99 acres • Conserved in 2019
clean water, wildlife, forests, health & recreation, children & nature
There’s a new gem of a place for residents and visitors to recreate when in “Our Town”.
“It’s little wonder that Cunningham Pond was a top-ranked conservation priority for Peterborough residents. In addition to the new trails, the unbroken shoreline faces the town beach, and the long, scenic road frontage on 101 creates a welcoming gateway to town from the east,” said Ryan Owens, the Conservancy’s executive director.
At the heart of the property is a 1-1/2-mile trail network. The main trail starts from a new parking area on Cunningham Pond Road near the intersection with East Mountain Road, from there traversing through woodlands and a hemlock grove before crossing a stream and climbing to a large open field with sweeping views of Pack Monadnock and Temple Mountain. Along the trail, you can find trees with woodpecker holes, mushrooms, and moss-covered rocks amidst the sounds of the stream and birds flitting above.
From the field, a spur trail winds down to an old carriage road at the water’s edge. Another spur trail, branching off closer to the main trail’s beginning, connects you to the Goyette Natural Area, another Conservancy property, off East Mountain Road.
The Cunningham Pond Trails were laid out by Rick Brackett, land manager for the Conservancy, and Lew Shelley of SnowHawk LLC, an independent trail design and construction firm. Most of the labor to build the trails was supplied by teams of young volunteers from the Student Conservation Association. In the fall of 2019, two teams spent one week each cutting brush, clearing duff, tamping soil, and building two rustic timber bridges to create a safe, scenic walking path.
“I can’t believe what has been back-breakingly accomplished in so short a time … a beautifully groomed and easily identifiable, but inconspicuous path through this gorgeous forest we have worked so hard to protect,” shared Judy Blake, a Peterborough resident who was part of the group that spearheaded the conservation of this property.
A group of Peterborough residents calling themselves the Cunningham Pond Preservation Alliance first brought this property to the Conservancy’s attention in 2017. Apart from the town beach here, neither the pond nor the shoreline was protected from development. Having seen three building lots (20 acres total) on the east shore subdivided and sold, the alliance wanted a partner to help purchase the approximately 100 acres that remained. The Conservancy agreed, and in early 2018, a $1.5 million campaign was launched to raise the $1.325 million purchase price plus funds for project expenses, initial improvements, and long-term maintenance.
After nearly two years of T-shirt sales, canvassing at the recycling center, and countless donations of all sizes, the deal was completed in December 2019. With the Monadnock Conservancy as a landowner, the pond (a former public water supply) and its surroundings, including a half mile of the pond’s southern shore and nearly a mile of frontage on Route 101, will benefit the wildlife and residents of Peterborough and the greater region, now and for generations to come.
To the Peterson family, for their willingness to work with us and to leave a legacy for the town, we are grateful. Thank you also to the Town of Peterborough, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership, and the more than 260 individuals and families who gave so generously to save Cunningham Pond.
The Quabbin-to-Cardigan Partnership provided funding for the trails, and the Student Conservation Association arranged volunteer trail crews. Finally, thank you to the members of the Cunningham Pond Preservation Alliance for your vision, determination, and good humor: Judy Blake, Sue & Jim Callihan, Marilyn Kenison, Jeff Kutler, Libby Reinhardt, Mark Schauer, and Liz Thomas.
Take a narrated virtual tour with aerial and close-up photography, and learn about the variety of trails available for exploring as well as the history of the property. The video can be seen here on YouTube.