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Northfield Mount Hermon sells 1,650-acre forest and water company to Trust for Public Land



Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2014
NORTHFIELD — An expansive local forest, as well as the water company that serves at least 250 residents, could end up in the hands of a national land trust.

The Northfield Mount Hermon School announced March 26 the tentative sale of a 1,650-acre forest and the East Northfield Water Co. to the Trust for Public Land. The two have entered into a preliminary sales agreement.

“This is an opportunity to permanently ensure that people have the ability to access and use this amazing landscape for recreation and enjoyment,” said Chris LaPointe, senior project manager with the Trust for Public Land. “It’s such an important landscape. The school has been a fantastic steward of the land, and this is an opportunity to make sure it stays protected.”

Though the trust would make the initial purchase, it would eventually transfer the forest to another owner or partnership of owners that intend to preserve the land for open space and recreation.

This is standard practice for the trust, as the group focuses on the immediate protection of properties and regularly transfers them to long-term owners. The group would also seek a buyer for the East Northfield Water Co.

The agreed-upon purchase price is not yet being released, according to LaPointe and Northfield Mount Hermon officials.

The Northfield Forest is spread over three towns, with most in Northfield, about 90 acres in Warwick and about 24 acres in Winchester, N.H. It includes about 300 acres that make up the entire watershed of Grandin Reservoir, which supplies the East Northfield Water Co.

LaPointe said Northfield Mount Hermon bundled the water company with the forest land, and the trust did not have the option of buying the forest alone.

Northfield Mount Hermon spokeswoman Cheri Cross said the school seeks to transfer the forest and water company as part of its consolidation at the Gill campus. It would also allow the school to focus on education, rather than running the water company, said Cross.

The school continues to own several Northfield properties, including houses and other parcels of land, said Cross.

Earlier this year, Northfield Mount Hermon sold the Northfield Golf Course to the Snow family, of Leyden, and last year, the school sold its Green Pastures building to the C.S. Lewis College Foundation, sold a 22-acre lot to a Northfield resident, and sold the Moody Homestead to Hobby Lobby, the original buyer of the Northfield campus.

The prep school’s former Northfield campus itself is now in the hands of the National Christian Foundation, which continues Hobby Lobby’s search for a Christian nonprofit to which to give the school. Hobby Lobby also gave the Homestead to the National Christian Foundation, so that it may stay with the campus.

The water company was built to serve the Northfield campus of Northfield Mount Hermon, as well as many residents of town. Northfield Mount Hermon closed its Northfield campus in 2005, though the school has continued to run the water company. The water company serves approximately 270 year-round residents, as well as about 63 seasonal customers.

With the sales agreement signed, the Trust for Public Land will work to partner with other organizations and raise money to buy the forest and water company. The trust is currently partnered with the Mount Grace Land Trust of Warwick for the project. The group will also work with the towns, state agencies, and other interested groups and individuals.