Pioneer Valley communities continue land and historic preservation efforts Reply

A trail marker at a trailhead at Scarborough Brook Conservation Area in Belchertown.

A trail marker at a trailhead at Scarborough Brook Conservation Area in Belchertown.

Through funds from the commonwealth’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) and various state grant programs investment have been made ensure that the region’s natural resources and historic buildings are preserved for future generations.  One community in Franklin County also rallied together to preserve land that was marketed for development on their own.

Towns that have adopted CPA agree to a surcharge on their real estate tax bill not to exceed 3%.  The commonwealth also contributes to what the town raises.  The funds can be used to preserve open space and historic sites, develop affordable housing, and to create and improve recreation land.  Due to a state surplus, many towns received a big boost to their Community Preservation funds for FY 2014 when compared to FY 2013. (For a year over year comparison by town click here and scroll to the bottom of the article).

Among the CPA awards are: Northampton’s CPA committee is recommending $170,000 to purchase 58 acres of Saw Mill Hills conservation area; Monson used $70,000  towards the purchase of 135 acres off of Reimers Road and to restore windows to Memorial Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and Belchertown used funds toward buying land around the Scarborough Brook Recreation Area, to buy the development rights for 80 acres of land off Bardwell Street, and upgrade a church in the town center.  Belchertown’s entire town center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In late November, the commonwealth announced other awards for Pioneer Valley towns under its Park Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant program, Land Acquisitions and Natural Diversity (LAND) grant program, or Gateway City Parks Grant program.

“Amherst and Belchertown received Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grants. Amherst will use its $105,665 grant to create a new community garden with a trail integrated throughout the property in East Amherst Village Center along the Fort River,” the Mass.gov press release stated.  “Belchertown will use its $133,650 grant to double the size of the Jabish Brook Conservation Area.”

The Mill River Conservation area trailhead in Cushuman (note Cushman Market on the left).

The Mill River Conservation area trailhead in Cushuman (note Cushman Market on the left).

Amherst also received a PARC grant for $140,000 for improvements at the Mill River Recreation Area, according to the press release.

Chicopee received the largest award.  It was a Gateway City Parks Grant for $805,000 to complete renovations at Szot Park.  (For a complete list of grant awards, click here and scroll to the bottom of the press release.)

While many Pioneer Valley cities and towns have benefited from government grants, residents from one Pioneer Valley took the initiative to raise the funds to preserve 10.6 acres in Shelburne that has been on the market since 2009 as 4 house lots, according to the news report.

With the assistance of the Franklin Land Trust, the community raised the $320,000 needed to purchase the property.

“We’re thrilled to have conserved such a beautiful piece of land that plays such a defining role in the scenic rural character of Shelburne Center,” land trust executive director Rich Hubbard told Masslive.com. “This was a true neighborhood conservation effort. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the local community.”

If you are planning on buying or selling a home in the Pioneer Valley, make your first call to Michael Seward at 413-531-7129.  Michael Seward is a Certified Residential Specialist, a Certified Buyers Agent, A Certified Loss Mitigation Specialist, a Certified New Homes Specialist, and Green designee of the National Association of REALTORS®.

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