The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 2010

A guide to Carlisle’s conservation organizations

Open space and great schools. In one order or the other, these are often the first two reasons that residents give for moving to Carlisle. How does Carlisle maintain its small town atmosphere and rural vistas?

Carlisle residents enjoy a wealth of protected open space and a growing trail network. Over 32% of Carlisle’s 9,913 acres are either publicly owned and protected or under permanent conservation restriction (see sidebar), according to the 2005 Open Space and Recreation Plan. Since that report was published, an additional 266 acres have been added to the list. A number of public and private groups are involved in overseeing this protected land. These include the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom), the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF), The Trustees of the Reservations, the New England Forestry Foundation, Harvard University, the state and federal governments, as well as several smaller town committees.

Conservation Commission

The seven members of the ConsCom meet twice monthly to address concerns about the town’s natural resources and to oversee the permitting process for development near wetlands. The ConsCom also has a role in reviewing conservation restrictions, undertakes planning and land acquisition and promotes environmental education.

The Massachusetts Conservation Commission Act of 1957 states that conservation lands purchased or received by the town are to be managed by the ConsCom. In this case, managing includes maintaining, protecting, improving and conserving these resources. The Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act (WPA), passed in 1972, protects all vegetated wetlands and other water resource areas (whether on public or private land). The commission also administers the town’s wetland bylaw. The Rivers Protection Act of 1996 protects 200-foot zones along both sides of riverfronts and perennial streams.

ConsCom members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen to serve three-year terms. Current members are: Peter Burn (chair), Diane Troppoli, Patricia Smith, Kelly Guarino, Jenifer Bush, J. Thomas Brownrigg and Debra Kimbrell-Anderson. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard and part-time administrative assistant Mary Hopkins work with the ConsCom.

Carlisle Conservation Foundation and Carlisle Land Trust

For the past 50 years, the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF) a non-profit, volunteer organization, has also played a major role in maintaining the rural character of Carlisle. As a private entity, CCF works with landowners and other groups to facilitate the preservation of parcels for conservation purposes. It has done this by providing funding for land survey and appraisal, purchase options or in some cases, donations toward the cost of purchase. CCF currently owns about 113 acres acquired through purchase or gift. It holds conservation restrictions on additional land.

Limited development has been used where finances do not permit the preservation of an entire parcel of land. In these cases the landowner and CCF identifiy a way to develop a portion of the land in order to secure the preservation of the remainder. For example, limited development was used to preserve frontage and vistas of Bates and Clark Farms. The CCF sub-group the Carlisle Land Trust was formed to handle these land transactions.

CCF and the Carlisle Land Trust have used their ability to respond quickly to protect land that came onto the market. For example, when the 55-acre Foss Farm became available in 1970, CCF raised money for the option and appraisal until the town could bring the matter to a Town Meeting vote.

CCF also provides community outreach and education, public advocacy and fundraising toward those goals. The CCF has partnered with other groups on a variety of projects including: creating land and trail easements, building a handicapped-access trail at the Malcolm Preserve, bringing in sheep to help control invasive species on conservation lands, and to provide outdoor educational experiences for third and fourth graders at the Carlisle School.

Conservation Restriction

Advisory Committee

The Conservation Restriction Advisory Committee (CRAC) works closely with the ConsCom to help preserve privately owned land as open space. To do this, the landowner and the town (or other non-profit group) enter into a legal agreement known as a conservation restriction.

The group assists ConsCom by helping to determine if a prospective CR would be “in the public interest.” The committee then meets with landowners and developers to create the official legal documents that must be filed with the state. The committee coordinates the negotiation, writing and approval of CRs in Carlisle. If the town is the grantee of the CR, this committee also assists ConsCom by monitoring these parcels to assure compliance with the CR agreements.

Members of this committee are appointed by the Board of Selectmen and meetings are held monthly. Current members are: John Keating (chair), Wayne Davis, Ken Harte, Jenifer Bush and Marc Lamere.

Land Stewardship Committee

The Land Stewardship Committee was established in 2005 as a subcommittee of the ConsCom. They assist the ConsCom in their role of managing town-owned conservation land. As “stewards of conservation land” their role is to protect and maintain the natural and cultural resources on the conservation lands, including wildlife habitat, water and forest resources, scenic vistas and historic structures. Members routinely walk the conservation parcels, monitoring the condition of the land and buildings and suggesting and implementing repairs and improvements.

The group is also responsible for developing baseline assessments and management plans for each of the major conservation parcels.  The assessment includes information about each parcel including the condition, history, current uses of the land, the natural and cultural features of the parcel.

Members of the committee are appointed by and report to the Conservation Commission. Current members include: Liz Carpenter (chair), Dwight DeMay (vice chair), Timothy Donohue, Tim Fohl, Debbie Geltner, Bonnie Jacobellis, Lynn Knight, Elizabeth Loutrel, Warren Lyman and the ConsCom Administrator.

Trails Committee

The Carlisle Trails Committee is a group of volunteers who plan and maintain the town’s network of hiking/walking trails. The committee also produces the Carlisle Trail Guide, organizes trail work days and organizes group hikes throughout the year to encourage the community to enjoy trails. Members of the committee continually work to improve existing trails, clearing downed trees, building boardwalks and bridges to provide wetland trail crossings and providing signage on the trail network.

The committee website offers a comprehensive list of trail maps, information about trail etiquette and upcoming events. To promote use of the trails, the committee has introduced the Carlisle Trekker Award which can be earned by any town resident who has hiked all trails in town and has participated in at least one volunteer work event sponsored by the committee.

Current members of the trails committee are: Kevin Smith (chair), Henry Cox, Steve Tobin, Marc Lamere, George Fardy, Berton Willard and Louise Hara.

State, federal and private agencies

In addition to local boards and committees, several other groups are involved with the maintenance of conservation parcels within Carlisle including: the Trustees of the Reservations which, with the CCF, jointly owns and maintains the Malcolm Preserve on Stearns Street and is the grantee for Conservation Restrictions (CRs) on the Davis Corridor Land and the Estabrook Woods buffer lands; the New England Forestry Foundation which oversees a large CR on West Street; Harvard University which owns Estabrook Woods; the state, which oversees Carlisle Pines State Forest and Great Brook Farm State Park; and the federal government, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which oversee portions of the land abutting Concord River. ∆

What is a CR?

A conservation restriction is a legal agreement made by a landowner not to change the use of a parcel of open space. Typically, the landowner can maintain trails and existing buildings, but is prohibited from constructing new buildings or roads. The CR is given by the landowner to an organization that agrees to monitor the land to assure long-term compliance.

In most cases, a CR is used to protect land which is privately owned and the CR is often given to a town. In this way, the town’s conservation commission can monitor the land and make sure that future owners of the parcel understand their responsibility to keep the land undeveloped.

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito