With names like Dead Pond and Rocky Ridge, one would not think these places would be ecological hotspots of southeastern New Hampshire. But in fact these desolate sounding places, located adjacent to the remnants of an ancient volcano named Pawtuckaway Mountain, thrive with rare and unusual species.
And now, thanks to a generous donation, the land adjacent to these unique places is conserved and owned by the Southeast Land Trust. In November 2011, Marguerite Swain and her daughter Deb Fexis completed the permanent protection of their family land by donating the fee interest in the property to the Southeast Land Trust. The 89-acre property will be named the Howard Swain Memorial Forest, in honor of Marguerite’s late husband, who cobbled together the property from extended family members during the 1970s.
Marguerite explained that, “As a youngster Howard and his father spent a great deal of time enjoying this land and Pawtuckaway Park, including backpacking and camping with some of his friends on this land, even in his later years. This land has always been “just special” to Howard and to me as well.”
“It was what he wanted for the land that inspired us to place the land under a Wetlands Reserve Program easement in the first place, and that ultimately led us to the Southeast Land Trust,” explains Deb Fexis, the Swains’ daughter. “I know my dad felt there are far too few places that have not been touched by building and development, and he wanted to help keep those few places as they are.”
Earlier in the year Marguerite and Deborah did just that by selling an easement on the property to the US Natural Resources Conservation Service, through its Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property with the goal of establishing long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection. Due to its ecological resources, unique wetlands systems, and adjacency to already conserved land, being Pawtuckaway State Park, the property was selected from stiff competition. The WRP easement significantly restricts uses that impact the wetlands, soils, and natural resources of the land.
Once the land was protected, the Swains thought it made best sense for it to be owned by New Hampshire as part of Pawtuckaway State Park. However, despite the efforts of the Forest Society, the state refused to accept the donation due to the terms of the WRP easement. The Forest Society reached out to the Southeast Land Trust: would we be interested in accepting the fee interest in the land? The short answer was yes.
The Howard Swain Memorial Forest is rugged, with a thin, rocky soil and outcroppings of ledge throughout the property, a landscape more familiar to visitors to the White Mountains. The land is almost entirely forested except for the portion of the property that includes Dead Pond. Access to the property is from Deerfield, but the vast majority of the property lies within Nottingham. Licensed forester Charlie Moreno previously completed a management plan that ensures its most important portions are conserved while guiding sustainable forestry on remaining portions. The Land Trust intends to use that plan as a blueprint for its management and is considering how trails could link the land to the State Park.
Later this year, the Land Trust intends to install a sign formally naming the property and hosting another field trip to Dead Pond and Rocky Ridge, offering a different view of Pawtuckaway State Park. Look for the announcement on our Facebook page, website, or future newsletter!
In thinking over her decision to conserve the land and give it to the Land Trust, Marguerite reflected “I am so glad we have been able to do this and I know Howard would approve, too.” Thank you Marguerite and Deborah for entrusting the Land Trust with your family legacy!