like the Jefferson Salamander and the Bald Eagle. It also works to create a comprehensive trail map including paths in Kennedy Park, Woods Pond, and other Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, connecting people to a variety of recreation spaces such as the Housatonic River and New Lenox with additional trails and sidewalks. Achieving these goals will enhance, protect, and connect Lenox’s precious resources for the future.”

Gateways to the Bob Marshall Great Wilderness

“The Adirondack way of life has been closely tried to the landscape. The close relationship between the Adirondack’s natural resources and the economies of Adirondack towns has preserved much of the area’s rural character and created a unique local culture. Now with the loss of the former underpinnings of the Adirondack economy, Adirondacker’s have the opportunity to reinvigorate their economies through a renewed relationship with the landscape.”

Master Plan for Beaver Dam Sanctuary

“The goals of the master plan and the vision of the Sanctuary are much larger than the 171 acres. There are regional concerns that cannot be solved by the Sanctuary alone. However, with the implementation of the master plan, the Beaver Dam Sanctuary can become a model for the integration of ecological health and recreation. Because of the diversity of users of the site, this model of environmental stewardship can greatly affect the larger community and allow for collaboration with surrounding open space and conservation areas, and thus contribute to the health of the Sanctuary.”

Bean and Allard Farms: Converging Visions for a Village Landscape

The city of Northampton, Massachusetts, hired the Conway School to help determine the best use of a 185 acres of prime farmland it was acquiring. The purchase was embroiled in controversy pitting recreational field users against farm and food advocates. The student team engaged in a successful public participation and developed alternative designs that balanced the competing needs. The project played a significant role in the eventual purchase and protection of the land.

Walden Pond Stewardship Plan

“Walden Pond State Reservation faces the dilemma confronting all parks that maintain a natural landscape: the conflict between preservation and recreation. For much of its eighty-seven-year history, the forces of recreation have outweighed the pull of preservation, much to the detriment of natural ecosystems.”