The Sheffield Land Trust has announced that it has made major progress toward paying off the money it borrowed to buy a 33-acre property in the center of Ashley Falls. The Land Trust bought the property, now called Ashley Falls Woods, as a gift to the community.

In December, the Land Trust finished raising $45,000 to win $45,000 more in a matching grant from the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund. The Land Trust, however, must raise another $90,000 to repay the loan, which is due in April. When the loan is retired, the organization will have raised more than $200,000 to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the property, which is a quarter mile north of the Ashley Falls Post Office on Rt. 7A.

The Land Trust bought the parcel in 2015. Since then, volunteers from the Land Trust and the community have cleared out invasive plants and improved the trails across the property. The Land Trust’s volunteers are also working on clearing a small parking lot, identifying locations for benches, and reclaiming a meadow for picnicking and games.

Ashley Falls Woods has several miles of walking trails through the forest, making it an excellent place for family hikes. Unlike some other conserved land in the area, the park welcomes dogs. The property also includes a cobble, streams, and a view of the Housatonic River when the leaves are off, and it is home to many rare and interesting plants and animals.

Thanks to enthusiastic volunteers, the Land Trust has already made headway on cutting back barberry, bittersweet, and other invasive vegetation that has moved into the property over recent decades. The organization has been awarded a grant from the MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program to continue that work and to improve habitat for wildlife. The grant will reimburse the Land Trust for up to $15,632 after the work has been completed later this year.

People who are interested in protecting this unique land as a community resource can send a donation to the Sheffield Land Trust to help repay the loan. Checks should be mailed to P.O. Box 940, Sheffield, MA 10257, with a memo saying “Ashley Falls Woods.” Contributions can also be made online at www.sheffieldland. org.

Because of the success of the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund Challenge, the Land Trust is also looking for people who are interested in helping to establish a new Challenge with leadership gifts. Anyone interested can write to the Land Trust at the address above or email or call (413) 229-0234.