Agreement to Purchase 340 Acres in Newfields (NH)
Newfields, New Hampshire, 1/12/05 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, The Rockingham Land Trust (RLT) and the Town of Newfields announced today that TPL and Halls Mill Realty Trust (HMRT) have signed an agreement for TPL’s purchase of approximately 340 acres of land off Halls Mill Road in Newfields and Schanda Drive in Newmarket. The acquisition will give the Town of Newfields the opportunity to permanently protect this property, also known as the Mills Woods Subdivision.
HMRT has proposed to develop the site with 89 house lots and 2 miles of new roads. But through the 2000 Regional Environmental Protection Plan (REPP) and the 2001 Open Space Plan, Newfields residents have consistently identified this area as a priority for the conservation of wildlife habitat, water quality, trail connections, and greenway corridors.
At the request of the Rockingham Land Trust, TPL began negotiating the purchase of the land in October 2004. TPL is working to finalize the terms of the agreement, and will have until April 2006 to complete the purchase. The landowner has agreed to sell the property for $7.55 million, which is below the estimates of fair market value that exceed $8 million. A partnership of TPL, RLT, and the Town is working to secure local, state, federal and private funding to complete the project.
Simultaneously, U.S. Senator Judd Gregg announced that he has secured $2 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) to help fund the project. This funding was approved as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that was signed into law by the president on December 8, 2004.
Senator Gregg, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the CELCP program, said, “I want to thank TPL, the Rockingham Land Trust and especially the citizens of Newfields for the extraordinary steps they are taking to protect New Hampshire’s environment. The Piscassic Greenway project is another example of their commitment. It will result in the conservation of critical wildlife habitats and greenway corridors as well as the protection of a large wetlands complex. Most importantly, this partnership will help preserve the unique quality of life we have in this state and I am proud to be part of these efforts.”
According to David Dwyer, the Chairman of the Newfields Board of Selectmen, “The Town thanks Senator Gregg for securing this critical federal funding. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the community of Newfields. This property, representing more than 7% of the Town’s land, is the very heart of our rural character. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to preserve that character forever.”
Joanna Pellerin, President of the Rockingham Land Trust, agreed. “This is the single largest ownership of land in Newfields, and represents an opportunity to conserve important wildlife habitat, the water quality of the Piscassic River, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The benefit of conserving this greenway will accrue for generations to come, and will be viewed by those generations as a wise, worthy investment. I want to especially thank Senator Gregg for his efforts to secure federal funding for this important conservation priority.”
When the conservation project is completed, the benefits of the Piscassic Greenway property will include:
- Linking two blocks of existing protected lands to create a corridor of more than 1,500 acres from Newmarket to Exeter. As the last link between two conservation islands in Newmarket and Exeter, the parcel will provide a greenway for public recreation and wildlife habitat.
- Outdoor Recreation: With its extensive network of trails, this land has long been enjoyed by the public for outdoor recreation, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and hunting. Protection of this site would ensure public access for these uses to continue.
- Water quality: The property’s protection will preserve a large wetlands complex, 1,200 feet of shoreline on the Piscassic River and help safeguard drinking water quality. A portion of the property lies over a recognized groundwater resource that may serve Newfields’ future demand for drinking water. In addition, much of this land lies within a drinking water protection area for the adjacent Town of Newmarket.
- Wildlife habitat: The land includes a mix of diverse wildlife habitat for game species such as moose, deer, and bear, as well as other non-game species, including river otter, American Bittern, Whip-poor-will, American woodcock, and the New England Cottontail.
The $2 million in CELCP funding will be matched by a $2 million contribution proposed by the Town of Newfields, of which $1.5 million would come from a proposed bond to be voted on at the 2005 Newfields Town Meeting on March 8. The remaining $500,000 would be funded from the existing open space bond funds passed by Newfields voters in 2002. The partners will continue to work to secure additional funding from state, federal, and private sources to complete this project.
Michael Sununu, a member of the Newfields Budget Advisory Committee and Newfields resident, commented on the costs of conserving the land as open space in relation to the costs of development: “If we don’t act now to protect this land, we could soon see 89 new homes on the site,” he said. “The cost of school and municipal services will be greater than any new tax revenue we could raise. In the long run, the investment to keep this open space will save us money.”
TPL Project Manager Carol Hall said, “Newfields, like so many of New Hampshire’s communities, is working very hard to balance growth with protection of its natural areas. We’re pleased to present this opportunity to the town’s citizens, and with a diverse mix of funding sources, we’ll be able to secure this magnificent property for future generations of residents and visitors. TPL is extremely appreciative of Senator Gregg’s efforts to secure the $2 million CELCP funding for this important coastal priority. These funds will go a long way towards making this conservation effort a reality.”
The Rockingham Land Trust is an Exeter-based, non-profit land conservation organization whose mission is to conserve the region’s open spaces, including forest land, farmland, water resources, and wildlife habitat. Founded in 1980, the Trust has conserved more than 3,200 acres of land throughout Rockingham County. The Trust is governed by an 11 member board of directors, has two full time staff members, and is supported by 550+ members.
The Trust for Public Land 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 1.9 million acres nationwide, including nearly 200,000 acres in New Hampshire. 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.