Piscassic Greenway Completion Celebrated (NH)

Newfields, New Hampshire, 8/8/2006: U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) joined Chair of Newfields Board of Selectman Janet McBride Smith, the Rockingham Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and other local and state officials and residents in Newfields today, to celebrate the recent completion of the Piscassic Greenway.

A new sign was unveiled to mark the completion of a 2-year effort that protects a crucial link between two blocks of existing protected lands, creating a wildlife and recreational corridor of more than 2,600 acres from Newmarket to Exeter.

Through the leadership of Senator Judd Gregg, the Piscassic Greenway received nearly $4.0 million in grants from NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).

U.S. Senator Judd Gregg stated, “I want to thank the Rockingham Land Trust, TPL and especially the people of Newfields for the extraordinary steps they took to protect our state’s environment. The completion of the Piscassic Greenway initiative is a great example of the effectiveness of the partnership of conservation groups, public agencies and local residents in NH. Conserving the critical wildlife habitats, water resources and greenway corridor that characterize this unique place not only protects the physical landscape but strengthens the quality of life here. I have been proud to support these efforts and am happy to recognize all those who made this celebration possible.”

In 2004, the current owner, Halls Mill Realty Trust, 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 consistently identified this area as a priority for the conservation of wildlife habitat, water quality, trail connections, and greenway corridors.

According to Newfields Selectman Janet McBride Smith, the response from the town to see the greenway protected rather than developed was overwhelming, it was like an “Aha!” moment. “On behalf of the Town of Newfields, we want to thank Senator Judd Gregg. The federal money for coastal conservation he secured gave us the confidence that we could achieve this vision and make it possible. Without his support, conserving the greenway wouldn’t have been possible.”

At the request of the Rockingham Land Trust, TPL began negotiating the purchase of the land in October 2004 and secured an agreement to acquire the land for the price of $7.55 million, a significant discount from its appraised fair market value. TPL negotiated an agreement to purchase the property and worked with the Rockingham Land Trust, the Town of Newfields and local advocates to seek funding.

Whitney Hatch, Regional Director and Vice President of TPL, credited Gregg for his vision in preserving New Hampshire’s coastal character. “Senator Gregg is a leader who can look to the future and see that if we don’t act now, beautiful and essential river corridors such as this one will be lost to urban sprawl. We greatly appreciate Senator Gregg’s hard work and leadership in securing funding through CELCP. On behalf of all the partners involved in this effort, we thank him for his commitment to land conservation, and his effectiveness in Washington which brings federal conservation funding to New Hampshire.”

Hatch also credited the voters of Newfields and the fantastic leadership of the Rockingham Land Trust (RLT). Newfields voters responded overwhelmingly to the opportunity to conserve the Greenway, approving a $1.5 million bond in March of 2005 with 87% support. With the addition of $500,000 in funding from a previous bond, the Town’s contribution totaled $2 million. The Rockingham Land Trust led a private campaign drive that raised over $1.6 million in private contributions toward the conservation of the Piscassic Greenway. “TPL recognizes the local forces that made a significant investment in the future of this community. Generous contributions from supporters of the project, the strong leadership from RLT, and the commitment from everyone who dedicated their time and talent to making this project a success are a shining example of how communities can take action before it’s too late,” said Hatch.

Tom Chamberlin, President of the Board of the Rockingham Land Trust, also thanked the more than 675 individuals, businesses and foundations who contributed private dollars toward the protection of the Piscassic Greenway. “We are inspired by the generosity and support of the residents of greater Rockingham County, as well as those from other places who love this area, and who clearly value the conservation of community lands such as the Piscassic Greenway,” said Chamberlin.

Creation of the Piscassic Greenway helps preserve 106 acres of wetlands, two vernal pools and 1,200 feet of shoreline on the Piscassic River, a tributary to the wild and scenic Lamprey River and Great Bay. The land, a mix of upland forests and wetlands, includes diverse habitats for common and rare wildlife, including moose, bear, whip-poor-will, and mallard.

The protection of the land ensures continued public access for outdoor recreation, including hiking, skiing, fishing, hunting, and trapping. In addition to preserving recreational opportunities, a conservation easement held by the Town of Newfields includes provisions designed to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and ecologically sensitive areas.

Over the next year, the Rockingham Land Trust will work with a management advisory committee to prepare a formal land management and stewardship plan. This plan will guide the recreational uses and wildlife habitat management activities on the property.

“We look forward to working with area residents and the Town on the management of this land,” said Chamberlin.

“The conservation of the Piscassic Greenway is a great success for New Hampshire,” said Ted Diers, New Hampshire Coastal Program Manager . “It is a demonstration of the importance of partnerships, which is the key to conserving New Hampshire’s coastal resources.”

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services granted $332,000 through its drinking water supply land protection program. New Hampshire’s Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have provided $187,710 State Wildlife Improvement Grant, and the project was awarded a $50,000 grant from the highly competitive North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

Founded in 1980, the Rockingham Land Trust is a membership-based, non-profit organization dedicated to permanently protecting the region’s open spaces, including farmland, forestland, water resources, and wildlife habitat. As a regional land trust, the Rockingham Land Trust serves the 39 communities of greater Rockingham County and has helped landowners and communities protect more than 4,000 acres of land. The Piscassic Greenway is the Rockingham Land Trust’s 76th project in greater Rockingham County. For more information, visit www.rockinghamlandtrust.org.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit 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 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states, including nearly 200,000 acres in New Hampshire. 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’s Concord office at (603) 224-0103 or visit www.tpl.org/newhampshire