In 1955, twelve founders, who understood that the sprawl of suburban development after World War II would put immense pressures on semi-rural towns like Weston, founded Weston Forest & Trail Association. For many years, the heart of the organization was the late Dr. William Elliston, physician, gentleman farmer and amateur naturalist. A part of the conservation land and Elliston Woods is named in his honor.
The legacy of the organization’s leaders is greater awareness of and education on the value of preserving open space and woodland, as well as implementation of creative methods for saving open space and more ecologically sound development practices. In the 1961 Annual Report of the Weston Forest & Trail Association, the organization stated:
Dr. William Elliston
A retired surgeon, Dr. Elliston and his wife were ardent conservationists. From his historic farmhouse on South Avenue, they were instrumental in founding the Weston Town Forest, and were key to the formation of the Weston Forest and Trail Association.
“In spite of tremendous developments west of Boston, there seems a reasonable prospect that the town will be able to preserve some of the characteristics of a green area as an attractive section in which to live.”
Since then the organization has been involved in negotiations and solicitation of conservation easements on more than 50 parcels of land. WFTA volunteer leaders, particularly George Bates, have personally shepherded gifts and below-market purchases of easements and grants of land to link up the various larger parcels of the Town forest. They also have assumed responsibility for assuring the observance of conservation restrictions and easements. Today the Weston Forest & Trail Association owns more than 125 acres, the Town owns more than 2000 additional acres of public open land, and there are more than 65 miles of trails.
As a prudent steward of the Association's finances, George Bates initiated an Endowment Fund about 20 years ago which has now grown to more than $1 million, assuring the continued survival and operation of the Association far into the future.
There are approximately 800 acres of undeveloped land in Weston. Weston Forest & Trail Association takes an active role in monitoring the status of this land – following building proposals and negotiating preservation tracts and easements. WFTA’s continued work is to maintain the rural character and natural beauty of the Town and promote the recreational value, active and passive, of the trails and open space.
Another account of WFTA’s history,
courtesy of the late George P. Bates, longtime Treasurer and Trustee:
The Weston Forest and Trail Association, Inc. was organized in 1955 by the following persons:
Marie E. Lewis, president
Ellen A. Lempereur, vice president
Henrietta N. Paine, Treasurer
William A. Elliston, clerk
Florence E. Freeman, director
Francis G. Goodale, director
Stanley G. French, director
Victor C. Harnish, director
The Bylaws and Articles of Organization of the Association were modeled on those of the Sudbury Valley Trustees, which was formed in 1953.
A meeting of the Weston Forest and Trail Association in the 1970s, George Bates presiding. Dr. William Elliston and Harriet Elliston are in the front row.
It was formed as a charitable, nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation to help the Town of Weston acquire conservation land and trail easements, which were not otherwise achievable at the time. At that time, trail easements were not acceptable to town authorities, and the Town could not pay more than $6,000 per acre to acquire conservation land. Several times the Association has been able to raise funds to help the Town acquire conservation land when the sale price exceeded $6,000 per acre. In another situation, the Association arranged for the gift of land to the Town which had frontage on a Town road so that the Town could acquire an abutting land-locked parcel of land. The Association has been able to help the Town in many cases because it has more flexibility and can work in a more timely way to accomplish its objectives.
Since 1955 the Association has acquired 152 parcels of land and trail easements consisting of 189 acres and over 18 miles of trail easements.* In addition, the Association has received nine Conservation Restrictions and two Preservation Restrictions on historic homes.
Over the years, the Association has done much to educate the residents of Weston concerning the value of conservation land. Every year the Association has mailed its annual report and newsletter to the entire town. Members and non-members have been invited to attend our annual meeting, which has always included a speaker to present a topic related to the mission of the Association. Also, we have conducted trail walks on the first Sunday of every month from October through May which are open to the public. The Association has also published a book entitled Walks on Weston Conservation Land and prepares trail maps, which are updated periodically and are available for purchase at the Conservation Commission office in the Town Hall. As the Town acquired a great deal of conservation land in the 1970s, Weston Forest and Trail took over the maintenance of the trail system, which now consists of nearly 100 miles of trails.* The Association also helps maintain several hilltop outlooks and assists in the maintenance of many fields.
In December 2011, Weston Forest and Trail merged with the Weston Land Trust to strengthen the shared mission of protecting and promoting Weston’s open space resources.
*Note: The acreage and number of land parcels acquired by WFTA, and the miles of trail easements and trails, have increased since this article was written.