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Conservation for Kids & Community

In collaboration with members of our local communities, The Trustees of Reservations, the Dover Land Conservation Trust, and the Westwood Land Trust, Hale is working to permanently protect its land from future development.

Kid on boat holding up flower.
Hands cupping a small frog.
Camper looking through a microscope.
Campers fishing on a lake dock.
Kids riding bikes through the woods.
Adults fishing at the edge of a lake.
Three campers hugging.
Kids jumping off lake dock in the summer.
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For Generations to Come

Less than five miles from the City of Boston, Hale’s 1,200 acres comprise one of the largest tracts pursued for preservation in many decades. Hale is working to permanently protect this land as open space so it can be enjoyed in perpetuity.

Hale’s historic property is a resource we believe should be available to all. Our 1,200 acres of forests, ponds, and meadows support learning, reflection, discovery, and wellness. Cities and towns benefit from open spaces such as Hale—surrounding property values tend to be higher as a result of the cleaner air and water they produce, opportunities for passive recreation they provide, and natural beauty and health benefits they offer.

While Hale’s land is in many ways priceless, its value is not incalculable, and people are often surprised to learn that it is not protected from development. In the 1950s, our Board of Directors was forced to consider selling parcels to sustain the organization. As recently as two years ago, the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program spared it from a similar fate during the pandemic. Today, our board is pursuing ways to fund the achievement of Hale’s long-term vision and mission by unlocking the value of Hale’s land.

Hale is committed to making innovative education available to the communities we serve. To do this, Hale needs funding—tens of millions of dollars of it. Much of it will come by way of private philanthropy, but a sizable portion of it must be realized through our most valuable asset: our land.

Hale’s Board of Directors could simply subdivide and sell parcels to private buyers, but would strongly prefer an alternative solution that allows Hale’s current property to remain intact. In the spirit of being a good neighbor and protecting nature, it presented the Towns of Dover and Westwood with an opportunity to place a conservation restriction (CR) on the property.

Doing so would be the first step in permanently protecting 1,200 acres in what could be the region’s largest conservation project in many years.

If Dover and Westwood seize this opportunity:

1. Each town’s leadership will determine the best way to support this effort
2. Residents will likely be asked to invest in permanently protecting Hale’s lands
3. Funds will lay the groundwork for an endowment that, combined with private philanthropy, will sustain Hale and enable it to enhance programs that serve our children and communities

Without the towns’ support, Hale’s Board of Directors may have no other option than to consider selling land (at market value) to meet the organization’s optimal need.

Hale’s century-long commitment to reimagining learning, protecting nature, and building community has never been stronger. Our work has impacted millions of lives and continues to be rooted in the belief that nature, education, and recreation inspire us to learn, empower us to lead, and challenge us all to create a world in which people, place, and purpose are united. It’s with that in mind that we look to the future.

Hale may be a small nonprofit, but our community is large. It includes residents of Dover and Westwood, as well as friends and neighbors from surrounding cities and towns. Our longstanding ties to Boston’s people and institutions run deep, and our programs serve tens of thousands of people every year.

Everyone in this larger community deserves a Hale education, and we’ll ensure they get one by preserving our land, expanding our programs, improving our facilities, and making outdoor learning accessible to all. Achieving this goal will require immense time, effort, and support. To realize Hale’s full potential, we must leverage all of our resources.

A trail meanders into a pine grove

Take Action

Act now if you’d like to see the towns of Dover and Westwood seize this opportunity to invest in a conservation restriction, preserve Hale’s land, and sustain educational and recreational programs for generations to come.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Information Sessions

Stay tuned for upcoming information sessions hosted by the local land trust community. Visit to stay up to date on the latest news and events.

