Maplecroft Farm Permanently Protected

May 10, 2010

Nearly 250 acres of land along scenic Route 133 (Essex Road) known as Maplecroft Farm has been permanently protected, The Trust for Public Land and Ipswich, Mass. town officials announced today.

Last April, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, reached an agreement with the Raymond family to conserve Maplecroft Farm, bordered by Argilla, Heartbreak, Essex, and Northgate Roads in Ipswich. The farm's rolling pastures and croplands exemplify the rural landscape vanishing from the North Shore. The agreement gave TPL until April 30, 2010 to raise $5.1 million from a variety of sources to purchase conservation restrictions that permanently protect the land from development.

"Our Family profoundly appreciates the help and support of so many in preserving the open space and agricultural character of our properties. It is very comforting to know that what so many have enjoyed will continue to be a part of the beautiful landscape of Ipswich," said Ted Raymond, a lifelong Ipswich resident whose family has owned Maplecroft Farm for nearly 70 years.

"The Trust for Public Land is quite proud to have worked with the Raymond family and our many remarkable partners to secure this conservation opportunity in Ipswich," said Whitney Hatch, Southern New England Director for TPL and a resident of Ipswich. "We understand how important the preservation of the Town's rural character is to the quality of life in Ipswich, and we thank everyone for seizing upon this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a lasting impact on the Town's future."

Now successfully protected, public access to the farm will be provided along a trail under an easement held and maintained by Essex County Trail Association (ECTA). Agricultural restrictions will protect significant farmland and prime soils. Conservation restrictions will protect natural resources including surface water, salt marsh habitat, and drinking water quality for the adjacent Ipswich Town Well. The restrictions will also allow the continued use of the Raymond Fields for athletic events, including soccer.

"The conservation of this property has many public benefits, not the least of which is preserving the scenic gateway to Town along Route 133 and the view we all cherish along Argilla Road to Crane Beach. Protecting this property has been a high priority for the Town for many years," said Pat McNally, Chairman of the Ipswich Board of Selectmen.

At a town meeting on October 19, 2009, Ipswich voters overwhelmingly approved allocation of funds from the Town's existing open space bond program to the permanent conservation of the property. The Town's contribution was augmented by a package of funding, including investments of a combined $2.53 million from two state agencies (the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Conservation and Recreation), and $500,000 from donations to a private fundraising campaign managed by the Essex County Greenbelt Association (Greenbelt).

TPL structured an agreement for the purchase, management, and use of separate portions of the property. First, a 101.5-acre Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) was purchased by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, which invested $1.83 million from the state APR program, and The Town of Ipswich, which contributed $1.1 million from voter-approved funding. Greenbelt also contributed $300,000 to the APR from its private fundraising campaign. The Town will hold and manage the APR.

Separately, the Town of Ipswich now co-holds a conservation restriction over 133.6 acres with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Funding for this conservation restriction included $700,000 from DCR, $100,000 from Greenbelt, and $800,000 from the Town of Ipswich. This land comprises the scenic views from Essex and Northgate Roads, along with what is locally referred to as the polo field, which has long been used for public events.

The Town of Ipswich and Greenbelt purchased a second, 10.8-acre conservation restriction along Essex Road. Funding for this conservation restriction included $170,000 from the Town of Ipswich, and $100,000 from Greenbelt. This land, which includes the Raymond Fields, may be used for athletic activities and special events, as well as agricultural activities that do not conflict with the conservation values of the land.

Finally, ECTA will manage a 1.5-mile trail easement. The trail connects Essex and Argilla Roads, and management will be the responsibility of ECTA.

"This is one of the most ambitious and important projects that Greenbelt has ever been involved in, and we want to particularly thank the donors to our capital campaign, along with the Town of Ipswich and the other project partners, for making it such a resounding success," said Ed Becker, Greenbelt's Executive Director.

"Thanks to Governor Patrick's historic commitment to land preservation, projects like this one ensure that open space across the Commonwealth will be protected for generations to come," said Energy and Environment Secretary Ian Bowles. "Over the past two years, we've been proud to work with community groups, land trusts, and municipalities to protect 54,000 acres of land across the state to protect wildlife habitat, preserve coastal lands and conserve precious landscapes like this one."

The Ipswich Youth Soccer league will also start a new 3.5-year lease on 7-acres of existing soccer fields along Essex Road. The league supports soccer for more than 700 local children and the lease allows two full seasons of soccer each year. The lease will become year-to-year at the conclusion of the initial term.

The protected agricultural lands will continue to support hay and corn production and a herd of grass-fed Angus cattle. The land protected by the APR must be actively farmed.

"The Department of Agricultural Resources is committed to protecting our Commonwealth's working landscapes and is proud to be a part of this important investment and outstanding partnership," said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Scott Soares.

The saltmarsh on the Maplecroft Farm property, including the headwaters of Labor in Vain Creek (also known locally as Gould's Creek), is of great environmental significance and is included in the Great Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

"DCR is pleased to be a partner in protecting this important resource on the North Shore," said DCR Commissioner Richard K. Sullivan Jr. "This is an excellent example of the type of joint partnership that often comes together to protect such landmark properties in the Commonwealth"

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.8 million acres nationwide, including nearly 13,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.

The Essex County Greenbelt Association is a member-supported, nonprofit land trust dedicated to conserving land of ecological, agricultural and scenic significance in Essex County. Founded in 1961, Essex County Greenbelt has protected more than 13,000 acres of land across the region. For more information or to join as a member go to ecga.org.