Antrim Conservation Commission Hearing:
Date: September 17, 2014
Place: Antrim Town Hall
Members Present: Linda Bryer, Ron Cheetham, Keith Wolsiefer, and Peter Beblowski
Members Absent: Rod Zwirner
Public Attendees: Eric Masterson (Harris Center for Conservation Education’s Land Manager), Diane Chauncey, Benn Pratt, Martha Pinello.
The Public Hearing was opened at 6:02 pm by Peter Beblowski, Antrim Conservation Commission, Chairman. He opened by reading the hearing notice, introducing the members of the commission and Eric Masterson.
Peter Beblowski read portions of RSA 36-A which deal with the Conservation Commission powers (RSA 36-A:4), optional powers dealing with expending funds (RSA 36-A:4-a I(b) and the RSA which requires a public hearing prior to the contribution to a qualified organization (RSA36-A:5 II). He also made note that the Town of Antrim at the March 2009 Town Meeting by majority vote of Article 17 gave the ability to the Conservation Commission to expend funds from contributions to ‘qualified organizations’ for the purchase of property interests.
The presentation was turned over to Eric Masterson who presented several slides and provided the following information:
- The Harris Center for Conservation Education (HCCE) has entered into a purchase and sales agreement to buy a portion of the land now owned by the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains and operated as Camp Chenoa.
- It is Antrim Tax Map 240, Lot 12, which is a 184 acre property west of Brimstone Corner Road.
- The HCCE anticipates the project will cost approximately $228,000 ($200,000 for the property and $28,000 in associated costs) and requests a grant of $10,000.
- The HCCE has scheduled a closing date of September 25, 2014.
- The property abuts the Audubon Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary and will be added to the nearly 19,000 acre unfragmented forest block which Antrim shares with Hancock.
- The HCCE has identified the Bald Basin as a large, nearly 3,000 acre un-roaded, unfragmented forest block of land between Brimstone Road and NH Route 9 as a priority area for conservation. This property falls in this area.
The property has conservation values of a very high order because of the following:
- The Quabbin to Cardigan (Q2C) Coalition has designated the entire property as either “core” (about 90%) or “supporting landscape” (10%) to their mission to conserve intact, interconnected, ecologically significant forest in central New England, and is a key headwater area of the Merrimack River.
- NH Fish & Game’s Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) designates about half the property as “highest ranked habitat in the state by condition”.
- The Antrim Open Space Plan identifies the area as a priority for permanent conservation.
- The property has a 34 acre beaver pond whose outflow goes directly into Gregg Lake.
Eric said the HCCE was pleased to partner with the Town of Antrim on this project.
The presentation ended and discussion was opened to questions from the public.
There were several questions from the public regarding the two buildings on the property which were built by the Scouts. Mr. Masterson indicated that the HCCE generally has no interest in owning buildings, that their mission is land protection & conservation. But that they like to be partners with the Town and are open to ideas. He also indicated that the HCCE has a general policy that allows for deer and turkey hunting on their fee-owned properties by permit only. Additionally, the Harris Center allows public access to their properties for passive activities such as hiking, bird-watching and snowshoeing.
The discussion ended and the public was asked if there was anyone who would like to speak in favor of the project. Diane Chauncey, Ben Pratt and Martha Pinello all said they were in favor of the project.
No one spoke in opposition to the project.
The Conservation Commission was asked if they had any questions. Questions were general in nature with regard to the gate remaining across the access road. Yes, it is anticipated to remain. There was some additional discussion regarding the buildings remaining and providing observation platforms of one nature or another for wildlife observations at the beaver pond. It was determined that this was a good idea but would need further discussion at a later date.
No further discussion occurred. The hearing was closed to public comment.
Linda Bryer moved that the Antrim Conservation Commission (ACC) use $X from the Conservation Fund to be sent to the Harris Center for Conservation Education for the purchase and conservation of a portion of the current Girl Scout Camp on Brimstone Corner Road (Tax Map 240, Lot 12) in the Rural Conservation District. Seconded by Ron Cheetham.
Discussion occurred that it was a worthy project. It is a project that is similar to ones the ACC has participated with in the past. It meets the criteria in the ACC’s draft protocol for conservation grants.
Ron Cheetham said that he would not be available for a regular ACC meeting on September 24 to finalize an award amount. It was asked how much was in the fund? Peter Beblowski said it was his understanding the Conservation Fund held about $32,000 at the present time and that the ACC had a current project on-going at Campbell Pond where Jeff Littleton of Moosewood Ecological, LLC was conducting a second phase of the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) at the property, in hopes of developing a Stewardship Plan for the property.
An amendment was made to the motion: To use $8,000 from the Conservation Fund to be sent to the Harris Center for Conservation Education for the purchase and conservation of a portion of the current Girl Scout Camp on Brimstone Corner Road (Tax Map 240, Lot 12) in the Rural Conservation District. Seconded by Keith Wolsiefer.
Brief discussion ensued.
Roll Call Vote: Linda Bryer - Approved, Ron Cheetham - Approved, Keith Wolsiefer - Approved, and Peter Beblowski, Chairman abstains (Chair does not vote unless needed).
The amended motion passed unanimously (3-0).
It was determined that since the motion passed and several member would be absent the Wednesday, September 24, 2014 meeting of the Antrim Conservation Commission would be cancelled.
Respectfully submitted by Peter Beblowski, Chairman Antrim Conservation Commission