102 Acres of North Pasture Protected in Newburyport (MA)

Newburyport, Massachusetts, 4/7/2006: The City of Newburyport and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today the acquisition and permanent protection of the 102-acre North Pasture property on Hale Street in Newburyport. The property was purchased by the City of Newburyport as conservation and potential water supply land. Working at the City’s request and as part of a coalition to conserve the threatened and historically significant Common Pasture landscape, which includes the North Pasture property, TPL negotiated an agreement to purchase the land last August. Since then, project partners have been working to assemble the $1.575 million in funding needed to complete the purchase.

Funding for the acquisition came from a mix of city, state, federal, and private sources. The Massachusetts congressional delegation was successful in securing approximately $233,000 in federal funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, and an additional $500,000 was received from the State’s Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant Program. These two large public grants reduced Newburyport’s financial contribution to slightly more than 50% of the total purchase price. The City also benefited from an additional $25,000 that was raised through private donations and foundation grants.

According to Mayor Moak, “the City was fortunate to have access to Community Preservation Funds for our portion of the purchase; no new taxes were necessary. Preservation of this property will maintain the natural flood control characteristics of the land and help to protect nearby neighborhoods and downstream business in the Industrial Park from an increase in flooding.”

Senator Kennedy said, “This was a labor of love by the City of Newburyport and a dedicated coalition who seized a rare opportunity to preserve this magnificent pasture and woodland. Future generations will enjoy this beautiful part of our environmental heritage on the North Shore, and I’m please that federal funds have helped make it possible.”

“Preservation of our natural resources, like the North Pasture in Newburyport, is critical to our environment, our quality of life and our future,” Senator Kerry said. “I am pleased to work with my colleagues – Senator Kennedy and Congressman Tierney – to help make this preservation a reality. I look forward to future work with Newburyport and The Trust for Public Land to support efforts to protect the remainder of the Common Pasture for generations to come.”

The North Pasture land has long been threatened by industrial development, and has been a high priority for Essex County conservationists. The owner, Gotham Holdings, purchased the land from the Newburyport Area Industrial Development Corporation in the summer of 2005, and was in the process of securing development permits. It is likely that at least 250,000 square feet of industrial space would have been constructed. The environmentally sensitive land includes open agricultural fields, wooded uplands, wetlands and vernal pools as well as existing hiking trails. Because of its importance, Gotham Holdings agreed to provide a one-time opportunity for The Trust for Public Land to acquire the land.

“The conservation of the ‘Common Pasture’ for the enjoyment of future generations is a priority of many on the North Shore. We are very pleased that we were able to secure $233,000 of federal funding to help The Trust for Public Land, the City of Newburyport and the citizens of Newburyport and Newbury take this integral step toward achieving the long-term conservation goals for this area,” added U.S. Representative John F. Tierney (D-Salem).

The North Pasture is one of the largest remaining pieces of the historic Common Pasture, which once stretched across Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury. While much of the original landscape has been lost to development over the years, more than 700 acres remain in their historic state as natural and agricultural land. The environmental, scenic, and recreational values of the area are recognized by many, including TPL, the Essex County Greenbelt Association (ECGA), the Parker River Clean Water Association, the City of Newburyport and the Town of Newbury, all of which are part of a coalition formed to protect the area, and in 2005 Historic Massachusetts designated the Common Pasture as one of it’s ten most threatened historic resources. “The Common Pasture is a rare and outstanding resource, valued by many residents of Newbury and Newburyport and seen by thousands of I-95 commuters every day”, said Newburyport Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining. TPL project manager Nellie Aikenhead noted, “TPL looks forward to protecting the remainder of this valuable landscape. Many thanks go to the City of Newburyport and our non-profit partners for helping to bring this together, and to Gotham Development for providing this opportunity.”

In addition to successfully protecting the North Pasture property, the coalition helped the City of Newburyport and the Town of Newbury acquire the 22-acre Coffin’s Island (Herrick Property) on Scotland Road in December 2005. ECGA is working with the Colby family and the State Department of Agricultural Resources to protect the 50-acre Colby Farm, also on Scotland Road. These efforts are part of a larger vision for the Common Pasture that seeks to protect the landscape, and its working farms and wildlife habitat.

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 two million acres nationwide, including nearly 11,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission. For more information, visit www.tpl.org.

The Essex County Greenbelt Association is a nonprofit land trust dedicated to conserving the open space heritage of Essex County. Greenbelt works with landowners and communities to conserve land that is of scenic, ecological and agricultural significance. Since 1961, Greenbelt has protected more than 11,000 acres of land. Greenbelt owns and manages 4,500 acres that comprises their reservation system, holds over 150 conservation restrictions totaling more than 4,300 acres, and has assisted in conserving 2,500 additional acres. For more information, please visit www.ecga.org, or contact David Santomenna, Director of Land Conservation, at (978) 478-8627 or dts@ecga.org.

Note to editors: To have a digital photo or map emailed to you, contact Kim Gilman at the Trust for Public Land, (617) 367-6200 x326