Visionary Environmental Activist, Arthur Blackman, Instrumental in Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary Success
Last Sunday the Grand Opening of the Massachusetts Audubon Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary was celebrated. As we explained on our Editorial page last week, this wildlife sanctuary is the culmination of years of effort to develop this section of Groton (the Four Corners area), including commercial development, residential development, subsidized public housing and this 400-acre wildlife sanctuary.
Such visionary development does not just magically 'happen', as if pre-ordained. Rather, it is the result of hard work, generosity, and vision of people who love their town. Last week we mentioned developers of the land and donors of the Sanctuary, David Moulton and Bob Lacombe, along with Land Planner Robert Pine and Attorney Robert Collins, all long-term residents of Groton. But, we were remiss in not mentioning the person with the earliest understanding of the potential for this large tract of land. Arthur Blackman, a resident of Groton since the 1950s, having served on the Planning Board, School Committee, and Board of Selectmen, was the original visionary, the person who saw the potential of this land to be an important haven for wildlife in eastern Massachusetts, a critical mass of land large enough to provide real sanctuary to a large range of species.
Below are excerpts from a Massachusetts Audubon Society profile of Arthur Blackman.
In the 1950s, Arthur and his wife Camilla moved with their family to Indian Hill Road in Groton, eventually settling in a house just below the brow of Indian Hill Ridge. At this high elevation, he was always moved by the open expanse to distant sights; Mt. Monadnock in the north, Mt. Wachusett to the west, a blinking light over Boylston to the south and once, the fireworks display in Boston Harbor on New Year's Eve. As years passed, Arthur noticed more and more lights in the woods below. This unpopulated landscape was changing before his eyes, except for one area of the woods that was always dark. This mysterious dark place became fodder for the fanciful bedtime stories he made up for his daughter every night. As former chair of the Planning Board, Arthur was acutely aware of proposed developments creeping into Groton from the east. The corporation that owned the dark area of the woods was putting that tract of land up for sale and was attracting interest. Arthur began talking at every opportunity about ways to save it.
In 1996, Arthur read in The Boston Globe that Mass. Audubon had a wildlife sanctuary within 20 minutes of every schoolchild in Massachusetts, with the exception of an area between Carlisle and Lunenburg. Excited, he thought here perhaps was a permanent solution for this vulnerable oasis. He called Mass. Audubon's then-president Gerry Betand, confident that the organization and its staff would be the right stewards for this land, having the special knowledge, expertise, and appreciation for such an important property: a landscape without roads or cellar holes, sculpted by the retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet 18,000 years ago.
After years of negotiations, these 400 acres are now protected as an official Mass. Audubon wildlife area. Thanks to Arthur and his passion and determination, the woodlands, massive lichen-coated boulders, beaver ponds and vernal pools of Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Groton can be appreciated and studied by future generations who will be able to enjoy and discover the rich natural history of this special place.