Other events are being hosted at private homes. If you are interested in hosting an information session for your friends or neighbors, contact us to learn how you can help spread the word about our conservation efforts and what they mean for Hale’s programs and property.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Conservation Restriction—also known as a CR—is a legal tool to permanently limit the way privately owned land can be used. A CR is commonly used to restrict development on large parcels of land. The landowner grants a CR to a qualified holder, which can include a Town and/or conservation nonprofit. The CR holder is responsible for enforcing the CR. CRs protect a variety of important conservation values, including character of the community, natural open space, wildlife habitat, recreation, water supply recharge, scenic vistas, climate vulnerability, forestland carbon sequestration, improved social and physical health, and other quality of life benefits.

This Conservation Restriction (CR) on a total of approximately 1,200 acres is a good deal for Dover, Westwood, and their respective residents. Here’s why: The value of all the land, according to 2021 appraisals conducted for the Towns, is over $90.4MM, meaning if all the land was sold to a developer, this is what Hale could expect to receive. When the land was appraised as though the CRs were already in place, the land was found to be worth only $28.9MM. This means the appraised value of the CRs is $61.5MM. Put another way, the permanent limitations in the CRs on the use of the land reduce the value of the 1,200 acres by $61.5MM. But, instead of $61.5MM, Hale is asking each town to invest $10MM to protect the land in perpetuity. captures the financial structure visually in the chart below:

Financial structure.

It is anticipated that both Towns will pay for this through a debt exclusion which would mean taking out a bond to be paid back over time. Ultimately, taxpayers would see an increase in their annual tax bill for the life of the bond. It is not a permanent tax increase. At this time, the Towns have not produced estimates on what the cost will be for the average taxpayer. Once that is available, we will share that publicly.

There are many benefits to individuals in each town.

  1. Guaranteed Public Access: The Conservation Restriction (CR) will guarantee public access to over 800 acres of wooded land with miles of trails. Right now, Hale can restrict access anyway they like. That won’t be the case once the CR is complete.
  2. Free Admission: Hale has agreed to remove their current parking fee if the CR is completed.
  3. Property Values: Towns with more open space have higher property values. Regardless of where you live in town, open space in your community increases the value of your property.
  4. Free Programs for Westwood and Dover Schools: Hale has agreed to dedicate a portion of their endowment to support the students from Westwood and Dover. As a result, every year both school districts will have opportunities to participate in Hale programs at no cost to the schools.
  5. Individual Health: There is extensive empirical literature documenting the health benefits of nature. The National Library of Medicine has reviewed how nature helps reduce stress, blood pressure, and cortisol levels; boost mood; improve attention and executive functioning; and strengthen immune systems. It has been proven, when nature is in your life, your physical and emotional health improves.
  6. Decreased Long-Term Costs for Towns: The CR would last forever and eliminate the possibility of residential development on the property. Residential development is known to cost municipalities and public services more than the tax revenue generates over time. A CR decreases future costs for the town, and its taxpayers.
  7. Enhanced Community Resource: Any funds to support the Hale CR will go to a community-based organization whose mission is to provide education and recreation programs. The funds will provide better opportunities for the community to enjoy all that Hale has to offer.

For decades, Hale’s land has served as a reserve fund; an endowment in the form of real estate. It has been the asset that provides the financial stability for the organization. The pandemic served as a reminder of how fragile that arrangement was and the only way to assure Hale’s acres never get sold is to legally protect it in perpetuity.

Two decades ago, Hale began a discussion with the Towns about a guarantee that the land would never be developed. Today, after intense work for the past five years, a structure to make it happen is within reach (to understand the financial structure see FAQ: “What is the financial structure of the agreement?”). The structure and the work done during the past five years bring us to the reasons why this project needs to be tackled today:

  • Hale has agreed to forgo a substantial value of the CR at this time. That same “discount” may not be offered in the future. In addition, as land values increase the discount gets greater every year and Hale’s leadership may not be able to justify such a deep discount.
  • Hale has dedicated a substantial amount of its own fundraising resources to make the current CR structure work. Many of these funds are contingent on completion of the CR at this time and may not be available in the future. Over 50% of the cost of the CR is being paid for by private donors. While not directly a “matching grant,” the private sector has acknowledged the value of this conservation project and stepped up to do its part.
  • Today, Hale is a cooperative landowner. The leadership has engaged in collaborative discussion with the Towns and the Trustees of Reservations to move this effort forward. That may not be the same in the future. We can’t predict how leadership (both volunteer and staff) might leverage the land asset in the future.
  • If a crisis comes up and Hale chooses to sell land, there will not be time to create a structure such as the one in place today. It has taken five years to get this lined up whereas in a land sale/crisis situation, decisions will require immediate attention and the cost will undoubtedly increase.

