The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 20, 2008

Conservation land stewards examine Foss Farm

The Carlisle Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) delivered the fifth of its comprehensive Baseline Assessments of the town’s major conservation parcels at the June 12 Conservation Commission (ConsCom) meeting. In the document’s 56 pages, municipal officials, outdoor enthusiasts and interested taxpayers can find an overview of the history, geologic features, wildlife habitat and trail networks that make up the 57-acre Foss Farm parcel.

The property, which is located on the north side of Route 225 just before the river crossing to Bedford, was purchased by the town in 1971 for $100,624. Approximately 50% of the funding came from the Federal Land Conservation Fund, 25% from the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources Self Help Fund and 25% from the town.

LSC representatives Liz Carpenter, Warren Lyman and Lynn Knight reminded listeners that compilation of this document, like those that preceded it, was undertaken at ConsCom’s request, in order to provide baseline data and management plan for the property. Their findings and observations are enlivened by colorful maps, charts, photographs and descriptive habitat vistas.

The four richly illustrated sections that follow the Overview describe in detail the acquisition of the parcel, past and present usage, previous studies, and current maintenance status. Section 2 on the purchase provides valuable insights as to the desires of William Flood, the farmer/owner who sold the property, along with the aims of the Conservation Commission at that time, and including the substantial restrictions imposed on its use by federal and state funding entities.

Section 3 traces historical and pre-1971 uses, and the various activities specified at the time of purchase, many of which are still enjoyed year in and year out. These include community gardening, hiking, dog walking, equestrian pursuits (Pony Club), bird watching, and, of course agriculture, the last encouraged by contributing federal and state agencies.

Section 4 offers a look at the processes by which the community has sought a consensus on its land-use goals as expressed in the 2006 Open Space and Recreation Plan, i.e: maintain the town’s rural character, protect the town’s environment, meet Carlisle’s recreation needs and proactively manage land use.

The final section is brief, but contains the researchers’ conclusions as to what they feel should be tackled in the subsequent management plan. In introducing it, the writers make the following observation. “Foss Farm is unique among the conservation parcels in Carlisle. It offers a perfect setting for the wonderful outdoor activities for which there are no alternative venues in town…. These activities provide enjoyment for all ages and foster values related to agriculture and country living.” In her verbal presentation Carpenter had also commented that, “We consider it the best example of a multi-purpose parcel in town and feel that its present usage is proper.”

Of the 12 issues highlighted by the researchers, seven stand out:

• Allowed uses at Foss Farm, “must be cognizant” of Executive Order 193 signed by former Governor Edward J. King in1981 (as discussed in their Section 2). That order sought to promote agriculture in Massachusetts and to mitigate against conversion of conservation lands like Foss Farm that were purchased in part by State and Federal funding (as is the case with Foss).

• Apropos of the community gardens, which have received strong community support for many years, and have been a driving factor in the initiation of the summertime farmers’ markets, the plan should explore additional management approaches using input from the various stakeholders. Specifically mentioned are the need for additional garden capacity and improvements to water facilities.

• The plan should address continued use of the property by the Pony Club, “which has made significant contributions to the maintenance of the property.” Further coordination might cover such regular activities as mowing and manure management.

• Important wildlife habitats should receive proper protection. The LSC Stewards have already toured the land with ornithology experts Tom and D’ Ann Brownrigg, resulting in a number of suggestions to improve habitats for the birds that live in and migrate through Foss Farm.

• Parking lot grading and erosion control measures are recommended, along with improved sight-lines for traffic entering and exiting.

• Discussions with the Trails Committee made completion of pathway connections within Foss Farm and with abutting conservation lands a priority.

• Maintenance activities will focus on preventing encroachment of forests into open areas and include elimination of invasive species, particularly when they threaten spectacular or rare trees.

No specific mention was given to the proposal by the Recreation Commission (RecCom) to build athletic fields on the property. Retiring RecCom chair Allen Deary had explored the idea in the past, and mentioned it again at the RecCom meeting on June 9.

Copies of the Baseline Assessment will soon be available in the ConsCom office and the Gleason Public Library. Both official and lay input is strongly encouraged. Lyman also assured those present that once the draft management plan is compiled LSC will schedule and publicize an open hearing to elicit further citizen input. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito