Northampton council approves a pair of land conservation deals at Fitzgerald Lake, near Parsons Brook
NORTHAMPTON — Two land deals in recent days will allow the city to plug a 100-acre gap in the Broad Brook-Fitzgerald Lake Greenway, the expansive 900-acre conservation area home to a rich assortment of native plant and animal life.
The city closed a deal Monday to buy 80 acres for about $496,600 next to Broad Brook and off Coles Meadow Road. The purchase from the Kubosiak family significantly extended the conservation area and provided over a mile of protection to Broad Brook.
That transaction closed just a few days after the City Council unanimously agreed to allow the Conservation Commission to buy another 21.4 acres nearby from the Vollinger family.
Together, the transactions fill the single biggest hole in the city’s largest conservation area and serve as protection for numerous animal species, said Planning Director Wayne Feiden.
“The area has wonderful wildlife,” Feiden said. “It’s a big range of habitat types.”
While the purchase approved by the council last week is small in terms of acreage, the land is home to a variety of wildlife, including a blue heron rookery, said Robert Zimmerman, president of the Broad Brook Coalition.
“This is an important acquisition,” Zimmerman told the council. “It is a small acquisition, but an important one.”
The city will buy the property from the Vollinger family for $21,400, using Community Preservation Act money and donations. Broad Brook Coalition has agreed to donate $4,300 toward the purchase, Zimmerman said.
The deal calls for the Vollingers to hold temporary timber rights for selective cutting on the land for the next five years. Feiden said the city will oversee such an effort and noted that any cutting would be consistent with the long-term health of the forest. The family will get the proceeds from any sales.
“It’s a way for an owner to get some more money out (of the land), it’s a way for us to get it, and it’s at a stage that we’re happy with,” Feiden told the council last week.
Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen T. Carney noted that the purchase gives the city control of cutting after the five-year period, something they would have no control of if they didn’t take the opportunity to acquire it now.
Most importantly, the land closes a vital gap, she said.
“I’ve always supported purchase of land around Fitzgerald Lake and this is straight in line with that,” Carney said.
Ward 7 Eugene A. Tacy credited the Vollinger family for being “absolute perfect stewards of land” in the area.
“You couldn’t ask for people who cared more about land than they do,” Tacy said. “They breathe this land.”
Laurie Sanders, a naturalist who did an ecological assessment of the Kubosiak property, reported that the land supports seven different habitat types, including one of the most unusual swamp forests in Northampton.
The area also includes a marsh that contains some of the best black bear habitat in the state and includes a stretch of Broad Brook that is upstream from known habitat for three state-listed freshwater mussels, including one that is federally endangered, according to Sanders.
Feiden thanked the Kubosiak family in a press release, lauding the family for wanting to preserve the land and keeping it off the market to make this deal work.
The deal calls for Broad Brook Coalition, which helped fund the purchase along with a state land grant and CPA funds, to manage the property and the Kestrel Land Trust to hold a conservation restriction on the property and help ensure it is preserved forever.