The unveiling of the Pencil Factory Site Educational Kiosk, located at Acton's Nashoba Brook Conservation Area, was held on Saturday June 2, and despite the heavy rain was well attended by about 45 hardy souls in rain parkas and umbrellas. Those organizations represented included Acton's Land Stewardship Committee, insturmental in bringing the project to completion; Jeff LeBlanc, the Eagle Scout who built the beautifully-designed for-sided structure with roof and surrounding bench; Betty Bayard of Lowell, the great granddaughter of Ebenezer Wood whose 19th century pencil factory originally occupied the site, and representatives of various town committees and organizations.
The project was a collaborative one between the Boy Scouts, the Land Stewardship Committee, the stat's Department of Environmental Management's Greenways and Trails Demonstration Grant Program, which supplied the $2,500 grant for the design and fabrication of the weather- and vanday-proof educational panels, and the town's Natural Resources office. The texts of the panels were developed by members of the Stewardship Committee, the artwork completed by Tom Tidman, natural resources director, and the artist Dick Watson, design and layout of the panels by Handcock Design, and mounting of panels and frames by other committee members.
Each panel discusses a different topic. The first in a sequence moving around the kiosk, highlights the history of pencil making in the Concord-Acton area, with special attention to Ebenezer Wood, who used the site to grind graphite and manufacture pencils during the mid-19th century. These were the first American "lead"pencils. The next panel is devoted to a brief history of water-powered mills along Nashoba Brook and the dirrerent kinds of early mills (grist, saw, fulling, and carding). A third panel discusses the riverine ecology of the Nashoba Brook and its surrounding wetlands, including some of the flora and fauna. A fourth panel presents some natural and human history about the associated uplands, including geological features, pre-historical structures, and later human uses such as farming.
The project is the first of its kind in Acton, not only for the collaboration of orgainzations, and for the beautiful result, but also because it highlights the relationship between the natural environment along the Nashoba Brook and an earlier phase of Acton's history during which industrial development took place in North Acton, where water history, industrial development, and conservation all come together in a dramatic way. Access to the site is from Davis Road, off Route 2A, or from Wheeler Lane, off Route 27.