Today, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is the steward of Upton State Forest and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp buildings located there. The agency oversees around 500,000 acres of diverse properties throughout the Commonwealth. That includes approximately 3000 acres at Upton State Forest, which is part of the Blackstone Valley Complex with headquarters at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge.
In 2014, the CCC Camp and a corridor of associated resources was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This effort was led by Upton Historical Commission with funding from the Upton Community Preservation Historic funds. Members of the DCR Office of Cultural Resources (OCR) gave their support of the project and provided information about the resources. FUSF members also worked with the consultants who researched and wrote the application.
Members of the FUSF Resource Inventory Team visited and inventoried historic resources throughout the various parcels of Upton State Forest (USF). This information was shared with the Office of Cultural Resources (OCR) staff who visited to verify much of the work. The resources identified were entered into a DCR database which was used to write the Cultural Resources Management Plan (CRMP) for Upton State Forest and the CCC site and buildings. A copy of the CRMP can be found here.
When Phillip’s Wildlife Lab closed and the Department of Fish and Game relocated to their current location in Westborough, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) became responsible for the CCC buildings. In 1975, the department was reorganized into the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). The Headquarters area and buildings were used through the years for various department purposes. That included an office for the Bureau of Forestry, storage of forest firefighting equipment, a carpenter/sign shop, and an office and stable for the DEM Mounted Unit. On occasion, the Bureau of Ranger Services has held field training at USF and you may sometimes spot one of their Rangers training a Search and Rescue (SAR) dog on the trails. For more information about the Bureau of Forestry Fire Control and Forestry click here.
Mocha Chip in the former North Barn Stable at Upton State Forest
In 2003, legislation combined the Department of Environmental Management and the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) into a new agency named the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Division of State Parks and Recreation became responsible for USF and the CCC Camp. At that point, the buildings were no longer being used. That same year the South Barn collapsed from snow load generating local concern about the future of the remaining historic buildings. Two years later, in 2005, Friends of Upton State Forest was formed and began advocating for adaptive reuse and preservation of the site and buildings. They successfully nominated the site for the Preservation Mass 2005 List of Ten Most Endangered Resources in Massachusetts. For more information about Preservation Mass click on this link. Since that time, FUSF has cooperated and partnered with DCR staff of the Historic Curatorship Office through volunteer efforts, educational programming and events, and advocacy. For more information about the work of the Office of Cultural Resources, click here. For a list of publications from that office, click here.
Today, the former CCC Camp buildings in the Headquarters area are part of the DCR Historic Curatorship Program. More information about that program is available at this link. Under that program, stabilization work has been accomplished for the Headquarters building and cottage (former CCC infirmary). This included a partnership grant with DCR and FUSF that enabled an agreement with Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT) for students to replace damaged clapboards and stain the exterior siding. The department has recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with BVT to do further restoration work on the Headquarters building. FUSF has partnered with this office through Partnership Matching Fund grants with the long-term goal of preserving what remains of the camp for the future.
Members of FUSF and the Upton Open Space Committee have been pleased to partner with the DCR Interpretive Staff for events, educational programs and themed hikes. For several years we were able to bring the third grade from Upton’s Memorial School to the Camp for a daylong program titled “A Day in the Life of the CCC.” Two of our members served as public members on the former DCR CCC Program Committee.
In 2018, DCR began the process of developing a Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Blackstone Complex which will include all aspects of management for the various properties including USF. This plan will guide decisions and management for Upton State Forest into the future. For more information about RMP click here. For a list of parks within the Blackstone complex click here.
In the Massachusetts Legislature’s Acts of 2019, Section 100, Chapter 41 an independent special commission was established to review the agency and make recommendations for the future. A copy of the Special Commission Report that was accepted in December of 2020 can be found here.
For a complete timeline history of the Department of Conservation and Recreation beginning in 1898 click here. This history was compiled by DCR Archivist, Sean Fisher and is used with permission from the DCR Archives.
Ellen Arnold Photos