At any given time, Greenbelt is working on dozens of land conservation and land stewardship projects. Here is a sample of the projects we are currently working on that require financial and/or in-kind support:

Willmann Property, Gloucester


An Exceptional Landscape
The nearly 4-acre Willmann property in Gloucester has been offered to Essex County Greenbelt as a conservation purchase. The land offers more than 400 feet of frontage on Lobster Cove as well as many features that help sustain Annisquam’s unique character and local charm. The property contains a lush wooded hillside, with mature trees, and beautiful granite outcroppings. An existing hiking trail connects the public landing to the beautiful and historic Mount Adnah Cemetery.

We Have a One-Time Chance
The landowner has given Greenbelt the opportunity through the spring of 2017 to purchase the property for $650,000,  a price substantially below its fair market value.  If developed, the parcel could support up to five residential homes with frontage on Leonard Street which would be visible from Washington Street, Lobster Cove and beyond.

ternA Natural Buffer
Once protected, the property will become part of a necklace of conserved land offering a buffer from development and a new neighborhood reservation for walking and nature observation.

Our Progress...

  • Greenbelt has partnered with the Mt. Adnah Cemetery, which is planning for the eventual expansion of the Cemetery over time. The Willmann land lends itself perfectly to this use, while retaining the integrity of the landscape.
  • Once acquired, the entire property  will be jointly owned by Greenbelt and the Mt. Adnah Cemetery. It will become part of a necklace of conserved land offering a buffer from development, open and accessible to the public for walking and nature

  • Greenbelt will create a pathway,  just inside the property along Leonard Street to allow for safe  passage above the now-dangerous corner.

  • With the help of community leaders and many residents, Greenbelt and Mt. Adnah Cemetery have raised $400,000 toward the acquisition cost of $650,000. While we have made great progress, we have only until April 1st to raise the remaining $250,000.

You Can Make a Difference
Gifts are being made to either Greenbelt or the Cemetery to support this effort. Funds raised through both organizartions will combine to secure the property.

Please consider making a  tax-deductible donation, or pledge of support payable over two years, to help meet our mutual goals of protecting the natural environment of Lobster Cove from certain development, and allowing Mt. Adnah Cemetery the opportunity to serve the community’s needs for generations to come.  Your gift will help permanently preserve the Willmann property and the quintessential qualities that make Gloucester such a spectacular place to live.

Thank you!

Donate Online

Pledge Form 

For more information about the project, or to make a pledge of future support,contact Greenbelt’s Mary Williamson,, or call 978-768-7241, ext. 13.

Donibristle Farm, Topsfield

44 Acres with Wide Trails, Towering Oaks
Historic Topsfield Property Threatened by Development

donibristle farm

The Opportunity
Can you help Greenbelt permanently protect Donibristle Farm?  Join our grass-roots effort to conserve 44 acres of beautiful wooded hillside located on Hill Street and Rowley Bridge Road in Topsfield.

Donate online

Donor Pledge Commitment Form - All pledges must be signed and returned to Greenbelt

Once the country estate of renowned historian James Duncan Phillips, the property features beautiful, towering mature oaks and an extensive, wide trail system.  

Project Details
Greenbelt has an agreement with the landowners to acquire the 44 acres outright and a 2-acre conservation restriction on adjacent agricultural fields for $900,000.

Citizens' Petition
Voters at Town Meeting, on May 2nd, will be asked to approve an article asking that Topsfield allocate $500,000 toward the purchase of Donibristle Farm.  If a $400,000 State LAND grant is approved, the Town's cost would be reduced to $100,000.   On May 4th, it will be on the Topsfield town ballot for voters to approve.

Community Campaign and Challenge
A $400,000 community based fundrasising campaign is underway for the balance, which we hope to have committed by the Town Meeting. The pace of donations from individuals and groups has been encouraging.  Some major donors have established a $100,000 Challenge Grant to match new donations, with an April 30th deadline.

Funding Sources
Municipal / State Funds                       $  500,000  (proposed)       
Greenbelt Fundraising Campaign    $  400,000  (in progress)
Total Acquisition Cost                          $  900,000     

How You Can Help
Your donation or pledge of support to the Donibristle Farm conservation effort will help ensure that current and future generations can enjoy this important historic, scenic, and recreational resource forever. Greenbelt will accept multi-year pledges for a a gift over $10,000.  Refer to the pledge form below for details.

