History of Gilmore Pond

October 28, 2021


By Kristina Nilson Allen, Westborough Community Land Trust

Gilmore Pond is part of the headwaters of Jackstraw Brook, which branches in the surrounding area. The pond itself was part of Fay Mountain Farm, where three generations of Gilmores built the largest orchard in Westborough from 1910 through 1970. At its peak from 1960-1965, the Gilmores harvested 50,000 bushels of apples of popular varieties each year.

In the 1930s Howard Pool (H.P.) Gilmore created the 2.6-acre pond for irrigation to improve his orchard and for fire protection for his buildings. The pond supplied water to Fay Mountain Farm’s houses and barns via hydrants and an underground pipe that ran from the pond down to the barn complex. This was a gravity-fed system, well ahead of its time. With the vertical drop, there was 30 lbs. of water pressure at the barn complex; no power was needed. To irrigate the crops, the Gilmores could fill the sprayers at the barn and other locations very easily.

Gilmore Pond

The pond was also the Gilmore family’s recreation area. Here the six children learned to swim and skate, and hosted neighborhood outings. It was a great fishing spot, as HP Gilmore was an avid sportsman and stocked the pond with bass. Jim Harvey remembers that Ruth Gilmore, his Sunday School teacher, invited the whole Sunday School class for an outing at the farm, with a picnic, hayrides, and the best fishing in Westborough.

Gilmore Pond may be most famous as the birthplace of the Westborough High hockey team. In the late 1950s, scrimmages were held on the ice at Gilmore Pond. In early 1960 Dick Gilmore, Jack Burrough, and Bob McGoldrick (of The Green Thumb) started an informal hockey team there with high school players. The Westborough High School hockey team, with Dick Gilmore as its coach, began at Gilmore Pond and later evolved to play at rinks in the mid-1960s.

Gilmore Pond and the Fay Mountain Farm were sold to Quick’s Orchard in 1970. Three decades later, on June 26, 2003, a 12.96-acre open space parcel was conveyed to the Westborough Community Land Trust by Stephen Venicasa of Casa Builders. This open-space donation was part of the Orchard Hill development agreement.

Over the years, the Gilmore Pond Trail has become the best-known and most traveled part of the 67-acre Upper Jackstraw Brook Reservation.

Since WCLT acquired Gilmore Pond, volunteers have cleared invasive plants from around the pond, including Asian honeysuckle shrubs, oriental bittersweet vines, and multiflora rose. WCLT also conducted major repairs of the pond’s dam.

In 2007, WCLT received a Civic Club grant for the parcel’s restoration, and Waterman Design developed a plan for the trails at Gilmore Pond. Eliminating invasives, removing willows in the water, cutting trees on the dam, raising wetlands, and building new trails were the priorities.

The first trails into and around the pond were both Eagle Scout projects.  Remembers Don Burn, “The Scouts helping to build the initial trail around the pond were hacking through invasive plant growth that looked like an old jungle movie. The honeysuckle was higher than their heads.”

In 2010 the Westborough Boy Scouts chose Gilmore Pond restoration as their Centennial Project. For the project, WCLT Stewardship Committee members Mark Fox and Don Burn and Scout leader Warren Anderson organized 60 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with their parents and leaders, to convert land covered by honeysuckle to open forest. They pulled up the honeysuckle shrubs and dragged them into a stack reaching nearly 10’ tall. Many Eagle Scouts and Girl Scouts have worked on projects at Gilmore Pond along with other community volunteers, including the Westborough Civic Club, Congregation B’nai Shalom, and the WCLT Stewardship Committee.

An important effort has been the restoration of native plants. For example, a Westborough Brownie troop planted marsh marigolds near the bog bridge over the incoming stream. Volunteers Garry Kessler and Annie Reid also transplanted nodding trillium near the pond’s edge.

The most ambitious undertaking, however, has been developing an all-access trail around the pond, a job that has taken a decade to accomplish.

"WCLT has long wanted to make it possible for every Westborough resident to enjoy being surrounded by nature,” says Keith Martin, Chair of the WCLT Stewardship Committee. “Most of the 60 miles of trails in the Charm Bracelet system have been built over uneven terrain. They can be difficult to hike for some potential visitors.”

“We were inspired by Mass Audubon's All-Persons Trail at Broadmoor to create a trail that is accessible to people with mobility and vision challenges.”

When WCLT was awarded a $93,000 Mass Trails grant in December, 2019, a construction plan was in place, but the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became a major obstacle for on-site work.

Despite COVID constraints, in early 2021, students at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School built boardwalk components in their shop. With a borrowed flatbed truck, volunteers transported three tons of boardwalk materials to Gilmore Pond, where WCLT work crews later assembled them. More than 300 volunteer hours were contributed by Assabet Valley carpentry instructor Wayne Coulson and 17 of his students.

In total, at least 1,000 hours of physical labor, not including the many hours spent planning the project, organizing work sessions, and communicating with contractors, were demanded to complete the project. Approximately 60 WCLT stewardship volunteers and family members contributed almost 700 hours to on-site construction. Seven individuals contributed more than 25 hours: Mark Fox, Scott Henderson, Joe Levesque, Keith Martin, Burt Osterweis, Hank Rauch, and Chris Sassetti.

In addition, two Eagle Scout projects led by Riley Clark and Evan Fallon--amounting to 150 hours--cleared brush and invasive plants.

From the beginning, WCLT’s goal has been “to create a scenic woodland park in the 13 acres surrounding Gilmore Pond for town residents to enjoy.”

On October 25, 2021, this long-term goal has been realized to enable ALL persons to find beauty, serenity, and rejuvenation at Gilmore Pond.

“By doing so,” says Keith Martin, “WCLT has opened up one of Westborough's most beautiful spots to everyone.”

Westborough Community Land Trust, PO Box 838, Westborough , MA 01581
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