Pascommuck Conservation Trust asks public to support open space in their neighborhoods
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 »
Andrew Foster of Easthampton and his son Mattias purchase some plants at the Pascommuck Conservation Trust's annual plant sale at the Big E Market in Easthampton Saturday.
JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — On a cool morning two weeks ago, Pascommuck Conservation Trust board member Doug Wheat watched his sons, Zackary, 8, and Davis, 6, as they adventured through the woods off of Ranch Avenue on a rare day off from school. They clambered up gullies, hopped over streams and looked into holes, explaining that they were checking for skunks.
Wheat said it is the goal of the trust to preserve land in every city neighborhood as open space, so that people can easily enjoy nature as his sons were, no matter where they live.
“We’re looking more to conserving land that you can walk to,” he said.
To that end, the trust this year purchased two properties totaling 28 acres that will add onto two existing conservation areas.
Now it is in the midst of its largest fundraising campaign ever, the Save Open Space in Our Neighborhoods campaign, to raise $133,000 to support the purchases and create recreational trails on the property.
The trust purchased a 22-acre area between Paul Street and Ranch Avenue. The $67,000 deal 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 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.
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.
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 combined Pomeroy Meadows land has hemlock and red pine forests, a 3-acre field and almost a mile of frontage along the Manhan River that Wheat said is prime habitat for wildlife. The property is also cleaved by many ravines, which Wheat said will require steps and bridges when the trails are created.
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 trust has future plans to create a trail system on the new parcel, but that will not be funded through this campaign.
House parties, mailings
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. 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 many residents and is holding hikes at the new properties to raise awareness about the effort.
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 to the campaign 15 percent of the proceeds of the sale of any of his nature prints, which are on display in the City Hall Gallery at 50 Payson Ave.