Amherst farm to be preserved

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2017 11:40:39 PM

AMHERST — A South East Street farm that borders the Norwottuck Rail Trail and the Lawrence Swamp Conservation Area is being permanently conserved as agricultural land.

The 63-acre Foxcroft Farm, at 908 South East St., was recently placed into the state's Agriculture Preservation Restriction program.

“This stretch of farmland along South East Street has been a top priority for the town of Amherst for decades," said Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, who also serves as Amherst's director of conservation and development. 

Ziomek explained that the farm was one of the last unprotected agricultural properties in that area of South Amherst and its protection is consistent with the town’s master plan.

Keeping the land in active farmland will also protect the Hop Brook, which Ziomek said is a special resource for rare and endangered species, including features mussels, fish and terrestrial turtles.

Kristin DeBoer, executive director of Kestrel Land Trust, said her organization invested time, and what are known as rapid response funds, to help conserve the farm and maintain views toward both the Mount Holyoke Range and the Pelham Hills.

The land and farm are owned by James Hoerle. Because of its proximity to other conserved land, the farm sees wildlife that includes bobcats, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, bear and birds.

The total project cost was $732,600. Funding included $68,500 from the town's Community Preservation Act, appropriated by Town Meeting last year, along with money from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and Kestrel.

A 4-acre lot that could be developed for housing remains unprotected, but this may get a conservation restriction in the future. Another $75,000 is needed to move forward with acquiring this land, which has an appraised fair market value of $290,000 due to its scenic location and proximity to protected land.

Kestrel and the town are beginning a fundraising effort in the coming months to complete this phase of the project.

On May 2, coinciding with Valley Gives Day, Kestrel will hold a “walk and talk” along the Norwottuck Rail Trail to see the Foxcroft Farm. The public will meet at noon in the Station Road parking lot.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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