169 Acres of MA’s Common Pasture Protected

Newburyport and Newbury, Massachusetts, 12/28/06: The City of Newburyport, The Essex County Greenbelt Association (Greenbelt) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today the acquisition and permanent protection of the 169-acre Gutierrez property, also known as the “Wet Meadows,” located between Hale Street in Newburyport and Scotland Road in Newbury. The land is part of the historic Common Pasture, which is a mix of open farmland, wetlands, and forested uplands. The 123 acres of the Wet Meadows land located in Newburyport was purchased by the City, and the 46 acres in Newbury were purchased by Greenbelt. Working at the City’s request and as part of a coalition to conserve the threatened and historically significant Common Pasture landscape, TPL negotiated an agreement to purchase the Wet Meadows in May. Since then, project partners have been working to assemble the $500,000 in funding needed to complete the purchase.

Funding for the acquisition came from a mix of city, state, and private sources. The City of Newburyport appropriated up to $392,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the purchase and associated costs, $205,000 of which will be reimbursed through a Self-Help grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Greenbelt raised $88,700 in private funds and received a $45,000 Conservation Partnership Grant from the Commonwealth for the purchase of the land in Newbury.

Due to the property’s central location in the Common Pasture, its wide-open scenic landscape, its ecological integrity and abundant wetlands, Wet Meadows has long been a high priority for area conservationists. It is also important for its agricultural value. For more than a decade, farmer Matthew Kozazcki, owner of Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, has managed the property, which he uses for grazing his herd of Black Angus cattle, as pastureland. The City of Newburyport, Greenbelt and TPL strongly support the region’s historic agricultural legacy and Kozazcki’s traditional use will continue under the new ownership agreement. Besides safeguarding scenic and agricultural values, conservation of this landscape will protect the headwaters and recharge wetlands of two rivers, provide habitat for migratory birds, and help mitigate seasonal downstream flooding.

According to Newburyport Mayor John F. Moak, “the City has done a remarkable job of protecting open space in recent years, and I am happy that this significant property has been protected at such a reasonable cost.”

Ed Becker, Greenbelt’s Executive Director, said, “Greenbelt was very pleased to be part of this regionally-significant conservation initiative. This property embodies all of Greenbelt’s land conservation goals, as it has very high scenic, agricultural and habitat values. The importance of the project has been underscored by the breadth of support that we’ve been able to tap, including grants from four foundations and over 200 local individuals, businesses and financial institutions.”

The Wet Meadows 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 values of the area are recognized by many, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, TPL, Greenbelt, 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. The Common Pasture was named one of Massachusetts’ ten most endangered historic resources in 2004 by PreservationMass, a statewide historic preservation group.

Geordie Vining, Senior Project Manager for the Newburyport Planning Office, noted that “the City’s landscape and appearance has shifted dramatically in the last generation, and we are looking forward to continuing our cooperative efforts to protect and maintain the remaining open space for future generations of Newburyporters.”

In addition to successfully protecting the Wet Meadows property, the coalition helped the City of Newburyport acquire the 102-acre Cooper North Pasture in April 2006 and with both the City and the Town of Newbury, the 22-acre Coffin’s Island (Herrick Property) on Scotland Road in December 2005. 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 Arturo Gutierrez, who owned the land for nearly two decades, for providing this one-time opportunity.”

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 more than 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 12,000 acres of land. Greenbelt owns and manages 4,800 acres that comprises their reservation system, holds over 150 conservation restrictions totaling more than 4,600 acres, and has assisted in conserving 2,600 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.