UPDATE: The bond lost at town meeting (see below for project story). A record number of people came out to vote. We knew it would be a difficult hurdle to win the 2/3 majority necessary to pass the bond, which would have put the final large piece of funding in place to purchase the property (the Open Space Institute had given its support just days before town meeting).
One of the biggest obstacles we faced is that it is simply a very challenging and uncertain time for many. People continue to look for ways to reduce their spending – understandably. The other big obstacle was timing. Experience around the state pretty consistently shows that successful land conservation bond votes typically take a good year of organizing and communication before earning town meeting approval. In this case we had about three short months, including the holiday season, but that’s the way the deal came down.
At the town meeting, there were many people who were listening to the details about the town forest proposal for the first time. Many of them voted against it. I was very pleased to learn, however, that several residents who had come to all of the informational sessions and asked many tough questions, ended up supporting the bond. We appreciate the landowning family’s willingness to work with us, and are grateful to the residents of Lyman for carefully considering this opportunity.
There may be other ways to conserve this great land – we’ve got our thinking caps on and will let you know…if anyone out there is interested in a prime conservation buying opportunity, be in touch!
The Town Forest Opportunity
The residents of Lyman, N.H. (pop. 547) have the opportunity to purchase a major part of what gives their town its character. The Gardner Mountain range is the backdrop of town when looking to the west. It is land that generations of residents have enjoyed for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, and exploring. The 1,100-acre property on the Gardner Range ridgeline is 99% forested and has an extensive woods road system as a result of being managed as commercial timberland. The property includes critical wildlife habitat identified by the N.H. Fish and Game Department. The parcel was proposed for a wind energy development in 2004, which the town rejected. In the Lyman Master Plan, residents named Gardner Mountain as one of the key places in town to conserve.
The family of the late landowner wants to sell the property, and following his wishes, has offered it first to the town. The landowner had started a quiet conversation back in 2006 about potential town ownership. ACT was first contacted at that time about devising a way to take advantage of this opportunity. But the landowner died unexpectedly, and it took until last year to settle his estate. His family approached the town again, and the Board of Selectmen asked several citizens to assemble more information about the opportunity.
Working with the citizen volunteers, ACT enlisted the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national organization that specializes in assembling financing for large conservation projects. The property was analyzed for wildlife, water quality, recreational, timber, and other conservation attributes, and an appraisal was made.
With this information in hand, the select board endorsed the project and gave TPL the go-ahead to enter into a purchase and sales agreement, contingent on the funds being raised from a variety of sources. The property would be set up as a town forest with a conservation easement held by ACT to forever protect its natural values and guarantee public access.
Lyman voters will be asked to support the acquisition by approving a $346,000 bond at March town meeting. The purchase price is $865,000, based on the appraisal. From outside funding sources, over half of this amount has already been raised. The project has won major grants from New Hampshire’s Land and Community Heritage Investment Program and the Fifteen Mile Falls Mitigation and Enhancement Fund.
In the 19th century Gardner Mountain was alive with the sounds of mining. Lyman is in the heart of what was once called the Ammonoosuc Gold District. Today the big find in the mines are bats. The Paddock Mine on Gardner Mountain is home to the second largest population of bats in New Hampshire. Bats are under a huge amount of stress right now because of habitat loss and more severely, a disease called white-nose syndrome. They are most susceptible in their hibernation places, where they need their rest. Please do not enter or disturb the mines! But you can take a virtual tour, through photos taken last summer, by following the link below….