Beaver Brook Association in Hollis celebrates 50 years

The weather may not have been ideal, but the guests took it all in stride as a sell-out crowd of 350 joined the trustees and staff of Beaver Brook Association in Hollis to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding on May 31.

Billed as a birthday party rather than a fundraiser, the event was affordable, family fun with guided tours, hikes, music, hayrides, games and a catered buffet in the Maple Hill Gardens. Shortly before noon, just as people were asked to gather in the main tent for a presentation, the rain arrived. Luckily, most were under cover during the deluge, and the skies cleared by the end of the program.

Trustee Kim Colson expressed her gratitude for the many donors, and the dedicated staff and volunteers that allow Beaver Brook to offer so many programs. She spoke fondly of its founders.

“I was very fortunate to know them both,” she said. “I knew Hollis Nichols as a neighbor, a very kind man. We used to go swimming in his pond, and he let me pick hickory nuts. He’d also give me fresh apples – we all know how great those are. Jeff Smith was a friend and mentor. He’d tell stories and offer his opinion on current events. We’d go for walks in the woods, and he would teach me what I was seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling.”

Smith was passionate about nature and teaching others about nature; Nichols had a strong background in finance and desire to invest in the town’s future. In 1964, the two men combined a 20-acre parcel known as the Colburn Lot with an 18-acre lot and building on Love Lane and began holding classes on managing natural resources in the Lodge on Love Lane. BBA now protects 1,887 acres of land in Hollis, 100 acres in Brookline, and 200 acres in Milford. It is also a popular destination for school field trips, and in 2013 hosted 5,400 students.

Drew Kellner, president of the board of trustees, acknowledged the many individuals who have volunteered for more than 20 years. He read off the names of those who have served as trustees, ambassadors, guides, educators, gardeners, and those who help with trail maintenance and special events. Many people were recognized for service in multiple capacities.

Then it was time for lunch, prepared and served by Greenhouse Catering. Guests enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches, chicken tenders, pasta salad, coleslaw, watermelon and mini cupcakes while musicians fiddled, strummed and sang. Later on, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and Kellner cut the cake, which was decorated with the newly redesigned logo.

A popular attraction was the hayrides, provided by Maple Shade Farm in nearby Groton, Mass. Young children were allowed to sit next to owner Roy MacGregor as he drove his pair of horses around the field, with plenty of room in the wagon for everyone else.

While chatting with visitors, it really is evident what a gem Beaver Brook is, and how many people value its work and activities. Many guests traveled from Nashua, Londonderry, Lyndeborough and other towns to attend the party, and they all seemed to have a deep connection to this special place.

“We just bought a house in Hollis last week,” said Christine Caplan, whose family is in the process of moving from Long Island, NY. “We were looking at houses the week of the (Beaver Brook) barn sale and knew we wanted to come here and made sure we bought our tickets ahead of time.”