Successes in Conservation
Preserving a Better Tomorrow
Bragdon Hill is a landmark on Route 101, a favorite for families from around the region. The Bragdon property includes not only the famous sledding hill on the border with Bedford, but also a substantial field and woodland on the north side of N.H. Route 101.The Town of Amherst purchased the Bragdon property in 1995 with funds from the Amherst Conservation Commission and a large anonymous donation from a long-time resident of Amherst. Later the donors became concerned over the lack of legal protection for the land's conservation status. In 2001, the Land Trust arranged for an attorney to work with the Conservation Commission and the donor to develop deed restrictions satisfactory to the donor's original intent. Then the Trust took ownership of the property just long enough to place the restrictions on the deed and return it to the Town.
The Dinkel Easement, in Amherst Village, preserves the remains of the historic Belden’s Mill, along with the floodplain and woodland around the mill. Jay and Toni Dinkel knew their home, the historic Belden's Mill building, was a special place. By donating an easement to the Land Trust, the Dinkels were able to realize some tax benefits while ensuring that the beautiful remains of the old mill will be preserved for future generations. This lovely, wooded setting and its historic stonework is now preserved in perpetuity.
El Eden is a preserve on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, home to 70% of the migratory birds we see in southern New Hampshire. The National Audubon Society has warned that development pressures in Mexico are a serious threat to our migratory species. In 2002 the Amherst Land Trust contributed to the purchase of 25,000 acres, allowing Souhegan High School to establish and fund a joint project with the University of California at Riverside and the El Eden reserve in Mexico. This project provides Amherst and Mont Vernon students and interested members of the community with the opportunity to be involved in hands-on research (coordinated with the Smithsonian Institution) in this unique habitat.
Grater Woods sits at the height of land on the border of Amherst and Merrimack. The Land Trust bought a central piece of the Woods, 28 acres of woodland, including a hilltop view over southwestern New Hampshire. Grater Woods as a whole is a roughly one-mile-in-diameter forest spanning the western side of Merrimack and Amherst, and the property connects to the Pond Parish Town Forest and the Fells Easement.
In February of 2013 the Amherst Land Trust, in coordination with the Amherst Conservation Commission, bought the land from the heirs of the Grader family. (As is often the case in old New England families, different branches have spelled the name differently over the years.) The Merrimack Conservation Commission arranged to purchase the rest of the 100-acre farm in Merrimack. The parcels together connect 500 acres of protected land in Merrimack and Amherst and nearly connects through to the Pond Parish and Fells lands.
The Grater Woods area, ranked by N.H Fish and Game Department as "NH Highest environmental quality," represents the largest un-fragmented forested block in the area, interspersed with biologically diverse wetlands and other habitats critical to a number of species of environmental concern. Grater Woods forms an important link in the green-way and wildlife corridor being protected which runs from Bedford through Amherst to the Merrimack River in Merrimack and provides a host of trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
The Hooper Easement abuts the Schweiker Easement, permitting access for the Laurel Haven Trail into the Schweiker Easement and to the viewpoint on Baboosic Lake. Though not even an acre in size, the Hooper easement makes up a key piece in the conservation puzzle at Baboosic Lake.
In her work with the Amherst Land Trust, Vi Schweiker donated the lakeside lot to the Trust, with the intent to see it remain in conservation. The Land Trust put a conservation easement on the property in 2019, protecting it from development forever, and transferred the sales proceeds to its funds for further conservation.
Ice-skating on the Huckabee's family farm pond was an Amherst tradition for many years, and Margery Huckabee wanted to preserve her family's land for future generations to enjoy. With the help of the Amherst Land Trust, she was able to obtain the funds she needed to secure her situation while protecting most of the land.
The Trust used seed money appropriated by Town Meeting in 1998 to hold the land and to give Mrs. Huckabee immediate funds she needed to move into assisted living. Board members found a private partner for the project, Senator Warren Rudman, who was interested in purchasing the house and barn and willing to invest in the project.
Over the next two years, Land Trust board members worked to design and obtain approval for a five-lot Open Space subdivision on 15 acres of the old farm. Senator Rudman retained ownership of the 1783 farmhouse and skating pond on a five-acre lot (now owned by the Senator’s daughter). Four lots were sold to recoup the cost of the purchase and funds returned to the Land Trust's treasury for future projects. The Land Trust donated 37 acres of the Huckabee Farm to the Town of Amherst, to be managed by the Amherst Conservation Commission. The Trust continues to hold a conservation easement on the land.
Joshua’s Park is a 3.9-acre playground and community garden between Courthouse and Boston Post Roads in Amherst Village. For many years, Amherst residents expressed the need for more playground space, especially for younger children. The Land Trust board had an opportunity to bring a park to fruition when Sue and Scott Adams chose to sell part of the family’s historic farm, the legacy of the Stearns and Davis families. The Trust negotiated a bargain sale with the Adamses in 2015, designed a new park with playground and community garden, and then launched a two-year fundraising campaign for $450,000 to buy the land and install playground equipment, a garden, and parking. The largest contribution to the effort came from Becky Kendall, in memory of her son Joshua, for whom the park and playground are named.
After finishing construction of the garden—to which many local builders contributed their time and equipment—the Trust gifted the park to the Town of Amherst. Since its opening, the park has remained a favorite among both gardeners and families with young children.
