Page Pond and Forest Protected for Meredith, NH

MEREDITH, NH, 1/12/2009: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, today completed its purchase of the Page Pond and Forest property from the Wilds of New England. TPL directed the deed for permanent ownership to the Town of Meredith, which will preserve the property as conservation land in perpetuity.

Gregg Caporossi, Project Manager for TPL, said, “It’s a great day for us to know that the long efforts of a diverse team have finally succeeded. The Town will own this property forever, and it will always be preserved in its natural state. It took a heroic effort to pull this project across the finish line in these uncertain times, but today’s outcome is a tribute to the town, the local volunteers, the state’s commitment to this area, and the many, many generous donors who came through to make this possible.”

The state of New Hampshire’s land conservation program, LCHIP, made a $400,000 grant toward the $2.0 million purchase price, with the town contributing $750,000. An additional $752,000 has been raised through a private capital campaign. With only a few short weeks left before the scheduled closing, the Meredith Board of Selectmen and Meredith Conservation Commission agreed on a strategy to close the gap with two additional contributions: $44,000 from the 2008 Land Use Change Tax, which is normally directed to the Conservation Commission to spend; and up to $54,000 in proceeds to be generated from a conservation-oriented timber cut planned for the Page Pond property in 2009. These commitments have enabled TPL to acquire the property and convey it to the town to own as open space in perpetuity. Over the next two months, TPL will continue its private fundraising efforts to close the balance on the $2.25 million goal, an amount that would cover the purchase price as well as project expenses.

Miller Lovett, a member of the Meredith Board of Selectmen, said, “Page Pond was an excellent buy for the town, with each town dollar matched by nearly two outside dollars. If we had not succeeded now, it might have been a very long time before funding of this magnitude became available again. We owe our deepest appreciation to The Trust for Public Land, which contributed thousands of hours, non-refundable deposits, bridge loans, and fundraising expertise – undoubtedly more than they ever anticipated – to complete today’s purchase. The conservation of Page Pond and Forest is an extraordinary beginning to our new year. The town is indebted to all those who made this possible.”

The 567-acre property in eastern Meredith was a top conservation priority because of its recreational uses, wildlife habitat, and its importance as a key northern watershed influencing the water quality of Lake Winnipesaukee. Meredith residents have long considered the Page Pond and Forest tract as an identifying feature of the community and a highly significant scenic area. It features an unfragmented forest, a completely undeveloped 19-acre Great Pond, and an extensive wetland complex.

Deborah Turcott Young, Executive Director of LCHIP shared, “Page Pond represents a tremendous success for Meredith and the state of New Hampshire. In the review process, Page Pond scored very well because of its effect on water quality and the abundance of wildlife that make it their home. But, in my mind, the clearer distinction of importance was evidenced through the people of Meredith and the town government rallying to protect this vital piece of their community. A people’s love for their land is its greatest testimony.”

In November, as the private fundraising campaign was nearing the wire, TPL secured a $100,000 anonymous challenge gift from an avid TPL conservation donor, who agreed to match all donations to the project (up to $100,000). Betsy McGean, TPL’s Campaign Director, said, “Our challenge gift gave the campaign a huge and much-needed boost. A second shot of adrenalin was provided by artist Stephen Hodecker, who auctioned a painting to benefit the project.

She continued, “We have almost achieved our challenge goal of $100,000 with matching gifts from over 100 donors. To raise this amount of money in a small town given these tough economic times is a testament to two things: the remarkable diligence of our volunteers and the passionate support in the community for conserving the land. We recognize and thank our partners: the Town, the Meredith Conservation Commission, LCHIP, the Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed Association, over 425 private donors, Guieseppe’s Restaurant, and our amazing volunteer Leadership Campaign Committee, whose members never gave up on this project.”

Mark Billings, co-Chair of the Campaign Committee said “Our Committee has worked tirelessly on the private campaign for over 14 months now, and it is thrilling to know that this beautiful landscape will be conserved forever as one of the Town’s most valuable natural assets. We could not have succeeded with this ambitious conservation endeavor without the private-public partnership between TPL and the Town.”

Don MacFarlane, Chair of the Meredith Conservation Commission, said, “I want to recognize the vision of the Board of Selectmen, who gave us the flexibility to reach the purchase price by our deadline. And let’s not forget the landowners, who helped us conclude this conservation project with a significant price reduction last month. Most of all we applaud the tireless efforts of the staff of TPL and the Leadership Campaign Committee whose untiring efforts helped to bring about the protection of this property. This was truly a team effort, and now our work turns to managing this magnificent area for the benefit of our residents and visitors.”

The Conservation Commission plans to open the property for year-round low-impact recreation, including hiking, cross country skiing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, bird watching and nature appreciation. As a community owned and managed asset, public access and recreation will continue in perpetuity.

The Page Pond and Forest is the latest success story in TPL’s larger Community Forest Program. Working closely with communities throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, the program has helped to create 8 new community forests and protect over 22,000 acres as community assets for this and future generations, including in Freedom, Strafford and Randolph, NH. TPL will also be closing the 475-acre Brushwood Community Forest in West Fairlee, Vermont later this month, and adding over 1,800 acres to the Errol Town Forest this Spring.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. In New Hampshire, TPL has protected more than 230,000 acres.