Town protects 400 acres from development
By Doug Ireland
PLAISTOW — It may be more than 400 acres, but it’s still considered a hidden treasure. It is the town forest and it’s a treasure town officials hope will be around forever.
They received assurance last week that the forest won’t ever be clear cut or developed.
The town finalized an agreement with the Southeast Land Trust for a conservation easement that will help protect the forest for years to come.
“It is a big relief,” Conservation Commission Chairman Jill Senter said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a historic event for Plaistow. It’s also a big deal for Southern New Hampshire.”
That means there is no chance pieces of the forest, approximately two dozen parcels, would be dealt to developers looking to turn a profit.
“The town could sell it, but whoever buys it, can’t develop it,” Senter said. “You never know what foolish acts our forefathers could do.”
She spoke of the town’s decision in the 1960s to build a dump over an aquifer, not realizing the potential danger to a prime drinking water source.
“You never know what kind of misled mistakes could be made,” she said.
Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the conservation easement will go a long way to protecting a valuable resource and popular place for hiking and other recreational activities. There is a heron rookery in the forest, he said.
Voters backed the easement at Town Meeting, Fitzgerald said, agreeing to fund the additional costs for the preservation project. The remaining $36,231 is coming from the town, Senter said.
“It is really a gift the residents of Plaistow have bestowed upon the Merrimack Valley watershed,” Fitzgerald said. “I am extremely proud of the citizens of Plaistow for supporting this.”
He called the watershed one of the most “stressed” natural resources in the region. The forest is contiguous with the Hampstead and Atkinson town forests.
“This shines a bright light down the path of future sustainability,” Fitzgerald said. “It is really going to create a special place so people can enjoy the outdoors.”
Boy Scouts have made significant improvements to the forest over the years, he said, helping to establish trails.
The town is going one step further, restoring some trails and building a footbridge, among other work, Fitzgerald said. The work is funded through a $20,000 grant received this spring from the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails.
Efforts to protect the forest began several years ago, with the Conservation Commission and selectmen approaching the Southeast Land Trust in early 2012.
They worked together to acquire a $100,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental
Services for conservation and future expansion of the forest.
The money is being used to survey the property, purchase additional parcels, restore wetland areas and fund legal costs.
Some of the legal costs were incurred dealing with title deeds and clarifying ownership since many of the parcels were acquired through the previous owners’ nonpayment of property taxes.
Phil Auger, property manager for the Southeast Land Trust, praised Plaistow officials for taking action to protect the forest.
The land trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving a dwindling number of undeveloped properties in Rockingham County. The trust has protected more than 8,600 acres and holds more than 130 conservation easements.
“It’s a wonderful project,” Auger said. “It’s going to ensure that property is a town forest for all future generations of Plaistow residents.”
It was 1947. World War II had just ended. Veterans were returning home, communities like Rye were returning to normal, and Charles Rand, an unmarried man with deep roots in this classic coastal community probably didn’t even realize that in four short years, he’d be married. Charles came from a family that had understood the importance of forests to not only nature, but the economic value they provided to families and communities.
Now, nearly 70 years later, this love of family, land, and community will be furthered by a mother’s decision to honor her son and her husband through the gift of 100 acres to the Southeast Land Trust and the establishment of the Charles E. Rand Memorial Forest.
The Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire is pleased to announce that the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, known as LCHIP, unveiled the grant recipients for its 2013 grant round on Monday, January 6th 2014 and the Southeast Land Trust’s “Pawtuckaway to Great Bay” Project was awarded $400,000, the largest grant awarded in this grant round! With 75 applications requesting more than $7.0 million in funds this was a very competitive grant round for LCHIP.
The vision for linking and creating a connected corridor of conservation land from Pawtuckaway State Park to the Great Bay estuary was proposed by Southeast Land Trust’s Executive Director, Brian Hart, about seven years ago when he was studying maps of the region. Hart realized that all of the conservation work being done by the Southeast Land Trust, its conservation partners and the local towns was starting to make connections like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. “I could see that if we proactively worked with a number of willing landowners, we could make a ribbon of conserved land that would benefit wildlife and people,” said Hart. The landscape between Pawtuckaway and the Bay is still very much traditional New England, with a patchwork of farms interspersed amongst forests, wetlands, rivers and streams. Conserving this landscape benefits people by providing locally produced agricultural and forest products, opportunities for outdoor education and recreation, and natural land cover that protects drinking water supplies. Wildlife benefit by having large blocks of conserved forests that are connected, allowing them to move between for food, cover, and breeding ground.Read more: LCHIP Provides Support Connecting Pawtuckaway to Great Bay
Tucked in the northwest corner of Kingston is the 40 acre Rockrimmon State Forest, one of the smaller state forests in New Hampshire. From about 1928 to 1982 the State Forest, which includes the peak of the 308 foot tall Rockrimmon Hill, had an active fire tower. Now all that remains are some abutments, metal flanges, and a remarkable view. Surrounding Rockrimmon State Forest is a contiguous block of undeveloped forest in Kingston and Danville that is habitat for several rare species, the site of numerous vernal pools, and wetlands that provide valuable waterfowl habitat.
The Southeast Land Trust has partnered with the Town of Kingston on creating a nearly 170 acre town owned forest that will be available for the enjoyment of generations to come. After overwhelming support at the 2013 Town Meeting, where the Kingston voters agreed to spend up to $424,000 on the Rockrimmon Project, the Land Trust secured contracts on 5 tracts totaling 181 acres. One of the landowners generously agreed to donate their property and another agreed to sell at less than its fair market value. Thanks to the support of the Town of Kingston, the generosity of the landowners, and funding from a variety of sources including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Piscataqua Regional Estuaries Project, and mitigation funds approve by the NHDES, the bulk of the tracts will be conserved in October with a conservation easement from the Town of Kingston to the Land Trust to be conveyed by the end of the year.
Look for an upcoming opportunity to rock around with us at Rockrimmon and explore the great habitats and views on from Rockrimmon State Forest.
The Southeast Land Trust is partnering with the Town of Exeter’s Conservation Commission to conserve the 34-acre Elliott parcel as an addition to the Oaklands Town Forest. The “Growing Oaklands – Our Forest Our Trails” initiative has raised the final $37,000 needed to complete the acquisition. Thank you to all the generous donors who contributed to this project!
Read more: Growing Oaklands
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