In 2021, the Kestrel Land Trust approached the Conservation Commission with a unique opportunity to acquire a new conservation area in the southern part of town, where no other Town-owned open spaces exist. The proposed new conservation area is a 34-acre wooded lot with wetlands and a historic mill structure. It contains the headwaters of Amethyst Brook. The parcel is of high conservation value and provides habitat connectivity with other open spaces in the area. By acquiring it, the Town will be able to protect this lovely and environmentally sensitive area and develop it for public access and passive recreation.
Ordinarily, it is challenging to assemble a funding package quickly enough to secure a property that is on the market. Kestrel Land Trust was able to facilitate the Town getting almost $200,000 in federal Forest Legacy Program funding to offset the cost of the property. Kestrel Land Trust has generously donated time and expense to manage this acquisition on behalf of the Town, including temporarily purchasing the land and donating the due diligence and closing costs. Part of the Town funding for this property will come from the Conservation Trust Fund, an account under the Conservation Commission's control that can only be used for land acquisitions. The last land acquisition was the South Brook Conservation Area purchase in 1999.
In 2022, the Annual Town Meeting approved a warrant article to appropriate $45,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the purchase. These CPA funds were earmarked for open space preservation. The Conservation Commission also approved using $20,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund.
A condition of the CPA is that whoever holds the deed for land purchased through this funding must grant a Conservation Restriction to another qualifying entity. A Conservation Restriction or CR is a legal document that spells out who manages the property and how it can be used, ensuring that it is permanently preserved for open space and passive recreation. In June 2022, the Conservation Commission approved a draft CR document giving the CR to Kestrel Land Trust with the Conservation Commission to manage the property for the Town.
The creative combination of funding sources and the generosity of the Kestrel Land Trust makes this acquisition a very rare and valuable opportunity. Due to this one-time-only federal grant and private donations from Kestrel Land Trust, the combined Town match (CPA funds + Conservation Commission funds) consists of only approximately 25% of the total acquisition cost. The Conservation Commission and Open Space Committee support this land acquisition which will provide much-desired passive recreation access in the southern portion of the town where residents can enjoy the natural environment year-round!
2023 Updates: the Town has signed a contract agreement to receive the Forest Legacy Program funding and is awaiting the transfer of the grant funds later this month. The closing for the acquisition is scheduled for the end of January 2023. Upon the advice of Town Counsel, two warrant articles were submitted to a January 19, 2023, Special Town Meeting to approve the final purchase and the awarding of the Conservation Restriction to Kestrel Land Trust. An overwhelming majority approved the purchase and CR!
The state has approved the Conservation Restriction, and it is now in the process of being executed.
The original 2022 CPA proposal included $5,000 from CPA funds earmarked for recreation to develop a parking area on Pelham Hill Road. In 2023-2024, the Commission hopes to complete the parking lot construction and begin the trail development process.
For more information:
Landowner Agreement with Kestrel Land Trust, November, 2022. Agreement was required by the Forest Legacy Program.