It’s been a satisfying year for the Ashby Land Trust. We have been making steady progress on each of the goals outlined at last year’s first Annual Meeting. These goals are land protection, public education and recreation, land stewardship, and building the organization.
In the area of land preservation, we reached our goal of ensuring the protection of 200 acres this year. The Ashby Land Trust holds the Conservation Restriction on the 12 acres of protected fields on South Road formerly owned by Klaus and Andrea Kater. Although this is a relatively small amount of acreage, this land is highly visible as an active hay field in the town center. It contributes mightily to the rural character and working landscape of Ashby.
Also, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) had been negotiating with the owner of the Chiachia Family Trust over the purchase of 186 acres off Wares Road. This land abuts State owned land in Ashby and Townsend. Negotiations had reached a financial stalemate and the purchase was foundering when two Land Trust families stepped in and contributed the difference that made the difference. The gap was closed and the State purchased the land. We extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the anonymous donors who made this happen.
We have also begun a separate land acquisition fund to be used for the purchase of property or restrictions. The fund currently holds $2600.
This year the Land Trust co-sponsored two informational programs. One, a panel presentation on Chapter 61a and 61b, was co-sponsored by the Ashby Open Space Committee. In November, George Dresser Esq presented a workshop on “Conservation Options for Landowners”. The Nashua River Watershed Association co-sponsored this event with us. Both these programs were well attended and informative.
Our very enjoyable monthly hikes have continued through 2000. Groups of varying sizes have explored land around lower Wrights pond, Damon (Great) Meadow, Blood Hill, Jewell Hill and Caton Hill. The hikes range from one to three hours in length and are a friendly way to experience beautiful places in Ashby and learn more about our natural environment.
The Land Trust and Conservation Commission sponsored a trail building day on the Morrison property, located off Rt. 119 near Flint Road in July. This land was donated to the town in 1999, with the Conservation Restriction held by the Land Trust. We made a pleasant trail back into the property, complete with two boardwalks over the sphagnum moss swamp for an up close look at a lovely wetland. Thanks to Land Trust member Jim Stacy for constructing these boardwalks. We were really proud of our work at the end of the morning.
We conducted our first monitoring visit on the Morrison Property in the fall. The boundaries were still clearly marked and free of encroachments, but our beautiful trail was in real trouble! Our sturdy boardwalks looked more like rafts in a pond than paths over swamp. Sure enough the beavers were busily improving the landscape, and they’re probably enjoying their new manmade islands very much. People certainly can’t reach them!
Land Stewardship continues to be a priority area for the Board. We are developing procedures for the systematic monitoring of the land we are responsible for. We plan twice yearly formal visits to protected properties to ensure that the terms of the Conservation Restrictions are being honored. We have also begun a land stewardship fund for enforcement in case of need and have earmarked $1000 to start, with a commitment to add to it every year.
We published two newsletters during the year 2000, and have maintained our membership base. And we HAVE A LOGO! Although strictly speaking it will be included in our 2001 Annual Report, we spent much time in 2000 working with the designer, Ellen O’Brien from the Westborough Land Trust to have this ready to unveil at this Annual Meeting.
We are building a pool of knowledgeable professionals to assist us with our work as a Land Trust, from appraisers to tax attorneys. Members of the Board have also attended a variety of conferences and other training opportunities during the year.
The Board is pleased to announce to you that this week we passed a resolution to formally adopt the Standards and Practices put forth by the Land Trust Alliance, the national arm of the land trust movement. The Land Trust Standards and Practices are guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust—a land trust that operates legally, ethically, and in the public interest and that conducts a sound program of land transactions and stewardship.
We have ambitious plans for the Land Trust for 2001, and this is where you come in! The Board’s goals for this year are to continue working in the areas outlined above, land protection, public education and recreation, land stewardship, and building the organization. We will be continuing to sponsor hikes and informational programs, as well as one or two newsletters. We will be implementing our land monitoring procedures on protected properties, and seeking to protect another 200 acres of land.
In addition we have two new goals.
First, we wish to begin creating a strong sub-committee structure for accomplishing the work of the organization. We will be starting with land monitoring teams, but have our sights set on committees to address a variety of other functions such as programs and recreation, member services, and trail building and mapping. Board members will head the committees with help from other Land Trust members who wish to become involved.
Second, we wish to establish an endowment fund to ensure that the work of preserving and protecting land will continue for as long as necessary. All of these goals require the involvement of people who care about open land, clean water, and conservation. Luckily we have such a group here, and look forward to working together to make our ideas real.
Finally, I would like to thank the current Board for their work this year. Special thanks to outgoing Board Member Judy Sumner for her service and for being our Secretary this year. You are a great team.