Sutton State Forest – Sutton MA

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Sutton State Forest is located in Sutton, Massachusetts. Portions of the forest area were owned by the state of Massachusetts prior to the creation of the New Deal programs, but the Civilian Conservation Corps made large scale improvements to it. Sutton State Forest is most well-known for Purgatory Chasm, a natural rock feature, and Purgatory Chasm State Reservation is located within the boundaries of Sutton State Forest. However, Purgatory Chasm had already been transformed into a sightseeing destination in the early 1900s, so the CCC did not work on that attraction.

CCC Camp S-84 came to the forest in the fall of 1935 and left in the spring of 1936. In that year, they did trail building, forest inventory, fire protection, and other forestry work. These projects could include collecting information in order to better sustain the ecosystem, fighting or preventing fires, and other work designated to conserve the forests. One significant accomplishment was to control invasive species, such as the gypsy moth. The gypsy moth defoliates trees, specifically oak, which is native to the eastern part of the United States. It was a priority that the CCC controlled this species in the Sutton State Forest as well as other forests in the United States.

Another significant accomplishment was the construction of the Little Purgatory Trail. This trail connects Purgatory Road to Mendon Road. This trail was designed as a truck trail, but with the condition it is in now, it used primarily for recreational hiking. The trail has many roots and large rocks on it, making it unable to be driven on but perfect for walking. At the Sutton State Forest, the CCC also built a bridge at the nearby Purgatory Brook which remains partially in tact, as well as a few water drainage structures. The Little Purgatory Trail is approximately .25 miles long and distinguished with green markers in the Sutton State Forest. The woods around the trail are dense, and there are only a few marked trails in the entire State Forest.

The main recreational attraction in the Sutton State Forest is Purgatory Chasm. Purgatory Chasm was established by the state of Massachusetts in 1919. The area was formed by glaciers and then the state worked on it to make it a recreational site by adding a pavilion and picnic tables. The CCC, however, completed their work in the area surrounding Purgatory Chasm.

Compared to other sites, the CCC did work at Sutton State Forest for an extended period of time. This could be for a couple of reasons, but primarily due to the fact that the county had already completed extensive work to Purgatory Chasm in the early 1900s. In general, Sutton State Forest is conserved in its natural state. Low impact recreation and wildlife preservation are encouraged in the forest. However, the work of the CCC remains one of the most well-used and well-marked trails in the forest.

Source notes

Berg, Shary Page. The Civilian Conservation Corps: Shaping the Forests and Parks of Massachusetts: A Statewide Survey of Civilian Conservation Corps Resources. Internet Archive. 1999. (Accessed May 9, 2016).
“CCC Work in Massachusetts Forests and Parks.” Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. 2016. (Accessed May 9, 2016).
Liebhold, Sandy. “Gypsy Moth in North America.” US Forest Service. October 2003. (Accessed May 9, 2016).
"Purgatory Chasm State Reservation” Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. (Accessed May 9, 2016).
“Sutton State Forest.” Sutton, Mass. (Accessed May 6, 2016).

Project originally submitted by Koree Stockwell on December 20, 2016.

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Location Info

Purgatory Road
Sutton, MA 01590

Coordinates: 42.1366611, -71.7176893

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