Donate online

Donor Pledge Commitment Form - All pledges must be signed and returned to Greenbelt

Development Risk
Several development scenarios have been proposed in the past year and conservation of the landscape would substantially preserve this National Register-eligible property.  It would become a new Greenbelt Reservation, open free to the public for nature observation and recreational use.

Donibristle Map














The History
Donibristle is among the famed rural summer retreats that are part of Topsfield’s long history.  With the development of better road access to the town in the late 1800s, wealthy Salem shipping magnates converted existing colonial farms into comfortable "country seats."  

Donibristle was among the summer retreats that added to Topsfield’s reputation as a  “picturesque town (that) has become a favorite resort of summer sojourners,” the Salem Gazette reported in 1877.

James Duncan Phillips Phillips purchased the land in 1911 and built a home with notable architecture.  His wife, Nannie Borden Phillips, helped in the development of a model dairy farm with registered Guernseys, no doubt the result of her upbringing in the Borden family known for its milk products.

James Duncan Phillips, a member of the Essex Agricultural Society, bred draft horses judged the winners at the annual Topsfield Fair.  An 1897 graduate of Harvard, he was a Vice President at Houghton Mifflin publishing company, and an historian who wrote articles for the New England Quarterly and the Essex Institute's Historical Collections.

Your Donation Will:

•    Save this historic 44-acre property from development
•    Provide new public trails for hiking and equestrian use
•    Protect prime agricultural land
•    Safeguard streams and wetlands that protect water quality in the Ipswich River watershed
•    Create a new Greenbelt reservation in Topsfield  

(James Duncan Phillips photo courtesy Patti Dossetti)

Help Greenbelt Save Mehaffey Farm



Greenbelt is working on a unique opportunity to help protect one of Rowley’s historic family farms. 

Over a year ago, Maggie and Bill Mehaffey, who are committed to preserving the land for agriculture in keeping with their heritage, reached out to Greenbelt to seek help with acquiring the farm from far-away family members with whom they share ownership. 

Greenbelt proposed an approach that would not only help the Mehaffeys obtain sole possession of the farm, but ensure that the land remains forever preserved for farming and open space. 

We are focused on a community-based fundraising effort whose goal is to secure the $450,000 needed to ensure that the 31-acre Newbury Road farm is permanently preserved. 

Last fall, voters in the Town of Rowley authorized $100,000 in Community Preservation Funds toward the project.   Private financing is contributing $200,000, and Greenbelt is committed to raising the balance of $150,000 from foundations and private donors by June 2017.

Mehaffey Farm 

The Threat to Rowley's Farmland

Like farmland across the region,  Mehaffey Farm is at risk.  Fractured family ownership, high land values and development pressure mean that without a conservation option, this farm, like so many others, will be lost to development.

The fields at Mehaffey Farm supply produce to numerous area restaurants that are committed to sourcing locally. They provide fresh eggs, seasonal vegetables and flowers to area families subscribed to their weekly farm share. Mehaffey Farm also serves as a hands-on classroom where seasonal farm staff from local high schools and colleges gain hands-on experience  learning sustainable farming techniques, and beginning farmers get the mentoring they need to hone their skills before establishing their own farms.

A Succesfull Campaign Will:

  • Help maintain a robust agricultural economy in Rowley, helping to preserve Rowley’s farming heritage and future.
  • Preserve access to fresh, healthy, locally-grown food
  • Help safeguard Rowley’s drinking water supply
  • Create a public trail with parking to access Willowdale State Forest 

Mehaffey Farm Project Map


Project Budget

Town of Rowley CPA                                             $100,000

Private Financing                                                   $200,000

Greenbelt Private Fundraising                          $150,000

Transactional Costs (paid by Greenbelt)          $21,000 (approximately)

TOTAL                                                                         $471,000


Community Support is Critical - You can make a difference!

  • DONATE today to save Mehaffey Farm!

Pony Express Farm, Ipswich

Pony Express Ipswich

The Pony Express Farm with its 128 acres of rolling land and riverfront offers the Town of Ipswich the opportunity to add much-needed athletic fields while preserving an irreplaceable agricultural and natural resource.

Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust, has reached agreement to purchase the land, contingent on securing the funds needed to acquire the land from a variety of sources, including approval by the Ipswich Town Meeting  and funding from the state.

