If a legal fight were to ensue over the property in Bournedale that has been slated for the Bourne Development Campus, it would not be the first time local and state interests clashed over property owned by the Ingersoll family.
The family’s matriarch, Hope G. Ingersoll, waged an epic, 25-year court fight with the state aimed at protecting the family’s farm from falling victim to the state’s plans to build a new highway.
The new roadway would have cut right through the family’s 900-acre Grazing Fields Farm.
In 1957, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works approved preliminary plans to complete Route 25’s final run to the Bourne Bridge via the MA 25 Expressway, which aimed to connect I-95 in Foxboro with Cape Cod.
The plan was to run the highway right through the Ingersolls’ working farm in Bournedale. Grazing Fields Farm had been in Ms. Ingersoll’s family since 1906. It had begun as a dairy farm but Ms. Ingersoll converted it to an all-purpose farm, known for its organic produce and its artists’ colony, which was even visited by noted American humorist and author Mark Twain.
The state‘s goal was to make the drive to Cape Cod quicker, allowing motorists to skirt a 7.5-mile strip of Routes 6-28 in Wareham. But to build the highway, the state needed to cut straight through the Ingersolls’ farm.
In a 1982 New York Times interview, Ms. Ingersoll said the plan was to build the road 17 feet in the air, right through the farm’s pasture and alfalfa field, near the barn.
She said she was concerned about the highway’s effect on the 900-acre farm where her family milks cows, cut hay and raises ponies, sheep, cattle and chickens.
“It would spoil the peace, the beauty, the whole atmosphere of the place. I don’t want to impede progress. But I don’t want to ruin the farm,” she said.
With her land threatened, Ms. Ingersoll spent the next two and a half decades fighting the Massachusetts Department of Public Works over the proposed expressway.
She hired engineers and presented an alternative plan, which arced the expressway north and east of her land. The plan, which cost $100,000 of her own money, was rejected by the state DPW in 1978.
The state said its original plan was safer, less expensive, and more direct.
Ms. Ingersoll persevered, and her cause was boosted by the early environmental movement and helped by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1980, a judge ruled that the state had to draft a new environmental impact statement that included Ms. Ingersoll’s alternative plan.
Two years later, the state accepted Ms. Ingersoll’s proposed alternative route that ran the expressway along the north and east perimeters of her farm.
Ms. Ingersoll’s alternative route took 90 acres of her land, impacting significantly less the original proposal, for which the state offered to pay $300,000. However, in 1987, a Massachusetts Superior Court jury awarded the Ingersoll family $2.6 million for the land.
At the time of her death in 2001 at the age of 96, Ms. Ingersoll donated a 150-acre buffer, which included fields, woodlands and two ponds, to The Wildlands Trust of southeastern Massachusetts.
In 1985, Ms. Ingersoll was the first recipient of the “Good Egg” Award from the New Alchemy Institute of Hatchville, in recognition of her quarter-century battle with the state to protect her land. The award recognizes “a person or group that has done something particularly splendid in stewardship of the earth.” In 1987, she received a commendation from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions for her outstanding work in environmental affairs
In the New York Times interview, Ms. Ingersoll mentioned that her family has always been concerned with protecting their land, to the point that they never used pesticides as part of their farming. She also commented on her lengthy legal battle and said she believes you can fight city hall.
“But you’ve got to have a lot of persistence, and help—and luck,” she said.