Carriage Towne News
DURHAM - The Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire, in partnership with the Town of Plaistow, was recently awarded a $100,000 Aquatic Resource Mitigation (ARM) Grant from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) to support the permanent protection and enlargement of the Plaistow Town Forest. The grant will be used to complete a two year project that will place a conservation easement on the Plaistow Town Forest, acquire adjacent undeveloped land, and restore damaged trails on the property. The Plaistow Town Forest grant was one of 7 projects funded in the Merrimack River Watershed in which a total of $2.2 million in funding was available.
Jill Senter Chairperson of Plaistow’s Conservation Commission stated that “She is very excited about the grant. The Town Forest is the largest piece of land that the town owns and the Commission has been working on protecting it for several years. The Commission has been working with Southeast Land Trust on placing the forest in a Conservation Easement, and the money received from the grant will go a long way in helping to complete this project. The support of Southeast Land Trust, the Board of Selectmen and the residents of Plaistow makes it possible for the Commission to conserve this valuable piece of land.”
Phil Auger from the Southeast Land Trust recently added that “The ARM Grant will assure that what is already one of one of the best Town Forests in southeastern New Hampshire, will be improved and permanently conserved. People in Plaistow and surrounding communities have enjoyed this property and its many miles of trails for years. Now the land and what it offers will be preserved as open space and guaranteed to be available to future generations.”
The ARM Program was established by DES in 2006 to compensate for wetland losses due to construction projects, development and other projects that are not able to provide other forms of wetland mitigation. Funds are allocated through a competitive grant process that is made available to qualifying land conservation organizations and communities by the corresponding watershed in which the original wetland impacts occurred. Grant applications are reviewed by US Army Corps of Engineers and the NH Wetlands Council.
In early 2012, the Plaistow Conservation Commission and Plaistow’s Board of Selectmen approached the Southeast Land Trust to help the community through the process of permanently conserving the Town Forest with the ultimate goal of placing a conservation easement on the land. Plaistow’s Board of Selectmen supported the project, in part, because of a detailed study of Town owned lands that had recently been evaluated by the Plaistow First Committee. The Southeast Land Trust was chosen because of its long experience in the region and it had recently completed a similar project with the Kingston on its Town Forest properties.
When the project began it was soon discovered that the Plaistow Town Forest is actually made up of approximately 20 parcels that have been accumulated though the years by the town. A number of these parcels were taken by tax default were never surveyed, a number have complicated deed records and several abutting parcels were identified that would be desirable to add to the total forest acreage. In addition, past ATV and heavy recreational use on the forest trails caused significant damage that needs restoration.
The ARM grant will be used along with the Plaistow Conservation Fund monies to pay for costs associated with clarifying ownership, surveying, legal fees, the acquisition of several parcels and five wetland restoration sites. The Plaistow Town Forest project will be permanently conserved and will remain available to people in the region for passive recreation opportunities. The Plaistow Town Forest is the largest portion of an unfragmented block of land that encompasses more than 490 acres in Plaistow and connects to other private and town owned conservation lands in Atkinson and Hampstead. These include an extensive network of properties owned the Town of Hampstead along Kelly/Darby Brook to the north, the abutting 50 acre Duston conservation easement held by the Land Trust, and a number of small parcels owned by and within the Town of Atkinson to the west. Conservation of the Plaistow Town Forest will assure that nearly all of the uppermost Kelly/Darby Brook drainage is protected and that the land will remain as it has for generations – a place to walk, hunt, observe wildlife and practice forest and wildlife habitat management.
Sean Fitzgerald, Plaistow’s Town Manager, stressed the importance of the water resource challenges facing Plaistow. “As one of only two municipalities in New Hampshire that does not have a pond or water body sufficient for a water reservoir, the Town of Plaistow faces significant water resources challenges. This grant will ensure that these incredibly rich environmentally and water rich resource areas will be available to support future water resource needs for the Town, said Fitzgerald.
For more information about the Southeast Land Trust or to become a member contact the organization at its office in Exeter, NH at 778-6088 or visit the web site at http://seltnh.org.