Agreement Would Protect Therapeutic Riding Farm in MA

North Andover, Massachusetts, 4/15/2009: The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today that it has signed an agreement to purchase the Windrush Farm property on Lacy Street in North Andover and Boxford, Massachusetts. Citizens attending the May 12 North Andover town meeting will have an opportunity to approve use of Community Preservation Act funds for the purchase.

Windrush Farm-a scenic mix of fields, forest, and wetlands-is the longtime headquarters of Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation, Inc., which each year provides equine-assisted therapies to more than 300 children and adults with disabilities and veterans of war. Founded in 1964 by Marjorie Kittredge, the program is the first of more than 780 programs of its kind supported by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.

Windrush Farm is also adjacent to 1,600 acres of conservation land-which includes Boxford State Forest-with extensive trails for hiking and cross-country skiing. Conserving Windrush Farm also adds protection in the Ipswich River watershed-a regionally important drinking water source-and provides habitat for rare and endangered species.

Working in partnership with Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation, Inc. (WFTE), the Town of North Andover, and the Essex County Greenbelt Association, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has until October 31, 2009 to raise the $3.5 million purchase price from state, town, and private sources. Voters at North Andover’s May 12 Town Meeting will be asked to approve $2.5 million in Community Preservation Act funds, $800,000 of which the Community Preservation Committee anticipates will be reimbursed through state and private grant programs.

On Saturday May 2, citizens are invited to attend an open house at Windrush Farm on Lacy Street in North Andover. The public will be able to tour the property and ask questions in advance of the May 12 town meeting.

“The Town has a one-time opportunity to permanently protect this valuable landscape, and to substantially leverage our expected $1.7 million contribution with an additional $1.8 million in state and private funding,” said John Simons, chair of both the North Andover Community Preservation Committee and the Planning Board. “If voters do not approve the purchase, it is likely that the highly developable land will become another ordinary subdivision.”

Protection of Windrush Farm also helps North Andover achieve several goals identified in its State-approved 2006 open space and recreation plan. As proposed, the Town of North Andover will ultimately purchase 160 acres of the property to be held and managed for conservation purposes and WFTE will acquire the remaining 35 acres, including all of the buildings, paddocks, and pastures. The Town of North Andover would receive a conservation restriction on WFTE’s land, ensuring that none of the property would be further developed. No new taxes will be required.

“WFTE is thrilled about this public-private partnership that will enable WFTE to continue to provide services to people with a significant disability, such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury autism, or visual and auditory impairments,” said Amanda Hogan, WFTE’s executive director. “In addition, WFTE plans to expand the number and variety of programs to include the general public.” Potential new programs include community gardens, collaboration on environmental studies for North Andover students, and summer camps that feature riding, gardening, and other outdoor activities.

It is anticipated that the Essex County Greenbelt Association, a regional land trust with extensive holdings in North Andover and Boxford will co-hold the conservation restriction on the WFTE land, and will hold a conservation restriction on the land to be acquired by the Town, providing a consistent layer of protection across the entire Windrush Farm property.

“Greenbelt has long viewed Windrush Farm as one of the most significant unprotected properties in the area,” said Ed Becker, Greenbelt’s executive director. “We are excited to have the opportunity to work with WFTE, the Town of North Andover, and The Trust for Public Land on this important conservation project.”

Working in partnership, TPL and WFTE plan to raise $1 million from private individuals and foundations. More than $380,000 of that amount is already in hand.

“Many thanks to a generous landowner who has kept this land open for nearly half a century and is now providing WFTE and the Town with the time needed to raise funds to permanently protect this outstanding property,” said TPL project manager Nellie Aikenhead.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.5 million acres of land nationwide, including nearly13,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, please contact TPL at 617-367-6200.

Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation, Inc. is a nonprofit working horse farm that provides effective innovative equine assisted therapies to more than 300 disabled children and adults each year. A pioneer in the field of equine therapy, WFTE’s mission is to use the horse to expand the personal, emotional, and physical boundaries of all persons.

Essex County Greenbelt is a member-supported, nonprofit land trust dedicated to conserving land of ecological, agricultural or scenic significance in Essex County. Founded in 1961, Essex County Greenbelt has protected more than 13,000 acres of land across the region.