Dinah Rowbotham, Land Protection Program Assistant
Three land protection projects featured on this blog, our project in Norfolk, the Valencia project, and the Almy project, have closed and are now permanently protected! To refresh your memory on which land parcels I’m referring to, here’s a quick run-down on how these three projects enhance Mass Audubon’s sanctuary system:
Our project in Norfolk has brought 7 additional acres to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. The land was given to us by the developer of an adjacent parcel, who was motivated by the Planning Board and their new Open Space Subdivision rules. The newly protected land is upland pine-oak woods which partly surround Bristol Pond.
The Valencia project was a gift of 0.70 acres of wetlands mostly surrounded by Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. The parcel was created when a house was built on an adjacent lot, and this piece was left over as a remnant. The little parcel of land fits beautifully into our sanctuary, and we’re very grateful that it’s former owner donated it to become permanently protected habitat.
Lastly, the Almy project is a new 5.7-acre conservation restriction adjacent to Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The protected land consists of upland pasture that was identified as a priority for protection by Mass Audubon in our sanctuary protection plan and consists of both high quality habitat and a scenic landscape.
We’ve made good progress lately on several projects reported on in recent months:
Western Mass Electric Company. On Monday evening the Agawam City Council voted unanimously to approve these two conservation restrictions, totaling 65 acres at two sites, following Conservation Commission approval in late March. Western Mass. Electric is working to wrap up a few final permitting issues with the Corps of Engineers and the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, with hopes of completing the process and conveying the conservation restrictions this summer and initiating construction in the fall. Our crew heads out next Wednesday to gather baseline documentation (pictures, GPS locations of boundary points, etc.) that will help our stewardship staff monitor the property going forward.
Almy Property. This 5.7-acre conservation restriction nestled against Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Dartmouth and other protected land will be placed on record any day now. The CR has been approved by the Dartmouth Select Board and by the state’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and is awaiting the blessing of the Dartmouth Planning Board as part of the Board’s approval of the family’s 3-lot Open Space Residential Design subdivision.
Valencia Property. The gift of this 2/3-acre bit of wetland surrounded on three sides by our Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester is a couple of steps closer to completion. Earlier this month I walked the property with Deb Cary and Martha Gach from the sanctuary staff as part of our routine evaluation of any contamination risk from oil or hazardous waste. The property passed with flying colors and we had a nice conversation with one of our prospective neighbors to boot. A draft purchase-and-sale agreement is circulating.
Above: Mass Audubon staff Deb Cary and Martha Gach on the proposed Valencia gift.
This past year Mass Audubon has been working with the Almy family to preserve 5.7 acres of upland pasture overlooking our Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dartmouth. The property is part of a 10+ acre lot on Horseneck Road where the family has always planned to build three family homes.
The houses could have been accommodated in what’s called a “conventional subdivision”, in which a new cul-de-sac off Horseneck Road would create frontage and provide access to the new house sites, but would have destroyed the landscape in the process. In an example of a growing trend towards more sensitive subdivision design, the Almys are taking advantage of an innovative provision in Dartmouth’s zoning called “Open Space Residential Design”, in which the subdivision design process emphasizes landscape, open space and sensitive environmental features first, and then addresses how to fit appropriate development into that context.
In this instance, the Almys and the town agreed to cluster the house sites near Horseneck Road and to dedicate the rear 5.7 acres, adjacent to the sanctuary and another conservation restriction, as permanent open space. The conservation restriction, which will forever protect the property and will be given to Mass Audubon, is currently under review by the town, with hopes for a closing by spring.
A few would-be beneficiaries of a new conservation restriction in Dartmouth.