Campaign to Save 135 Acres in Boxford (MA)

BOXFORD, Massachusetts, 4/11/02: The Boxford Trails Association/Boxford Open Land Trust (BTA/BOLT) and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that they have launched a campaign to raise $350,000 to protect approximately 135 acres of open space on Crooked Pond Road. The land, known as the Sawyer/Richardson property, abuts a 2,000-acre corridor of open space, including the Boxford State Forest and Phillips Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The importance of the Sawyer/Richardson land, ecologically as well as for low-impact recreation, cannot be overstated,” said BTA/BOLT president Judy Gore. “I am confident that, with all of us working together, we can achieve our goal of protecting this property for everyone.”

“The Sawyer/Richardson property is one of the most prized parcels in Boxford – it’s been at the top of the Town’s priority list of lands to protect for nearly 10 years now,” said Neil Olansky, chair of the Boxford Selectboard. “We appreciate the support and assistance of TPL, BTA/BOLT, the Commonwealth Massachusetts, and everyone else involved in the efforts to protect this property as crucial open space.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Town of Boxford to protect a large property threaded with hiking trails, vernal pools, scenic overlooks and other valuable natural resources,” said TPL project manager Nellie Aikenhead. “We are grateful to Habitech, Inc. for giving us the opportunity to acquire the land, which will benefit the whole region.”

At the request of town officials, TPL, a national nonprofit organization, began negotiating to purchase the property from Habitech, Inc. last fall. In March, TPL finalized an agreement to acquire the 135 acres for $4.75 million. If Boxford Town Meeting approves the project in May and additional state and private funds can be raised by mid-June, the property will be acquired by the Town of Boxford at the end of June.

BTA/BOLT and TPL have launched a campaign to raise at least $350,000 in private funds to reduce the Town’s purchase price. Generous commitments of $100,000 from the Essex County Greenbelt Association and $25,000 from BTA/BOLT have seeded the campaign. In addition, two anonymous donors have pledged a $60,000 challenge grant that will require a one to one match. Now TPL and BTA/BOLT are working to raise the remaining $165,000 needed by June 1. To make a tax-deductible contribution, please call Angela Steadman or Judy Gore at BTA/BOLT at (978) 887-7031.

“The Essex County Greenbelt Association’s contribution of $100,000 reflects the significance of this project to not only the Town of Boxford, but also to the region,” said Ed Becker, executive director of the Essex County Greenbelt Association. “If this campaign is not successful, the alternative is 40 house lots, which will have a devastating effect not only on this parcel, but also on the adjoining 2,000 acres of open space.”

In addition to private funds, state funding is critical to the success of this project. The Sawyer/Richardson project has been awarded $250,000 by the Commonwealth’s Self-Help Program, and another $1 million in funding is being sought from the proposed Massachusetts Environmental Bond. Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Bradford Hill, and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs are working with TPL and BTA/BOLT to secure these funds.

“Because of its expansive area and strategic nature,” explained Senator Bruce Tarr, “the Sawyer/Richardson property has been widely recognized as a key parcel for acquisition. That’s why state government is committed to providing scarce resources to assist in preserving the property in the days and weeks ahead.”

“Thanks to the combined efforts of project supporters, various organizations and the state, the campaign to obtain funds is off to a great start,” said State Representative Bradford Hill. “We hope that within the next few months the Legislature will pass the Environmental Bond Bill, enabling funds to be released for this pristine piece of land.”

“Passage of Governor Swift’s Environmental Bond Bill is of great importance if we are to stay on our present course of investment in our green infrastructure,” said Bob Durand, Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. “The Bond Bill is key to our efforts to preserve and sustain our quality of life in Massachusetts.”

If project supporters are successful in securing state and private funds, the Town of Boxford will have the opportunity to purchase the land for approximately $3.15 million. Residents will vote on the Town’s share at Town Meeting on Tuesday, May 14. Boxford plans to fund the purchase by bonding against local revenues generated under the recently adopted Community Preservation Act. No new taxes would be required, and the Town’s share would be eligible for additional state matching funds of up to 100% through the Community Preservation Trust Fund.

The Sawyer/Richardson land is an important recreational resource for Boxford residents and visitors to the town. The property is contiguous to more than 2,000 acres of open space owned by the Town of Boxford, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Essex County Greenbelt Association, and New England Forestry Foundation. The property’s scenic trails are ideal for walking, hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding, and provide connections to an extensive trail system in the adjacent protected land, including the 200-mile Bay Circuit Trail. In addition, the Sawyer/Richardson property is located within the Ipswich River watershed, one of the watersheds most threatened by overuse and pollution in greater Boston. Protecting these 135 acres will help to protect the river, which is the source of drinking water for more than 350,000 people.

The property also provides habitat for songbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, and owls and contains 24 vernal pools, depressions that typically fill with water in winter and spring and dry out during the summer. These vernal pools provide feeding and breeding habitat for rare wildlife, including blue-spotted salamander, four-toed salamander, spotted turtle, and wood turtle.

Boxford Trails Association (BTA) was formed in 1978 for the purpose of preserving and protecting trails in the Town of Boxford, Massachusetts, for passive recreation. Fifteen years later, the mission of the organization was broadened to include permanently protecting environmentally important land. To reflect this expanded mission, the name of the organization was changed to BTA/BOLT (Boxford Trails Association/Boxford Open Land Trust). BTA/BOLT accomplishes its mission both by acquiring land for conservation, and by working in cooperation with private landowners, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Town of Boxford, and other nonprofit conservation groups to permanently protect land from development.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.4 million acres nationwide, including nearly 100,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs.