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Sharon & Holliston, MA – October 30, 2013 – After several years of careful planning, The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) and Holliston Open Space Committee today announced the permanent protection of 86 acres of land acquired by the town from the NSTAR Electric Company and added to the Adams Street Town Forest. Holliston’s Town Forest is a popular community resource for passive recreation, hiking and mountain biking in the upper Charles River valley. The Trustees will hold a Conservation Restriction (CR) on the property to add an extra layer of permanent protection to this land. Also referred to as a Conservation Easement, or CR, a conservation restriction, is a method used to help both private and public landowners maintain their property as protected open space, while retaining ownership. The CR gives up the development rights on the land and defines the allowed and prohibited uses on that property, such as restricting further building or development. It is one of several methods organizations like The Trustees use to permanently protect the conservation values of a property, and is most easily understood as a legal, and permanent, conservation agreement between a landowner and a land trust (or other qualified agency).
In 2007, the Holliston Open Space Committee and its chair at that time, George Johnson, led a campaign to protect 86 acres of land adjacent to Holliston’s Town Forest, offered for sale by the NSTAR Electric Company. Located in the Charles River’s headwaters next to I-495 and the densely developed suburban towns of Holliston, Milford, and Hopkinton, the forest landscape totals close to 2,000 acres and includes a vast network of trails and old wood roads known as “Vietnam” by mountain bikers who enjoy the steep challenging landscape, and beloved by hikers, naturalists, and resident wildlife (including state BioMap rare species).
“These 86 acres of vital open space were surplus forest parcels owned by NSTAR for over thirty years,” says George Johnson, former Chair of the Holliston Open Space Committee. “Because of the absence of any active utility company uses on them and their value to local residents, we felt they were a natural fit for permanent protection.” With the success of the NSTAR parcels’ project, the open space now under formal protection in this natural block now totals more than 500 acres of municipally owned land.
Several yeas ago, the Holliston Open Space committee devised a plan by which the town would purchase these parcels from NSTAR at their full market value of $1 million. They then proposed the purchase, using a variety of funding sources, to a town meeting vote in October 2007. Funding sources included an anticipated municipal Self-Help grant from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) for approximately half the purchase price, borrowing the grant sum in the meantime, and the other half to be covered by the town’s Community Preservation Fund and Open Space Fund. The Town’s voters approved the request to ensure the permanent protection of the land even before all funding sources were in hand, an act of good faith and true grassroots community spirit. To meet the requirement that municipal land protected via the use of Community Preservation Funds be additionally protected by a conservation restriction held by a separate organization, the town of Holliston looked to The Trustees of Reservations as a CR-holding partner.
“We are grateful the Town came to us for expertise and assistance on this important project. The protection could never have happened without the foresight and dedicated hard work of local citizens and Holliston’s Open Space Committee, or the support of voting citizens who used innovative methods to ensure that this valuable ecological and recreational landscape would be protected forever,” adds Wes Ward, Trustees of Reservations Vice President of Land and Community Conservation. Adds Andrew Bentley, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist, “The Trustees have been proud to work with these groups of local citizens to provide technical expertise on conservation methods and lend a hand as the holder of permanent CRs on nearly 600 acres of land in Holliston and Milford that support the broader protected landscape where the Charles River has its source.”
For The Trustees, this milestone builds on a long tradition of protecting land in the Charles River watershed that began in 1897 with the organization’s oldest reservation, Rocky Narrows, located on the shores of the river in Sherborn, and now includes 2,300 acres of protected land in river valley. The Trustees of Reservations and the Town of Holliston have also partnered several times in the past, with The Trustees holding CRs on several town-owned and privately owned conservation areas, including: the 100-acre Wenakeening Woods in between Highland and Summer Street, protected in 1992; the 210-acre Fairbanks parcel at the south end of “Vietnam” and the town forest; and now this latest 86-acre addition to the town forest. Nearby, in the same landscape, but on the opposite side of Route 85 in Milford, 190 additional acres were added to Charles River headwater protection through a Trustees CR in 2006.
More about The Trustees of Reservations & Conservation Restrictions:
(The Trustees) “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of scenic, cultural, and natural significance for the general public to enjoy. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees are the nation’s oldest, statewide land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation organizations. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 111 spectacular reservations – including working farms, historic homesteads and gardens, community parks, barrier beaches and mountain vistas – located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, The Trustees work closely with community partners and permanent affiliates including Boston Natural Areas Network and the Hilltown Land Trust to preserve and protect special places for current and future generations. The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation and preservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. The organization offers hundreds of outreach programs, workshops, and events annually, designed to engage all ages in their mission. To find out more, please visit: www.thetrustees.org.
Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees hold over 380 perpetual Conservation Restrictions (CRs) – comprising more than 20,000 acres – which connect and protect 54 Trustees’ Reservations across Massachusetts, and also protect valuable wildlife habitat, forest and coastal landscapes, thriving farms, and even an urban park, in unique places beyond our reservations. In addition, The Trustees have worked with communities and other conservation partners to assist in the protection of another 16,000+ acres around the state. The Trustees are the largest private-organization holder of conservation restrictions by acreage in the Commonwealth, second only to public holders the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG). The Trustees hold CRs on properties owned by a variety of partners, including private landowners, municipalities, and other land trusts. A large number of these properties are privately owned and not open to the public, yet the ones owned by municipalities and land trusts, such as the Holliston conservation areas subject to Trustees CRs, are most often open to the public and provide a world of recreation opportunities. Our CR Program staff and volunteers conduct annual monitoring visits to CR properties that strengthen our relationships with CR landowner partners, ensure that the CR terms are upheld, and that the conservation values of each property remain protected forever. We invite you to learn more about our CR work at www.thetrustees.org/ontheland, and follow the CR Program & Land Conservation blog at http://walkontheland.blogspot.com.