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Voters approve purchase of McDonald Farm for open space

Date: 5/18/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM Old McDonald had a farm - and now the town of Wilbraham will turn that farm into protected open space for passive recreation.

Voters approved the purchase of the 28.81-acre McDonald Farm, located on Washington Road, along with .11 acres off of Manchonis Road at the Special Town Meeting that took place last Monday. The town treasurer now has the ability to borrow $400,000 to pay for the purchase of the land, but nearly 75 percent of that amount will be paid for through a state grant and Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.

The land off Manchonis would provide a way for vehicles to travel from that road to Washington Road to get to the farm.

The Massachusetts Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant will provide $258,886 toward the purchase of the properties, with $146,114 coming from the CPA and $4,900 coming from the Minnechaug Land Trust (MLT), who will be in charge of the land's conservation restriction. The Conservation Commission will be in charge of the "care, custody, management and control" of the land, according to the motion presented by Selectman James Thompson.

John Pearsall, planning director for the town, explained that if voters approved the article, the land would be permanently protected and that the former owners of the farm, Alton and Helen McDonald, would be honored by having the parcel renamed as the McDonald Nature Preserve.

"This would provide permanent protection from development," Steve Lawson of the MLT stated. The farm is surrounded on three sides by conservation land, and Lawson said the plans for the McDonald Farm include connecting the hiking trails from other conservation parcels to establishing a large wildlife corridor to creating a second community garden for North Wilbraham.

"There will be future meetings to determine what will be done there," he added. "This will provide four seasons of use."

Lawson noted that the purchase of the property was supported by the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, the Planning Board, the Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee, the Community Preservation Committee, the Finance Committee and MLT.

Most of the residents who spoke on the article were in favor of it. Rob Anderson, who lives on Washington Road, said he was "thrilled and humbled" to see this proposition brought before the townspeople; Tim Timpson said that he thought it was "great."

The motion was approved by a two-thirds vote, and Lawson said to meet the Purchase and Sale Agreement and state deadlines, the land would belong to Wilbraham by the end of June.

"We plan on eventually dedicating the land as the McDonald Nature Preserve," Lawson told Reminder Publications, "but there is no set date yet."


The Annual Town Meeting that was scheduled for May 11 was opened previous to the Special Town Meeting, but will be continued to May 16 for voting purposes only; voting on warrant articles will take place at the meeting continuation scheduled for June 15 at 7 p.m. in the Minnechaug Regional High School auditorium.