Lindabury Orchard is at the top of Christian Hill in Amherst. It remains undeveloped from hilltop to woodland at its lower reaches, with many apple trees remaining. When Jack Lindabury died in 2001, his will specified that his orchard property, with its spectacular views of the Souhegan Valley, be offered to the Conservation Commission at a reasonable price. However, land values had spiraled to unanticipated levels by the time of his death, and the Town feared it could not justify the cost of an acceptable offer for the property.
The Board of the Land Trust made a commitment to negotiate with the estate and to raise whatever funds might be necessary to cover the difference between what the Town could support and the negotiated price. When the voters at Town Meeting supported $400,000 for the purchase, that left $200,000 for the Land Trust. Beginning with $50,000 of the Trust’s own funds (from the proceeds of the Huckabee Farm subdivision), the Land Trust aggregated donations large and small from over 100 townspeople and community groups to complete the sale.
The Land Trust also provided the expertise and contracted for the necessary surveys, inspection, and preparation of the property to protect the Town's interest before the sale, and seed money for the Friends of the Orchard's ambitious restoration project. The Land Trust holds an easement on the property and was recently involved in the efforts of the Conservation Commission and the Friends of the Orchard to resolve issues around land management.
The Melendy Easement protects 30 acres of woodland and former hayfield that abuts the Granite State Rail Trail in Milford. The land, at the junction of the trail and Melendy Road, is ranked high by the Milford Conservation Commission for protection.
For two years, five neighbors who jointly owned backland next to the rail trail sought to permanently protect it for recreation, forestry, and agriculture. In a meeting to consummate the deal, the neighbors first signed over their development rights to the Amherst Land Trust and then donated the property to the town of Milford. Milford Conservation Commission will manage the land, which may eventually include community gardens.
Post Road Lands
The so-called “Smith” lands straddle Boston Post Road at its junction with N.H. Route 101. They protect wetland habitat. They were donated to the Amherst Land Trust when Amherst developer/builder Larry Smith found himself with two parcels that did not serve his business purposes. When he chose to donate them to the Land Trust, he specified that they were to be preserved or disposed of as the Trust saw fit. This enabled Smith to take a tax deduction for the value of the land.
The Land Trust chose to preserve one piece as a Wetland Wildlife Reserve, to be monitored and studied by students at Souhegan High School. The Land Trust already has an established relationship with Souhegan High School in support of their conservation biology studies.
The second parcel was surrounded by existing homes. The Land Trust Board negotiated with abutters who purchased it under a conservation easement, providing funds to the Land Trust for future projects while enhancing the value of the purchaser's home.
The Schweiker easement covers roughly 40 acres between Baboosic Lake Road and the southern shores of Baboosic Lake. Across the wooded property runs the Laurel Haven Trail, a 0.9-mile hiking and biking trail with a choice view spot over Baboosic Lake. In the spring, the abundant laurel groves burst into flower.
The Schweiker family owned the property as a seasonal camp for many years. Viyola Schweiker chose to sell the land in 2018 but wanted to keep it in conservation. She did so by arranging for the Land Trust to hold a conservation easement on the property before selling the land to a new private owner, with the provision that the land remain undeveloped and provide public access via a new trail. The trust worked with Ms. Schweiker to create an easement and arranged for the legal work to consummate the deal and then install and maintain the new trail.
This Mont Vernon property preserves a piece of the historical heritage of the Souhegan Valley.
After 200 years in the Souhegan Valley, the Wilkins family had accumulated several hundred acres of timberland. When Harold H. Wilkins, Jr., died in 2003, the family faced a dilemma. Recent rapid increases in land values had left the estate land-rich, without sufficient cash to clear the estate tax. Harold, a charter member of the Land Trust, had a lifelong commitment to forestry and conservation. To honor his efforts, the family solved the dilemma with a combination of approaches, including land donations to the Mont Vernon Conservation Commission and to the Amherst Land Trust and easements to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
Wah Lum Reserve
The Wah Lum Reserve protects a large tract of forestland on the east side of Purgatory Brook, known for its four waterfalls. At the highest point of the property, a large field affords far-reaching views to the west. Along with other, abutting protected lands, the property helps protect roughly 500 acres of some of the most scenic woodland and watershed in the region. In the summer of 2007, the Mont Vernon Conservation Commission became aware of several parcels owned by Lyndeboro resident Larry Boisvert which would be offered at auction.
Two parcels, one of 121 acres and the other of 126 acres, abutting Purgatory Brook to the west, were in Mont Vernon and surrounded a parcel already in conservation under the ownership of the New England Forestry Foundation. Given that the Mont Vernon parcels had long been singled out as desirable targets for conservation by the Mont Vernon Conservation Commission, the members of the commission approached Mr. Boisvert about a purchase preempting the auction.
At the same time, the members of the Conservation Commission approached the members of the Amherst Land Trust for assistance. The Mont Vernon members lacked the necessary expertise and funding to complete a deal in the time available. They also could not wait for a town vote to acquire the property, which is required for the authorization of an acquisition.
Three days before the auction, the full Amherst Land Trust board was briefed by the Conservation Commission on the deal. Given the value of the property to conservation, the ALT board unanimously voted to make an effort to preempt the auction, and it did so. At the next town meeting, the citizens of the town of Mont Vernon voted to buy the land, with a conservation easement placed on it by the Amherst Land Trust. The property will remain forever undeveloped forestland.
An unusual experiment in preservation, located just off of Colonel Wilkins Road, this donated land is intended to become a "new" old-growth forest in close proximity to Amherst Village.