The Amherst Land Trust has again come to the rescue of an organization hoping to buy land for preservation but finding itself short on funds.
The first time this happened was in 2007 when the Land Trust, with its mission to facilitate the preservation of land in Amherst and surrounding communities, helped the Mont Vernon Conservation Commission with legal and financial assistance that made possible the permanent protection of a 500-acre tract abutting Purgatory Brook.
Quick action by the Trust to acquire two vitally important parcels, known locally as the “Wah Lum Reserve,” forestalled a foreclosure auction and allowed the town of Mont Vernon time to raise the money to repay the Trust and assume ownership of the property.
“The land was literally going to auction on a Tuesday. The Conservation Commission came to us on a Sunday and we were able to pull the package together in two days,” said Amherst Land Trust board member Jim Hendrix.
One of the reasons that the Land Trust was able to make the sale so quickly is that it is a private organization and not a government agency.
“Some people would rather work with private organizations than go through the government’s process,” said Hendrix.
Now, five years later, The Trust finds itself confronting a similar proposition, but this time it’s for the Amherst Conservation Commission. After decades of on-again/off-again negotiations, the Commission has reached a sales agreement with the owners of two parcels in the Grater Woods area.
Acquisition of these properties is especially important because they would form a critical link in the greenway chain from Merrimack to Bedford through Amherst, officials say. The purchase is at the heart of the Grater Woods area and would tie together 100 conserved acres in Amherst with the already protected 500 acres in Merrimack.
The present land owners have set a purchase price of $105,000 for both parcels, payable by Dec. 15, but because of existing ongoing commitments, the Amherst Conservation Commission finds that it does not have enough money in reserve to meet this additional obligation.
This is where the Trust comes in. It is willing to put up the funds to ensure that the land goes into preservation to be used for recreation and education, but the cost will significantly drain its cash reserves, potentially jeopardizing future land protection opportunities.
To offset these costs, the Trust is conducting a fund-raising effort over the next two months to cover the purchase price by the Dec. 15 deadline.
“This is definitely part of the master plan,” explained Bruce Berkley, a Land Trust board member and alternate to the Conservation Commission. “We’re taking steps to preserve the rural culture of the town by making sure there is open space available for outdoor recreational and educational use.”
Environmentally, the area provides significant habitats critical to a number of species and contains a complex of interconnected ecological resources that support high biodiversity. The NH Department of Environmental Services listed the land as “Highest Ranked Wildlife Habitat in NH.”
Recreational opportunities also abound in the area, with stunning views to the west and southeast and 12 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
The Amherst Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) corporation. As such, gifts to the Land Trust are tax-deductible. To make a donation, please make checks payable to Amherst Land Trust PO Box 753, Amherst NH, 03031. For more information or to donate online, please go to AmherstLandTrust.org.