Mass Audubon, the city and private landowners join forces to preserve 50 acres in Northampton as open space

  • Newly protected woodlands that are part of a tract of more than 50 acres of land that the city of Northampton and Mass Audubon have preserved from development. —SUBMITTED PHOTO

Published: 4/25/2018 12:23:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON — More than 50 acres of open space has been protected from development as part of a partnership between Mass Audubon, the city and several local landowners.

The land connects the conservation Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary with the Rocky Hill Greenway, which lies north of the sanctuary, running along the Manhan Rail Trail and across Rocky Hill Road. Located on the sanctuary’s western boarder stretching up to the Greenway, the land was purchased with city and Mass Audubon money.

“Partnering with Mass Audubon has allowed us to extend the Rocky Hill Greenway from the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary to the State Hospital Agriculture Lands, protecting forever critical wildlife habitat and a wildlife corridor,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said in a statement.

Fifty acres of the land are owned by the Goldfarb family real estate firm, and another 2.5 acres belong to the O’Brien family of Easthampton. The city will now own the space, with Mass Audubon holding a conservation restriction.

The Legislature created conservation restrictions in 1969, and they function as an instrument by which some property rights can be transferred to a nonprofit or governmental institutions for conservation, but private landowners can continue to own the land if they want.

In this case, the city purchased the land, splitting the $20,000 price tag for the O’Brien parcel — located on the east side of Route 10 — with Mass Audubon, according to Narkewicz. Each previously paid $71,000 for the open space on the Goldfarb parcel on the west side of the road, with the city kicking in another $8,000 for an economic development parcel.

The land is a mixture of forest and wetland, and features hardwoods, white pines and vernal pools, according to Mass Audubon.

“Wildlife corridors are important to connect protected areas so that wildlife can more through the landscape,” said Jonah Keane, the sanctuary director for Mass Audubon’s Connecticut River Valley area. “This is a really nice addition, and we hope to continue to add to the protected lands we have.”

Northampton and Mass Audubon have now protected more than 800 acres together.

“We value our history of conservation partnership with the City of Northampton and we salute Mayor Narkewicz and his administration for taking a leadership role in preserving the Rocky Hill Greenway,” Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton said in a statement. “And we are especially grateful to the O’Brien family for its commitment to this important land protection project.”

Keane said that despite all those protected lands, more is needed as climate change puts increasing pressures on area wildlife, which already struggle to roam between protected areas.

“There’s definitely more work to do,” Keane said. “There’s still undeveloped land that has important ecological value that we hope to work with the city to protect.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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