Friday, February 1, 2002
Conservation Commission backs addition to wildlife corridor
It is reassuring to find there is one key piece of area agricultural real estate that Carlisle taxpayers will not be called upon to rescue from development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has informed our conservation commission of its championing of a grant from the state's Route 3 Mitigation Fund, to be matched by federal, municipal and foundation resources, for purchase of the 50-acre Kennelly Farm in Billerica.
The tract, just across the border near the Greenough Conservation Land, can be viewed by following North Road over the town line into Billerica. Its acquisition would add high-quality grassland and forested upland to the 3,700 acres of habitat protected and managed in the Great Meadows National Wildlife Reserve, augmented by Carlisle's open-water pond and forest in Greenough. The grant request was filed by the Trust for Public Land on behalf of the Service and the Town of Billerica.
At its January 24 meeting the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom), backed by the board of selectmen, authorized a positive response to a letter from the Service requesting conceptual support for the project. The ConsCom memo assured them of this town's backing for the effort to preserve the farm. In addition the commission validated a statement for inclusion in the Service's appeal to the state as follows:
"Discussion has begun with the Carlisle Conservation Commission regarding cooperative management by the Service of its nearby Greenough Conservation Land. Carlisle has expressed its support for Service protection of quality habitats associated with our common interests in that area." The reply closed with an assurance that, "We look forward to speaking with you further about cooperative management of Greenough conservation land."
If the drive to preserve the Kennelly property is successful, the Service has indicated its intention to manage the farm as a native grassland community to accommodate the widest diversity of grassland nesting bird species. They note that this increasingly rare type of habitat is essential to the future of several "species of concern," including the Savannah sparrow, bobolink and meadowlark. Also raptors as the Cooper's hawk and great horned owl can continue to cruise the open fields and nearby forest, while small mammals like the red fox, cotton-tail rabbit, river otter and beaver would also benefit.
The commission returned to the so-far intractable problem of an in-kind lease of the house, barn and four acres of farmland on the 242-acre Greenough property. The attempt to find a tenant willing to undertake the substantial repairs required to make the house habitable for a family, in return for the five-year lease authorized by Town Meeting, has failed to find a taker. In the meantime, Paul Booth, who has been living there and using the barn as a carpentry shop, has received the commission's blessing, since both they and the owners of neighboring properties realize that his presence is critical to the security of the property.
At the board's request Booth appeared at the January 24 meeting to bring the commission up to date on the condition of the property. He reported that the outbuildings are in pretty good shape, but that "the house is in need of major work that should be taken care of soon." He said he has kept up with day-to-day problems as they came up but that he didn't feel he could undertake major repairs without some kind of contract.
Reminding the commission that "construction is what I do for a living," Booth made it clear that he would be happy to fix the house, but that he was not interested in the agricultural possibilities outlined in the failed 1999 Request for Proposals. Also, were he to undertake the original RFP specifications that included the removal of asbestos and lead paint as required by law to make the building habitable, he would need a lease for longer than five years.
Chair Tom Brownrigg thanked Booth for keeping a watchful eye on the property, particularly during winter when a frozen Greenough Pond attracts large numbers of skaters. He agreed that, "The ball is in our court to get the lease going." Commissioner Jo Rita Jordan closed the discussion by suggesting that the board restart the process by consulting Great Brook Farm State Park superintendent Ray Faucher about the state's 20-year, in-kind lease of the Litchfield House on North Road.
"Stump dump" clean-up
A third agenda item related to the town's properties in the eastern quadrant was the report of a so-called "stump dump" in a wetland adjacent to the Town Forest. The owner of the land in question, Al Frizzell, informed the commission that his property, including the dump, was originally the site of the Carlisle Foundry, which had deposited all kinds of junk, including car parts, tin cans and appliances in the wetland. The stumps that are so clearly visible today go back to the time when East Riding Drive was developed, and the debris from that project also ended up there.
Explaining that, "My hobby is removing the debris, especially when the stream backs up and floods the neighborhood," Frizzell said he had been taking each part of his property in turn and cleaning it up, both to improve the vistas and to discourage any further dumping. He said he made it a habit to clear brush from trails in the Town Forest, including one that eventually crosses his property.
Commissioner Jonathan Beakley told Frizzell that the board greatly appreciates his love of the land and the obviously hard work he has done. However, he said it was their duty to warn him that while removal of non-permitted trash from the wetland is fine, clearing natural debris such as fallen trees is not allowed under the Wetland Protection Act. Duly forewarned, the wetland Samaritan returned to his good works.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito