FREMONT —On April 2, the Town of Fremont purchased 76 acres of undeveloped land from Richard and Robert Smith. The Smiths, who inherited the land from their grandfather, turned down offers from developers, wanting to see the property conserved and enjoyed by residents of the surrounding communities. The newly acquired land is a mixture of forest and wetlands and provides an important upland buffer for the Spruce Swamp. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests assisted with the acquisition and will hold the Conservation Easement that insures that the property will be held permanently in conservation.
The purchase and protection of this property has been made possible with support from the State Conservation Committee grant program through the sale of Conservation License Plates (Moose Plates), the state’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), and several private foundations including: the Cricket Foundation, the Davis Conservation Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation and the William P. Wharton Trust. The Fremont Conservation Commission would like to thank each of these funders for their assistance with this project.
Spruce Swamp and its surrounding forest are one of the few wilderness areas remaining in southern New Hampshire. The Swamp is an 824 acre fen (a type of wetland) nestled in a 1706 acre forest that is not segmented by roads and buildings. This forest and wetland combination is one of the highest quality wildlife habitats in the state and is dependent on the health of the surrounding uplands like the newly acquired Smith property. Without the surrounding forest to provide and protect a reliable flow of clean, acidified ground water, the Swamp will die, or at least become a much more common meadow.
Thirteen species of plants and animals of greatest conservation concern in New Hampshire live here. This includes one threatened and at least four endangered species. Spruce Swamp shelters many shrubs at the extreme northern limit of their range, including sweet pepperbush. The sweet pepperbush dominates a remarkable 200-acre plant sub-community that is one step from being considered an imperiled community type in New Hampshire.
The Smith property forest has diverse habitat. It provides a variety of pinecones, nuts, seeds, and berries which are important food for wildlife. There are vernal pools located throughout providing homes for amphibians and food for turtles. Evidence of deer and moose has been found. Loon and great blue heron have been spotted nearby. Along the northern border of the forest are many dense shrub thickets that provide shelter for birds. Biologists have identified 104 animal and 152 plant species within the abutting town forest. It is expected that many of these will be found on the Smith parcel as well.
Away from the edges and into the center of the property, the trees are old growth; they have not been harvested for 100 years. There are a few that have not been harvested for 120 years. There are indications that a small amount of wood has been taken out, probably for firewood. The trees in this area are similar in size and therefore similar in age. The property has large oak trees that probably date from the very early 1900s. A large red pine was found. Red pines are extremely rare in southern NH. In addition, a 120-year-old white pine was found on the property. The 1938 hurricane blew down many trees in NH forests. There is no evidence that the Smith property was hard hit by this hurricane of 1938. The area has not been lumbered in the recent past. It is known that Glen Oakes and the Smith property were both open pasture in the past. The terrain is too rocky for growing crops. The stone walls were likely animal pens, pasture fences, and garden walls.
The newly acquired property abuts the Glen Oakes Town Forest. Glen Oakes has about 2.5 miles of signed and marked trails making for a great leisurely walk. A trail guide is available both at the Glen Oakes kiosk or on the Fremont town website; http://fremontnh.vt-s.net/Pages/FremontNH_Bcomm/OpenSpace/forest.
In the future, this trail system will be expanded, accessing the "Smith" property, and providing additional opportunities for low impact recreational activities.
Glen Oakes and the Smith property forest are important assets helping to protect the water quality and quantity of the aquifers underlying the area that recharge more than 676 wells of the surrounding residents as well as the Swamp. NH DES has been keeping track of new wells since 1984. It is likely that there are even more since those built before1984 were not tracked.
The Fremont Conservation Commission would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations that joined efforts to ensure the land’s protection. A special thanks goes out to:
- Mike Speltz of The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests – who guided the project from start to finish
- Robert and Richard Smith: Who inherited this land from their grandfather and turned down offers from developers in order to preserve it.
- Janice O’Brien: Committed conservation commissioner and open space committee member who led the project over seven years.
- Bill Knee: Biologist and teacher who told the Spruce Swamp story in words, pictures, and rigorous data.
- Jack Karcz: Long-time chair of the conservation commission who shepherded the town through a process that led from a prime wetland study to conservation success.
- Heidi Carlson: Fremont town administrator who shepherded the project to closing despite town budget season and a nasty virus.
- Pat deBeer: Who applied for and secured several grants to help finance the project.
- The Fremont Selectmen who supported the project.
For additional information about conservation efforts in Fremont or the Fremont Town Forests please contact Meredith Bolduc, Land Use Administrative Assistant at 603-895-3200 x17 or see the Conservation Commission page on the Town of Fremont website: http://www.fremont.nh.gov/Pages/FremontNH_Bcomm/Conservation/Index