In 1970, residents concerned about the accelerating pace of development in Orleans founded OCT as a nonprofit membership organization. They aimed to preserve the beauty and seaside charm of Orleans by acquiring and holding lands in their natural state.

Who were those founders? Our original Declaration of Trust begins: “Malcolm M. Dickinson, Osborne Earle, Reginald L. Higgins, Malcolm R. Hobbs, Arthur B. Nichols, Laurin C. Peterson and Orin Tovrov, all of Orleans in the County of Barnstable and Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” agreed that they and future trustees would hold gifted properties and other assets “for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the Town of Orleans.”

They were active Orleans citizens with diverse backgrounds and callings: a corporate executive, a college professor, a television writer, a newspaperman, and more. But they had in common a great love for this place and the vision to recognize that what they loved—the “beaches, meadows, woodlands, marshlands” and other undeveloped areas—needed looking after, so that they and all who followed could continue to enjoy these treasures.

Over time they were joined by scores of other Orleanians who donated land or sold it to the Trust for less than its market worth, or placed conservation restrictions on their properties. And by hundreds who have joined OCT as members, walked our trails, attended our talks, and voted at OCT meetings.

A half-century after its founding, the Trust stewards more than 660 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and shorelines for the benefit of our town and our cherished coastal environment. Building on our original mission to protect open space for habitat and recreation, the Trust’s work today also helps our community adapt to the changing climate. We create and maintain trails for all to enjoy, lead guided walks, and put on programs where people get a deeper understanding of the place where they live.

We still have an active Board of Trustees, and a small, hard-working staff as well. In 2016, the Trust acquired its own headquarters on well-traveled South Orleans Road (Route 28), where we welcome members and visitors, host events, train volunteers, and do our land-saving work.

In 2020 OCT celebrated its fiftieth anniversary as the land-preserving organization of Orleans.

Our Mission

The Orleans Conservation Trust protects and restores natural lands — for people and wildlife, the health of our waters, and the character of our community.

A private nonprofit organization, the Trust acquires and manages land to enhance habitat, provides opportunities for learning and for enjoying nature, promotes sound conservation practices, and works with landowners who wish to conserve property.

Trust and Town

Orleans Conservation Trust is a private nonprofit organization. We are not part of Orleans town government—though we are sometimes confused with the Town of Orleans Conservation Commission, which advises on natural-resource regulatory matters, manages town-owned conservation land, and issues permits under the Wetlands Protection Act. OCT does collaborate with the town on some projects (see Partners), but depends entirely on the generosity of community members and private organizations for funding.

“I think Father’s interest in conservation came from seeing some great areas, and great views, fall to development. . . . The fact that the Trust is strong and healthy today is a good indication of the importance of saving what so many people came to Orleans for—a place that still has room for undisturbed nature.”

—John Tovrov, about Orin Tovrov’s legacy of conservation