An Abandoned Building at Mill Pond Preserve Gets a Facelift

The Charlestown Land Trust’s mural contest aims to complement natural beauty with public art

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Nestled just off of Route 2 in Charlestown is a secluded wooded spot that offers an escape from the noise and chaos of day-to-day life. Mill Pond Preserve offers a trail system where walkers can wander among the trees, gaze at the pond, go for a picnic, or simply relax and enjoy fresh air. Now, one of its buildings is getting a fitting update with the help of a local artist. 

Mill Pond Preserve is one of many properties owned and stewarded by the Charlestown Land Trust (CLT). According to the trust’s vice president Dave Fredrikson, “The Charlestown Land Trust is primarily associated with preserving and protecting open space in the town from future development.” Largely a volunteer organization, Fredrikson says that their motto is to “preserve and protect what you love.” 

As part of its efforts to keep natural areas beautiful, CLT launched a mural competition to rejuvenate an old fish hatchery building on Mill Pond Preserve. Originally part of the American Fish Culture Company, the small fish hatchery was used to raise rainbow trout. While no longer operational, the structure stands as a reminder of the area’s interesting past. However, its abandoned appearance became a topic of discussion for Fredrikson and other trust members. 

“The idea just came to me that it would be kind of cool if it had a mural on there. I brought the idea to the board, and we decided that we would have a contest,” Fredrikson says. After reviewing a variety of designs submitted by local creatives, Charlestown artist Frances Topping was chosen as the winner in March. 

No stranger to art or nature, Topping’s work is inspired by the environment, with the aim of helping people appreciate and open their eyes to the world around them. She works in various media, such as watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil, and her subjects range from botanicals, wildlife, and landscapes to murals and interpretive exhibit material. 

As a member of environmental organizations and a visitor of the preserve, it’s clear why Topping wanted to be involved with CLT’s project. “I’ve lived in Charlestown for over 20 years. I love the area. I love the woods, the rock walls, and the ponds. I fully support the land trust in their endeavors,” she says. “I’m so glad that they are doing what they can to preserve some of the special places in Charlestown.”

A testament to community support, the beautification project is funded by a grant the CLT received from the South County Garden Club last spring. Together with Topping and the help of volunteers, CLT aims to have the mural completed this spring. With the logistics of outdoor artwork and such a sizable project, Topping’s first renderings on paper may be adjusted as the project begins, but her initial sketches clearly convey a homage to the beautiful natural surroundings and the land trust’s goal of bringing positive attention to the special property. 

As Fredrikson encourages, “Come down to the preserve and check it out! It’s a very peaceful place.” Topping’s work can be found at FrancesToppingVisuals.com; visit CharlestownLandTrust.org for more information about CLT.

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