Agreement for the Sale of Northfield Forest Land, East Northfield Water Company, Announced
Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH) and The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, have reached an agreement for the potential sale of the Northfield Forest and the East Northfield Water Company by NMH to The Trust for Public Land. The agreement between NMH and The Trust for Public Land is structured through options, which will afford The Trust for Public Land with time to work with the town of Northfield, state agencies, and other partners to address the funding for future ownership and management of these resources before committing to buy.
The 1,650-acre Northfield Forest property forms the northeastern backdrop to the town of Northfield. The school has owned much of the land, which is located in Northfield and Warwick, Mass., and Winchester, N.H., for nearly a century.
In addition to being managed as a working forest, more than 300 acres of the land protect the water quality in Grandin Reservoir, the water source for the East Northfield Water Company, which provides water to more than 200 customers as well as to the former Northfield campus of the Northfield Mount Hermon School; NMH now operates from its campus in Gill.
A purchase of the Northfield Forest would enable The Trust for Public Land to complement significant existing conserved land of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, the Town of Northfield, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Northfield Forest property includes a core focus area for the MA-NH Quabbin-to-Cardigan Landscape Partnership and falls within the Connecticut River watershed, the focus of both the Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the Connecticut River Watershed National Blueway.
During 2007-2008, The Trust for Public Land worked closely with town officials and citizens to create a Greenprint, a GIS-based open space-planning tool that identified the town's top conservation priorities. The Northfield Forest was identified through that process as the largest holding of important unpreserved land in Northfield under unified ownership. In the analysis, the forest ranked extremely high in five of six goal categories: wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity, recreation, historic and rural character, and "special places" nominated and voted on by participants.
The Trust for Public Land needs to raise substantial funds for the purchase and stewardship of these properties, and many details regarding the use and management of the land and the ownership and operation of the water company remain to be settled. The Trust for Public Land will lead efforts to raise public and private funds, while working with local leaders, neighboring towns, and regional land trusts to ensure the project's overall success.
Head of School Peter Fayroian said, "I'm so pleased that this agreement has as its ultimate goal to ensure the community's enjoyment of the forest lands, and continued safe and reliable management of the water company. I'm grateful for the work of our staff on this and to the Northfield community for their advocacy and collaboration."
Jack Spanbauer, chair of the Northfield Board of Selectmen, said "Residents of Northfield will be eager to learn more about the possible scenarios for the water company and if a satisfactory plan emerges, I am confident that there will be a great deal of enthusiasm for the conservation of the Northfield Forest."
Chris LaPointe, Senior Project Manager with The Trust for Public Land said, "This is an opportunity to permanently ensure that people have the ability to access and use this amazing landscape for recreation and enjoyment. We're fortunate to have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage outside funding to acquire and protect a forested landscape that includes the entire watershed of the East Northfield Water Company, providing this community with safe, reliable drinking water."
Leigh Youngblood, Executive Director of the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust said, "We are very pleased to partner with The Trust for Public Land to build on the success of the first 100-acre conservation sale by Northfield Mount Hermon to Mount Grace in 2011 of land on Gulf Road along the New England Trail. More significantly, the protection of this 1,650-acre forest block will establish a continuous connection of conserved land from the Quabbin Reservoir to the state line in Northfield."