Lake Maspenock- Peppercorn Hill History

In 1972 a group of Crockett Road residents led by Francis Walleston built a coalition called Peppercorn Hill Association (PHA) to have better representation and unification of the neighborhood community. Before the association was formed, there had been a movement to make Lake Maspenock a watershed reservoir. People all around the lake became involved to the point of taking busloads of people to the state house to protest. This successful endeavor awakened lake residents to what they can accomplish when organized in support of or against any issue that may effect their homes and was the main impetus for the lake associations being formed. When Crockett was a dirt road it was in constant need of work and PHA would petition the town for funds to fix the road as required. The town would appropriate funding for gravel and use Bob Spindel's steel grader which he would pull behind his truck to level out the gravel. Residents would then come out with shovels and do the finish work. At one stage the residents came out with saws and axes to cut trees and help the town widen the road. Years later PHA worked to convince Milford and Upton to put in a new bridge and culvert and straighten the road in the area. One major reason was fire protection. Milford and Upton had a mutual agreement that in the event of a fire on Crockett, Milford would respond first while Upton Volunteer FD mustered and took over. The old bridge was considered unsafe for Milford fire trucks and thus the new bridge and culvert were installed. PHA also worked to change the status of Crockett Road to an accepted road making it eligible for all considerations to maintain a "safe and passable road". In 1981 the control gate on the dam failed and PHA worked with Milford, Upton and the Army Corp of Engineers to send divers to fix the gate at no cost. PHA also successfully worked to stop a 150' radio and TV tower with access roads on the top of Peppercorn Hill. By far the most successful endeavor of the Peppercorn Hill Associates was the protection and conservation of Peppercorn Hill Conservation Area.

Peppercorn Hill Conservation Area

Francis Walleston, a member of Upton Conservation Commission and Peppercorn Hill Association learned during a con con meeting that the owner of the land on Peppercorn Hill were planning to sell it to a developer. Test borings had already been done and the plan was to build 90 homes. Due to it's agricultural tax status, the town of Upton was allowed 60 day right to purchase the land. That night after the meeting, Mr. Walleston called his next door neighbor to tell him the area was going to be developed and the PHA formed a committee to stage a campaign to save the 270 acres. During this time period, Marjorie Sanford, a Crockett Road resident and PHA member, was also treasurer of the Town of Medway. She became aware of a state program that was about to expire with still uncommitted funds available. The purpose of the program was to reimburse towns, 80% of the cost for purchases of land which would be devoted in perpetuity to recreational or conservation purposes. While it was known that the town had right of first refusal, it wasn't until the Peppercorn Hill Association presented this attractive financing possibility to the Town did the real possibility of making the purchase gain traction. Marjorie assisted with the necessary application paperwork until a state commitment was assured.
At the same time, Mr. Walleston's neighbor Don Kerr, was an engineer and had equipment for making flyers. The association went to work making flyers and with the help of Dick Smith and the Boy Scouts they went about handing them out in and around town, even sitting for hours at the gate of the Town Dump. The small town of Upton had never seen such a campaign and the effort led to a special town meeting to vote for the purchase of land. On the night of town meeting, March 11, 1985, Mr. Walleston designated Don Kerr as spokesman and when they arrived they found themselves in front of almost four hundred citizens of Upton. Don looked over at Fran and said "let's go for it". Fred Sanford, Marjorie's husband, and long time Crockett Road resident remembers Don's contribution. "Don Kerr was nothing less than the heart, soul and energy of Peppercorn Hill Associates. In my fifty years at 43 Crockett Road, I know of nothing, civic or social, accomplished by the organization that was achieved without Don's support and enthusiasm. This especially includes the purchase of the hill. Don was a tall, good looking man gifted with a mellow low voice and a wonderful way of communicating that made him immediately liked and trusted, with good reason because he was, indeed, a man of high quality and trustworthiness. Don was fully engaged in the association's activity to promote the purchase of the hill including helping pitch the plan to the Conservation Committee, and facilitating production of some promotional material which was kindly supported by the Boy Scouts who distributed it. However, Don's crowning moment was at the town meeting where the purchase was decided. Not being a voter in Upton, I sat in the visitors' gallery while Wally and Don were on the Town Meeting floor. His presentation on the town meeting floor was nothing short of a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" moment. The Town Meeting voted nearly unanimously to buy the hill, an extraordinary margin for any New England Town Meeting. Don was truly "the closer" for which he should be remembered and memorialized. Don and Wally are gone now and will be missed by all who love and enjoy North Pond, Crockett Road and the beautiful gift of Peppercorn Hill."  

Don Kerr and sister Hazel- Top of Peppercorn Hill

In May, 2019, Bill McCormick, representing the Kelly family, informed the Upton Conservation Commission that the Kelly's would like to sell the land they own on Peppercorn Hill to the town. The land included four parcels encompassing about 66.2 acres. The Conservation Commission voted to pursue the opportunity and obtained an appraisal for the property in August, 2019. The Upton Open Space Committee and Conservation Commission worked with the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) and Metacomet Land Trust (MLT) to develop a plan to acquire property. In 2020 Upton citizens voted to purchase and protect the Kelly land on Peppercorn.Anyone that hikes the beautiful trails of Peppercorn Hill today owe a debt of gratitude to the Peppercorn Hill Association, Francis Walleston, Don Kerr, Marjorie Sanford and all the neighbors of Crockett Road who were able to organize and save the crown jewel in Upton's Conservation Land, Peppercorn Hill.