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Pascommuck Conservation Trust launches largest fundraising campaign to fund purchase of two properties in Easthampton

  • Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat's sons Zackary, 8, and Davis, 6, explore part of a 22-acre parcel of land off  Ranch Ave. in Easthampton  Tuesday. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area..<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat's sons Zackary, 8, and Davis, 6, explore part of a 22-acre parcel of land off Ranch Ave. in Easthampton Tuesday. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area..
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton while his sons Zackary, left, 8, and Davis, 6, explore a tributary of the Manhan River in the area on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this  expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton while his sons Zackary, left, 8, and Davis, 6, explore a tributary of the Manhan River in the area on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this  expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>

    Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.
    KEVIN GUTTING
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, center, 6, and Zackary, 8, explore a tributary of the Manhan River Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, center, 6, and Zackary, 8, explore a tributary of the Manhan River Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, 6, and Zackary, not shown, 8, tour a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, 6, and Zackary, not shown, 8, tour a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat's sons Zackary, 8, and Davis, 6, explore part of a 22-acre parcel of land off  Ranch Ave. in Easthampton  Tuesday. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area..<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton while his sons Zackary, left, 8, and Davis, 6, explore a tributary of the Manhan River in the area on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this  expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat talks about the recent purchase of a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this  expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>
  • Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, center, 6, and Zackary, 8, explore a tributary of the Manhan River Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Pascommuck Land Trust board member Doug Wheat and his sons Davis, 6, and Zackary, not shown, 8, tour a 22-acre parcel of land off of Ranch Ave. in Easthampton on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. The land was recently purchased for the expansion of the Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area. The PCT has launched a fund-raising campaign, "Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods", to support this area and the expansion of the Brickyard Brook Conservation Area.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

But as the trust embarks on its biggest fundraising campaign ever, leaders hope that city residents will think smaller and consider how nice it would be to have conservation land in their own backyards.

“Mount Tom is a huge resource that a lot of people drive to,” Wheat said. “But for us, we’re looking more to conserving land that you can walk to. This project provides accessible open space to these people in the neighborhoods.”

The trust’s “Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods” campaign seeks to raise $133,000 to support the purchase of two properties totaling 28 acres that will add onto two existing conservation areas.

Standing in the leafy woods off Ranch Avenue that now belong to the Pascommuck Conservation Trust, Wheat explained that the campaign is necessary to replenish the trust’s savings after the purchases cost them $105,000.

The trust purchased for $67,000 a 22-acre area between Paul Street and Ranch Avenue, which will expand the existing Pomeroy Meadows Conservation Area to 37 acres and allow public access to that formerly “landlocked” parcel.

For $108,000, the trust also bought a 6-acre parcel between East Street and East Green Street, allowing the trust to expand the well-used Brickyard Brook Conservation Area to 17.4 acres.

The total cost of the properties was $175,000, but $70,000 in Community Preservation Act funding from the city brought the total land cost down to $105,000.

Trust board members hope to raise an additional $28,000 to add hiking trails to the expanded Pomeroy Meadows Conservation Area, which brings the total campaign goal to $133,000.

Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, a founding member of the trust, said he is pleased the city could assist the organization in the expansion. “That’s the reason the trust was created; to carry on those conservation activities that sometimes cities and towns don’t have the wherewithal or focus to do,” he said.

While hiking the property Tuesday with his two sons, Zackary, 8, and Davis, 6, Wheat said that although the campaign is a massive undertaking, it is just a part of the trust’s goal of preserving land in every city neighborhood.

The new 22-acre property near Ranch Avenue was offered to the trust by Southampton developer David Garstka, who plans to build a nine-home subdivision off the end of Paul Street, but had no use for the undevelopable land behind the building site.

The area will be accessible both from the end of Ranch Avenue and from the subdivision on Paul Street.

“It’s a really big deal because Pomeroy Meadows has not been accessible to people before,” Wheat said, explaining that access was blocked by private properties abutting the land. “This land has always been in these people’s backyards, but now it will be more accessible public open space with trails.”

The Pomeroy Meadows land has “spectacular” hemlock and red pine forests and almost a mile of frontage along the Manhan River, Wheat said. “Land along the Manhan is one of our prime acquisition targets,” he said. “It’s prime habitat for wildlife.”

Hikers using trails in the new addition will also be able to enjoy a 3-acre field and hilly forests.

“The property has a lot of these deep ravines,” Wheat said, watching his sons clamber up the steep bank of a gully. “Areas like these will definitely need stairs.” Trust members and volunteers will be able to do some of the trail work, he said, but professionals will construct the stairs, bridges and viewing platforms.

The trust purchased the 6-acre parcel near the current Brickyard Brook Conservation Area from Robert and Mary Ann Donais this spring.

“Brickyard Brook is one of our most used properties... and this will make it even more accessible,” Wheat said. “In terms of providing open space, we think of it as kind of a model of the kind of conservation we do, because a lot of neighbors use it.”

Hikers and walkers have used paths on East Street and Mount Tom Avenue to access the property, but now they can also get to it from new points on East Green Street and East Street, he said.

The land also includes a mix of wooded areas, meadows and streams.

Although it will not be funded through the “Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods” campaign, the trust has future plans to create a trail system on the new parcel to connect with the current one at Brickyard Brook.

Campaigning for conservation

Over its 30-year history, the Pascommuck Conservation Trust has helped protect more than 600 acres of land in Easthampton, including its 19 conservation areas.

Wheat said the trust ran smaller campaigns to purchase some of those properties and assisted in the Trust for Public Land’s $2.85 million campaign to purchase Echo Dale Farm on Park Hill Road in 2006. But this campaign is its largest solo effort to date.

“It’s a big campaign, it’s a big task,” he said.

The trust hopes to raise $57,500 in local donations and $75,500 in grants. “We’ve raised a little more than $10,000 in donations so far, and we’re very happy about that,” he said. Most of those donations, he said, came from city residents. The trust is also applying for grants from private foundations, he said.

As part of the campaign, the trust gave out “We Support Open Space in Our Neighborhoods” lawn signs, sent out mailers to sympathetic residents and is holding hikes at the new properties to raise awareness about the effort.

The next hike is Sunday at Pomeroy Meadows, starting at the end of Ranch Avenue at noon. On Oct. 7 at 1 p.m., hikers can meet at the end of Mount Tom Avenue to tour Brickyard Brook.

Soon, the trust will launch a series of neighborhood fundraising house parties, hosted by residents in the area of Pomeroy Meadows. Neighbors can get together, learn about the project and donate, Wheat said.

The trust is also using its Facebook page to inspire people to support open space.

“We’re asking people to post stories about growing up with open space in their neighborhoods,” he said. “It lets people share their experiences and learn about the importance of open space like this.”

Trust board member and artist Martin Klein is donating 15 percent of the proceeds of the sale of any of his nature prints, currently on display in the City Hall Gallery at 50 Payson Ave., to the campaign.

The organization’s annual fall plant sale will also help them raise much-needed funds, Wheat said. The sale takes place in the Big E’s Supermarket parking lot Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

For more information, visit the trust’s website at www.pctland.org or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pctland.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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