Worcester Water Protection Effort Celebrated (MA)

Holden, MA, 8/6/2007: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, joined today in Holden with federal, state, and local dignitaries to commemorate the completion of three projects that will help safeguard water quality in Worcester and surrounding towns. Gathering at the Scott Brook property in Holden, area residents and elected officials praised the conservation efforts and discussed a future initiative to continue the conservation work.

Congressman Jim McGovern said, “I’m very pleased to be a part of this important progress in protecting our vital natural resources and maintaining a safe water supply for our community. I’m particularly pleased with the use of federal Forest Legacy funding is making this achievement possible. I want to commend the Trust for Public Land for all of their hard work. I will continue to work in Congress to protect open space and encourage smart development.”

In 2005, The Trust for Public Land helped protect 209 acres of forestland that safeguard nearly two miles along the banks of Muschopauge Brook, a major tributary to the Quinapoxet Reservoir. The Quinapoxet is a public water source that provides 200,000 people with clean, safe drinking water in the City of Worcester and surrounding communities. The project was made possible by $395,000 in U.S. Forest Legacy Program funds, secured by U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and Rep. McGovern, $500,000 from a state Drinking Water Supply Protection grant, and $1,130,000 from the City of Worcester.

Though not able to attend today’s event, Sen. Kennedy said, “It’s critically important that we do all we can to safeguard public drinking water, and I’m grateful that our colleagues in Congress approved our request for Forest Legacy funds,” Senator Kennedy said. “I commend the Trust for Public Land, the State, and local partners for making this investment a reality.”

Sen. Kerry added, “Protecting the lands surrounding watershed areas is critical to maintaining clean water for not just for human consumption, but for the well being of wild life and stream life. Worcester County has a strong history of watershed protection and the high quality of its drinking water,” said Senator Kerry. “Conservation efforts from organizations such as the Nashua River Watershed Association, the Trustees of Reservations, and local conservation commissions will continue to complement the outstanding work of The Trust for Public Land. I am happy to have helped secure this funding, and I’m confident it will go to good use for the people and environment of Worcester County and Massachusetts.”

The 75-acre Tatnuck Brook property off of Bailey Road in Holden, was permanently protected by a conservation easement in 2005 that prevents development along a significant portion of the Tatnuck Brook before it empties into Holden Reservoir #1.

The Scott Brook property, where today’s event was held, consists of 75 acres of beautiful wooded uplands and wetlands with more than a mile of frontage on Scott Brook. It too has been permanently protected by a conservation easement, effective in March 2007. Funding was provided by the City of Worcester and by a $350,000 Massachusetts Drinking Water Supply Protection Grant.

“The Commonwealth was pleased to play an important role in safeguarding open space and clean water in the Worcester area through $850,000 in Drinking Water Supply Protection grants we have provided for the Muschopauge Brook and Scott Brook sites,” said Philip Griffiths, Undersecretary for the Environment in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “With our announcement last week of a five-year capital spending plan that provides at least $50 million per year for land protection, we look forward to more opportunities to pursue the critical goal of land preservation with our partners here in Worcester and around the state.”

Philip Guerin, Director of Environmental Systems for the Worcester Department of Public Works & Parks, said, “The City of Worcester has a long history of water supply protection dating back to the late 1800’s. We recognize the importance of maintaining clean source water and are very pleased to be able to continue these efforts, given the difficult fiscal situation faced by the City in recent years. The successes we celebrate today are the result of a true partnership involving not only private environmental organizations, like TPL and White Oak, but also the Federal and State governments. Having government agencies go beyond just saying that water source protection is important and actually providing the funds to help make it happen is effective and refreshing and should serve as a model for all interactions between municipalities and environmental agencies.

The Trust for Public Land also said today that it was launching a new initiative to conserve additional land in Worcester County through a new “Worcester County Conservation Initiative.” Describing Worcester County as standing “at the frontier of sprawl,” TPL hopes to pursue three related goals: 1. Help communities plan for conservation and smart development; 2. Identify funding sources for conservation investments; and 3. Accomplish key land protection projects.

Ken Crater, a resident of Grafton and advisor to The Trust for Public Land, said, “The resources and experience that TPL brings to our municipalities and small local land trusts are urgently needed to prevent the loss of many of our special places in Worcester County – the very places that define our communities. Our towns are unprepared for the wave of sprawl development engulfing them, and TPL’s initiative brings an essential partnership to help us get back in control of our destiny.”

Craig MacDonnell, Massachusetts State Director for TPL, said, “Over the past 20 years, TPL has completed 15 projects in Worcester County. Our goal now is to build upon these successes by working closely with local officials, citizens, and organizations to achieve their conservation priorities. We will continue to rely upon the far-sighted support of such critical programs as Forest Legacy and state open space grant programs. We thank Congressman McGovern, Senators Kennedy and Kerry, Undersecretary Griffiths, the City of Worcester, and all those who helped make today’s celebration possible.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has worked with landowners, community groups, and state and local government agencies across America to preserve more than 2.3 million acres in 46 states. TPL has completed over 100 projects and protected over 11,500 acres in Massachusetts, including over 1,400 acres in Worcester County.