Cecily Clark was a young girl when victory in World War II brought the end of gas rationing on the New England home front. That meant her Navy veteran father could reinstate the routine of driving the family up from Massachusetts to their ancestral farm in Wolfeboro. Deemed old enough to explore the woods without grownups, Cecily and a friend determined on one of these post-war visits to follow the brook through the forest to see where it might lead. But it was the discoveries along the way that began to instill a delight so strong that it – like the memory of that time – has never left her.
“There were purple trillium growing there. I had never seen them before and I thought they were exquisitely beautiful,” Cecily said.
Now a vigorous 80, Cecily remembers well those childhood days of freedom in the woods, with the water gurgling and the sprightly wildflowers pushing up through the leaf litter and the soft green moss. She imagined deer sleeping there. “It was magical,” she recalled on a recent morning at her home.
Those experiences were the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the land around Moody Mountain, named after her great, great, great, grandfather Abner Moody. He was granted land there as a reward for his service in the Revolutionary War. As attested by the rock walls on the hillsides, farmhouse and barn, Moodys farmed the land in the late 1700s, and it has been passed down through the generations since then. Cecily’s father, Philip Moody Clark, added to the property by buying an adjacent piece with a farmhouse on it.
Mowing to keep the fields open, clearing brush and enjoying a cabin in the woods were some of the constants of family life on Moody Mountain. “I was a tomboy and I loved doing that kind of work,” she said. As soon as she got her driver’s license she drove herself up to Wolfeboro, and it was just a matter of time before she decided to move there permanently in 1968. Cecily added another piece in 1972, when she bought a 250-acre property that is next to the family land and accessed along Beach Pond Road.
Determined to protect this special place, Cecily donated conservation easements on 462 acres of family land in 1994. And in November, she donated the 250-acre piece to the Forest Society, to be conserved and managed as the Moody Mountain Reservation.
“From the time I was 12 I’ve been prowling the property and working on trails and just enjoying being there. I care about this land, I want it to be a habitat for wildlife, and I also want other people to be able to enjoy it,” Cecily said.
The founder of the Ossipee Children’s Fund, which provides financial assistance for programs of childcare, recreation, education and enrichment for local lower income families, Cecily has long invested in her community. The land donation is one more contribution. Moody Mountain Reservation, like the Forest Society’s 178 other reservations, will be open to the public for hiking, skiing, hunting, wildlife watching and other non-motorized recreation. At Cecily’s request, the Forest Society is in the planning stages of creating a looping nature trail that will make the land more accessible.
“It will be a moderate trail, about a mile and a half through the forest, providing opportunities for walking through great habitat for deer, moose, bear and wild turkeys,” said Ryan Young, the Forest Society land protection specialist managing the project.
The reason it’s excellent wildlife habitat is the diversity of cover and food this land offers. There’s plenty of softwood cover, hardwood mast sources like oak and beech, and wetlands, vernal pools, open ledge and streams. And because of Cecily’s previous easements and those of her neighbors, there are now 980 contiguous acres in the Moody Mountain area protected. Just below this large chunk of conserved land, across Beach Pond Road, lies Upper Beech Pond, the source for Wolfeboro’s drinking water. Keeping so much land above it intact and undeveloped is good for the water quality of the pond.
“This property is truly amazing, as is Cecily Clark’s care of it and generosity,” said Jane Difley, the Forest Society’s president/forester. “We know she is placing her trust in us to care for this land as well as she and her family have, and we are honored to be able to carry on that stewardship.”
A wildlife enthusiast who keeps birding field guides close at hand, Cecily is a gifted sculptor. Birds and other wildlife are favorite subjects for her artwork and motivations for protecting the land, as is a conservation ethic that she attributes to her father’s example.
“I got a sense of custodianship from my father -- that I had to take care of the property,” she said.
She said the reason she bought the additional 250 acres in 1972 was to keep them out of development so wildlife would have an undisturbed place to live. Seeing the land become a Forest Society reservation and knowing it will be protected forever brings a sense of relief, she said, as did her previous easement donations.
“I felt a big burden was lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I know the land is in good hands.”