History of Pipestave Hill

In 1972, West Newbury wisely purchased the former Cardinal Cushing Academy and 343 acres on both sides of Main Street for a million dollars. Known as Pipestave Hill for the barrel staves milled from the trees that grew there since colonial times, it gave the Town both its impressive Page Elementary School, a summer campsite, fields, forests and Mill Pond for recreational purposes. Additional land purchases added wooded and open acres stretching from the top of Archelaus Hill down to the Merrimack River.

Equestrians had been using the trails across that land for decades, as subscribers of the Myopia Hunt and members of the West Newbury Riding and Driving Club, founded in 1920. By the time of the Pipestave land purchase, the moribund WNRDC reorganized under the leadership of Jerry and MaryLee Mahoney, led the volunteer effort to create a desirable riding destination, erecting schooling and show rings, cross country jumps and a multi-use trail network serving all recreational interests. Fred Crafts, a Thoroughbred trainer who lived in town, was the first of many “trail angels” who bushwhacked, chain sawed and cleared miles of inviting trails. Old camp buildings were removed, the lumber repurposed into the first riding ring, and the Army Corps of Engineers provided labor and materials to grade the rings. WNRDC and Pentucket Pony Club volunteers, Morgan horse students from Orcland Farm, Myopia huntsmen, and weekend trail riders have rebuilt those rings, maintained the cross-country jumps, mowed and weed whacked faithfully for decades.

Organized ball sports families graded and developed multi-purpose fields adjoining the equestrian area for baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and flag football, leaving accessible trails into the protected woods and fields along their edges. 

Protected by a stringent Conservation Restriction held by Essex County Greenbelt, most of the Pipestave and Mill Pond land cannot be further developed. Essex County Trail Association, The WN Mill Pond Committee, WN Open Space Committee, WN Park and Rec Commission, and Conservation Commission all coordinate efforts to accommodate the walkers, families, cross-country runners, dog owners, paddlers, bicyclists, and equestrians who daily use the area, which is free and open to the public.

WNRDC volunteers and the WN DPW share in mowing and maintaining the area. Abutting Town parcels include the Dunn fields and woods, purchased for possible well sites and for “general municipal purposes”, the gorgeous Riverbend Conservation Area, and the newly purchased Sawmill Brook parcel. The entire Pipestave network showcases West Newbury’s beautiful trails, inspiring views, and water access.