Conserving Pony Express Farm has been a priority for decades.  The farm has nearly a mile of frontage on the Castle Neck River, along with associated wetlands, which protect the water quality that contributes to the ecological health and integrity of the 17,000-acre Great Marsh Ecosystem.

The property, which borders Route 133 and Candlewood and Chebacco Roads, features prime farmland soils that support hay production.

Pony Express Ipswich

For over ten years, the Town of Ipswich has searched for a site to develop athletic fields for youth sports.   Currently a horse farm, Pony Express features a 10-acre, irrigated polo field, which provides a cost-effective solution to fit that need.

The polo field can be configured into four full-size multi-purpose athletic fields at a small fraction of the cost of building the fields from scratch.

The Town would have the option to build two additional fields on the property, while still preserving significant adjacent land as a free and accessible recreational resource.

The athletic fields will have an off-street parking lot, with ample room for expansion to meet future demands.

Greenbelt is working closely with the Town of Ipswich to discuss details, including future use and management of the property.

At an upcoming Town Meeting, Ipswich voters will be asked to allocate $2.15 million from its current $6.35 million open space bond.  The Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife will contribute $500,000 from a combination of state and federal funds.

Greenbelt will raise the remaining $1.4 million needed to complete the purchase through private fundraising and the private sale, subject to conservation restrictions, of a portion of the northerly area of the property where there is an existing house and stable, by January 2017.

 A YES vote in support of the Pony Express project will:

  • Provide Athletic Fields -- a Long-standing Town Priorty
  • Offer Free and accessible Recreation Resources
  • Maintain Agriculture
  • Protect the Castle Neck River
  • Preserve Scenic Character

Pony Express Ipswich

“Acquisition of Pony Express Farm for conservation and recreation will protect more than 120 acres of land with a rich diversity of wildlife habitat, wetland resources and agricultural resources.  We’re pleased to be working in partnership with the Town and the Commonwealth on this important project,” said Ed Becker, Greenbelt President. 

Proposed Project Funding

We have until the end of January 2017 to secure the $4.05 million purchase price

  • Town Open Space & Recreation Bond     $2.15M
  • Mass. Division of Fish & Wildlife                $500,000
  • Greenbelt Private Sale & Fundraising      $1.4M

The $4.05 million purchase price is significantly below the original $7.95 million asking price.  With its proximity to Crane Beach and easy access to the Boston commuter train, the land would be highly attractive to developers.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is Greenbelt involved in this project?
A: Greenbelt has a long history of working with the Town of Ipswich, and that partnership has resulted in significant conservation success over the years that contributes to the special character of the community.  It is in this spirit that Greenbelt has taken the lead on the Pony Express project. Its acquisition would further advance conservation goals and meet the Town’s needs for athletic fields.

Greenbelt ’s role was to facilitate the overall conservation opportunity, and ultimately it is up to the voters of Ipswich to determine whether this purchase is right for the Town or not.

Q: Why does the town need a Special Town Meeting in January?
A: Greenbelt was not in a position to bring the project before Fall Special Town Meeting because we did not have the property under contract.  A signed contract was secured on November 14th, 2016.  The seller, the Estate of Robert Daniels, has given us until the end of January to assemble the funding for this acquisition.  While we would clearly prefer a more extended timeframe, we are grateful for the opportunity to bring the project before the voters.

Q: Has the property been appraised?
A: Yes.  Avery Associates performed an independent appraisal of the entire property, which has established the value at $4.1M.  The allocation of the overall purchase price between the partners (Town, State, Greenbelt) was based on the relative values established by independent appraisal. The Town is being asked to invest $2.15M towards a portion of the property that has been valued at $2.3M.

Q: Why doesn’t Greenbelt just buy this themselves?
A: This structure has led to the requirement, and opportunity, of an acquisition partnership involving the Town of Ipswich, MA Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Greenbelt.  

Q: What will happen to the land that Greenbelt and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife will own?
A: After a private sale of an existing house and stable, Greenbelt will own and manage the central hayfields for continued agricultural and public access purposes.  Division of Fisheries and Wildlife will manage their land for wildlife habitat and natural resource protection.

Q: Will the athletic fields be permanently protected?
A: Article 1 provides for this option. It is Greenbelt’s position that this is what Ipswich residents intended and expect in the application of the Open Space Bond.

Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men. Gifford Pinchot

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