Agreement Would Protect N. Pasture Land (MA)
Newburyport, Massachusetts, 9/26/2005: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today that it has reached an agreement to purchase the 102-acre North Pasture property on Hale Street in Newburyport from the current owner, Gotham Holdings, LLC of Portsmouth, NH. TPL is working as part of a coalition initiated by citizens of Newburyport and Newbury who wish to conserve the threatened and historically significant Common Pasture landscape, which includes the North Pasture land. The coalition includes the Essex County Greenbelt Association, the Parker River Clean Water Association, the City of Newburyport and the Town of Newbury.
The North Pasture land has long been threatened by industrial development. The owner, who recently purchased the land from the Newburyport Area Industrial Development Corporation, has been working to secure permits for approximately 250,000 square feet of industrial space since last fall. Because the land, which includes wooded uplands, wetlands and vernal pools as well as existing hiking trails, has long been a conservation priority, Gotham Development agreed to provide a one-time opportunity for the Trust for Public Land to acquire the property. Under the terms of the agreement announced today, TPL has until March 15, 2006, to purchase the property for $1.75 million.
“We are pleased to have completed the critical first step of reaching an agreement with Gotham Holdings to acquire the property for conservation purposes, and are optimistic that we will be able to secure the funding needed to permanently protect the site,” said Nellie Aikenhead, Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land. “Many thanks go to the City of Newburyport and our non-profit partners for helping to bring this together, and to the owner for providing this window of opportunity.”
Over the coming months, TPL and its partners will be working together to raise the $1.75 million needed for the project through private contributions and public grants. With assistance from the Massachusetts congressional delegation, project supporters are seeking federal funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.
Senator Edward Kennedy said, “I commend the Trust for Public Land, Mayor Clancy and all the people of Newburyport and Newbury for their extraordinary efforts to preserve this magnificent pasture and woodland so that future generations can appreciate this beautiful part of our environmental heritage on the North Shore. Conservation of these lands deserves federal support as well, and I hope Congress will agree.”
“The North Pasture Land is an environmental treasure, and we must protect its wetlands and woodlands for the beauty of the area and for our children’s children,” Senator John Kerry said. “Thanks to the efforts of the Trust for Public Land, the Essex County Greenbelt Association, the Parker River Clean Water Association, Mayor Clancy and the City of Newburyport, we’ve achieved the important first step in securing the ability to purchase the land. But our job is not done. I look forward to working with Senator Kennedy and Congressman Tierney to secure the funds to make the Common Pasture program a success and preserve our rich lands for generations to come.”
“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 the Trust for Public Land has an agreement to acquire this property, as it is an important step to achieving the long-term goals of this project. I look forward to continuing my work with Senators Kennedy and Kerry and Mayor Clancy in this endeavor,” said Representative John F. Tierney (D-Salem).
In addition to federal funding, the City plans to seek a state water protection grant and is working with project advocates who have launched a private fundraising campaign that has already generated nearly $150,000 for overall Common Pasture land protection efforts. The balance of funding will be requested from the City’s Community Preservation Fund. If sufficient funds cannot be raised to acquire the property, the agreement will expire and the owner will continue to seek permits to develop the land for industrial use.
“This agreement represents an exceptional and critically time-sensitive opportunity for the City to move forward with our innovative land use plan for open space protection, new housing, and economic development” reports Mayor Mary Anne Clancy. “By acting to preserve this unique and ecologically sensitive property, we can continue efforts to transfer the development rights to other areas of the City that are more appropriate for development. Additionally, strengthening our partnerships with the Trust for Public Land, Essex County Greenbelt Association, Essex National Heritage Commission, and others will help us to strike a balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability that makes Newburyport such a desirable community in which to live and work.”
The North Pasture property 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.
“This agreement represents a tremendous opportunity for residents of Newburyport and of the entire region to preserve a portion of the signature open space landscape surrounding our historic seacoast city,” said biologist Rob Stevenson, Newburyport resident and the Parker River Clean Water Association Vice-President. “Maintaining the natural flood control characteristics of the North Pasture land will help to protect nearby neighborhoods and downstream business in the Industrial Park from an increase in flooding. In addition, it will preserve irreplaceable wildlife habitat.”
In addition to working to protect the North Pasture property, the coalition has been raising funds to acquire the 22-acre Herrick property on Scotland Road, which is also under agreement to the Trust for Public Land. The effort is part of a larger vision for the Common Pasture that seeks to protect the landscape, and its working farms and wildlife habitat. Protection of the Herrick land will provide a significant contribution to preserving a wildlife corridor along the Little River and will allow the public access to one of the premiere birding sites in all of New England.
The North Pasture property includes the headwaters of the Little River, which flows into the Parker River and Plum Island Sound watershed. Protection of land within the watershed is critical to maintaining water quality that is part of the economic underpinning of the area – from shellfishing to tourism.
“I regularly hear from the people of Newburyport that we need to balance development and protect our open space. As one of the city councilors representing this wonderful area, I am very, very pleased that we can now look forward to accepting the North Pasture land as a key piece of the open gateway to Newburyport. A great number of individuals worked very hard to get to this point; from here, we can turn our attention to welcoming smart and viable development into appropriate and less sensitive areas. We can reach the balance we so desire”, said City Councilor Bruce Vogel.
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 10,000 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) 768-7241 or email@example.com.
The Parker River Clean Water Association is a non-profit community-based organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the waters and ecosystems of the Parker River and Plum Island Sound watersheds for current and future generations.
Contributions to the Common Pasture Project are tax-deductible and can be sent to the Essex County Greenbelt Association, 82 Eastern Avenue, Essex, MA 01929. For more information, contact David Santomenna at (978) 768-7241.
Note to editors: To have a digital photo or map emailed to you, contact Chris LaPointe at the Trust for Public Land, (617) 367-6200 x358.