Hale is seeking to raise approximately $46MM, of which $26MM is from private donors and $20MM is from the Towns. All the funds will be used to support Hale’s operations and long-term educational mission. Approximately 50% will be designated for an endowment, 25% will be used to repair and upgrade existing infrastructure and facilities (e.g., repairs and accessibility improvements to the welcome center and office, and replacement of bathroom and waste systems at North Beach) and 25% will support operational needs for existing programs. Read more on this same webpage to find specifics about short- and long-term physical plant and program plans.

Hale’s camps and educational programs have been receiving accolades across the Commonwealth. More and more educational institutions see the advantages of project-based learning and outdoor education. But growing demand does not mean an increase in the number of people at Hale, especially during the summer. Hale monitors and limits the numbers of learners on the property at any given time to maintain an optimal outdoor learning environment. Hale’s future plans include spreading programming out over the calendar year by designing more learning opportunities for fall, winter, and spring.

To implement these program objectives, we need to make some physical plant changes. This does not include new access points to Hale or entirely new camp sites. It does include upgrades to and replacement of older buildings. These older buildings are not handicapped accessible, so we intend to bring them up to code while also making them more welcoming to visitors of all abilities. In addition, we will improve our parking area near the front entrance to accommodate hikers and walkers, increasing access to trails and eliminating the need to travel far into the property to park.

The proposed Conservation Restriction (CR) has strict, specific building limits. Only small designated areas of the property can be used for any construction and the CR makes sure that 99% of the property is building free forever. There are additional height and building size restrictions. Also, construction at Hale is expensive. Based on our location, the groundwater discharge permit we have with the state, and our designation as public drinking water supply, infrastructure for all our buildings can be costly. The funds from this campaign will not provide for any substantial construction at Hale. A more detailed list of projects in the next 5–10 years includes:

  • Removal of the office and an old restroom at Hale Day Camp and replacing it with a more functional office, a handicapped accessible restroom, and a designated location for the camp nurse.
  • Removal of the Fern Valley Cabin and its replacement: a more functional office and food service area to support meals for our Hale Outdoor Learning Adventures summer learning program.
  • Removal of the “Food Cabin” at the South Shore Stars site.
  • Replacement of the North Beach Bathrooms with an updated, handicap accessible restroom that includes a changing area for campers.
  • Upgrades to the front entrance to include a small handicap accessible welcome center and restrooms. In addition, the offices will be renovated to address accessibility issues, and the front entrance parking area will be reconfigured to fit ten parking spaces for public access to the trail network.
  • Addition of a climbing tower (a challenge course element) at Hale Day Camp.
  • Removal and replacement of Cat Rock Pavilion.
  • Construction of a pavilion or small cabin near High Rock Lodge and the installation of restrooms.
  • A small addition to the Fern Valley Restrooms that would include four showers for our overnight program participants.

Finally, Hale plans to address the excessive amount of waste it creates due to the lack of any food preparation sites on the property. While not an immediate project, a kitchen and small dining hall are needed to help provide healthy food for participants and eliminate excessive waste. Hale is often asked by schools and camp families for overnight options, so a small number of cabins have been considered as part of longer-term plans. A kitchen, dining hall, and overnight cabins would require Hale to conduct another fundraising campaign after this conservation effort is complete.

If a Conservation Restriction (CR) is not put on the property, the land remains vulnerable to development. Hale has made it clear that transitioning its land to an investment endowment to achieve its programmatic and financial goals is a top priority. If the CR is not completed, Hale acknowledges that the land could, at some point, be sold for private development.

Large red barn in the woods.

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