The Board of Directors of the Ashby Land Trust is pleased to offer this Annual Report to our membership and friends.
Certainly at the top of the list of accomplishments for this year is the protection of 171 acres of Blood Hill through a Conservation Restriction placed on the property before its sale to the Town. The work on the Conservation Restriction and the purchase and sale agreement happened concurrently, as the timelines were very tight. The process was fully engaging right up to the filing and purchase on May 31, 2001. Land Trust Board members worked with town officials, the North County Land Trust, and the State Division of Conservation Services (DCS) as well as the owners to craft a conservation document that would best meet the requirements of all parties. The value of a conservation restriction to protect a piece of property over the long-term cannot be overstated. Mrs. Adell Wiita was committed to protecting her property in its natural state and chose this tool to accomplish her goals. Although the Town has owned the land for less than a year, officials have already been approached by people exploring the possibilities of using the property for purposes incompatible with the owner’s intentions. This kind of pressure is common, but because of the conservation restriction the Wiita Conservation Land will remain just that.
The dedication of the Wiita Conservation Land on a brisk day in October was a festive event attended by many townspeople and state and local officials.
In addition to our work on this project, the Board was active with a number of public programs and activities this year. We sponsored an informational presentation on forest management by Cynthia Wood of the New England Forestry Foundation. The field trip that followed really illustrated the differences between excellent and terrible forest management practices! The Land Trust had a table at the October pumpkin festival for the first time. Although the fierce wind kept the number of visitors down, we felt it was a good environment for talking to many people and will do it again next year. During this year Land Trust members received a newsletter and the 2000 Annual Report. We didn’t sponsor as many hikes as last year, but they’ll be back in 2002. Several members of the Board of Directors attended local land trust conferences and seminars that have been very helpful in our work.
The ongoing work of the Board has focused on our stewardship and monitoring responsibilities. We have our monitoring procedures and forms in order. Monitoring of the Morrison property has continued. The beavers are happily ensconced in their home, just as busy as their reputation. If you would like to witness an ongoing beaver designed landscaping project we encourage you to visit the property. The land can be found on the right side of Route 119 near Flint Road. We are currently working on the baseline documentation for the Wiita Conservation Land and assembling a team for ongoing monitoring.
As many of you know, there is an ongoing effort by the State and the towns of Ashby and Ashburnham to purchase the old Watatic Ski Area. One of the advantages of a private Land Trust is our ability to move more quickly than a public body when the need arises. A formal appraisal was needed for the mountain land in order to allow negotiations to proceed. Neither the state nor the municipalities were able to generate the necessary funds to cover this cost, so the Land Trust Board of Directors voted to authorize $5000 for the appraisal. We based our decision on three main points. One, the results of the Opens Space and Recreation survey showed that preservation of Mt. Watatic was a top priority of Ashby residents, a position that has been supported by two Town Meeting votes. Two, negotiations with the owners of the mountain were steadily progressing through a written Memorandum of Understanding and beyond. The information we had received from the chief negotiator and her team made us confident that there was a realistic possibility of reaching a purchase and sale agreement within the timeline. And finally, we didn’t want the possibility of purchasing the mountain to be dashed because of the lack of funding for an appraisal. As of the writing of this report, we still haven’t come to the end of the process, but we believe that preservation of the mountain makes sense in the larger scheme of things and we will continue efforts in that direction.
Our goals for 2002 are to protect 100 more acres of land, primarily through the application of conservation restrictions. We have more work to do developing our monitoring teams and moving on from there with our subcommittee structure. Members can expect to see the newsletters continue, our way of keeping you up to date with the Trust. We have several interesting public programs in mind for 2002 and look forward to inform and engage you in the preservation of our rural environment. As ever, we are interested in including those of you who would like to become more active in this work. Contact any of the Directors and we would be happy to talk with you about getting involved.
I would especially like to thank the current Board of Directors for their efforts and teamwork this year. Much appreciation goes to outgoing Board member Mike Travis whose early work in the Land Trust was critical to its formation.