Reminder Assistant Editor
HAMPDEN The Minnechaug Land Trust (MLT) saw an opportunity to save and conserve the Kibbe Farm property on South Road but needed assistance purchasing the land. Last month the MLT, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Audubon Society (MAS), was awarded a $60,000 Conservation Partnership Grant to keep the land as open space.
Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced $442,020 in grants to preserve more than 205 acres of open space from the eastern shoreline to the Pioneer Valley on Nov. 7.
"Land trusts ... are essential partners in our efforts to preserve the Commonwealth's natural and agricultural landscapes," Bowles stated. "The grants ... are investments by the state that will help our partners preserve more than 200 acres of land and make it available for the public to enjoy forever."
Earning a land protection grant can be difficult, however.
"Every grant has a lot of conditions," Sherry Himmelstein, president of the MLT, said. "The Conservation Partnership Grant could be used to purchase land or conservation restrictions, but could not be used to pay for land that was already purchased." The MAS stepped in to help by using the grant money to purchase a conservation restriction for the property.
The MAS cares for 33,000 acres of conservation land.
The restriction provides the legal ability to monitor the land and enforce conservation efforts. It allows for only three homes to exist on the parcel, rather than a total of 16, according to MAS Land Protection Specialist Charlie Wyman.
The MAS will visit the property once a year to ensure the restrictions are being upheld.
"A conservation restriction is a powerful tool," Wyman said. "We want to ensure the land will never be developed."
Sixty-two acres of the 76-acre Kibbe Farm will soon be officially protected and will never be allowed to be developed, courtesy of a conservation restriction to be purchased by the MAS.
The existing house and barn can stay on a 10-acre parcel and two additional homes on two-acre lots will be allowed as well.
The town of Hampden will joined the MAS as co-owners of the conservation restriction.
"We're keeping most of the land as open space without fragmenting it," Himmelstein explained. "Our mission is to balance new growth and development while protecting open space."
The MLT looks are parcels that are more environmentally significant and turns their attention to them, Himmelstein added. The trust looks for large pieces of land, usually connected to other protected areas, as well as parcels that support a significant wildlife habitat. The Kibbe Farm abuts over 400 acres of open space.
Wyman said the MAS is hoping to purchase the conservation restriction on the property by the end of 2007 or early 2008. "It's a lengthy process," he stated.
"There are no other properties in Western Massachusetts with a partnership like this," Wyman continued. "Every conservation effort these days is unique."
Himmelstein echoed that this is a unique situation.
For the two new homes to be built on the two-acre unrestricted parcels, work has just begun.
"We're just beginning the process of marketing the land," she said. "It's a different kind of project because of the limited development allowed. We're venturing into a new area for us. It's a necessity for the land trust to sell these properties to fund our projects."
"The Minnechaug Land Trust were the real architects behind this project," Wyman said. "Mass. Audubon is simply playing a supporting role."
The Kibbe Farm was originally purchased by the MLT in June. A developer offered $755,000 to purchase and build homes on the land but faced a number of delays. The MLT stepped in to purchased the property for $605,000.
For more information on the MLT, visit its Web site at www.minnechauglandtrust.org.