Land conservation panel begins work

NASHUA – Keeping its eye on the public’s pristine sanctuary, a newly formed Land Conservation Committee is getting to work.

The committee’s immediate task is developing a stewardship plan for the Northwest Conservation Land, the city’s only designated conservation land.

The unspoiled land is vast, some 350 acres near the Hollis town line, covered in pine and oak trees. It is rich in wildlife, from bullfrogs and common loons to foxes and moose.

Volunteers spent a weekend morning recently traipsing along the boundaries of the wooded parcel, uncovering property line markers.

But the area will be handled very differently from other parks in the city that get more intense use, such as Mine Falls Park.

“That’s a big distinction,” said Kathy Hersh, director of the Community Development Division.

An ordinance passed in April established the Land Conservation Committee as a subcommittee of the Conservation Commission.

The committee is empowered to implement the city’s 2000 Master Plan, which calls for protecting city ecosystems, preserving remaining agricultural and forest land, and safeguarding the quality and quantity of the city’s drinking water.

The city purchased some 250 acres in May 2001 for $2 million. This fall, another 100 acres were purchased. The parcel is predominantly wooded, with more than 30 acres of wetlands and 3,000 feet of shoreline along Pennichuck Pond. The land is crossed with former dirt logging roads and an informal trail network.

The property adjoins the 113-acre Farley Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, owned by the New Hampshire Audubon Society.

The ordinance already prohibits more than a dozen activities, from soliciting money and making open fires to removing an animal’s nest.

Hersh said the strict limits on use are necessary. The area was not intended to be an active park, but an effort to safeguard the land and ensure the natural resources are maintained, she said.

“We bought this because it is over a high-yield aquifer, over our drinking water,” she said.

A report by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission identified eight possible uses for the land, ranging from biking and nature watching to cross-country skiing.

Michael Dianne Wingerter, the former leader of the Mine Falls Park Advisory Committee, is leading the new committee. The panel has met once and is still getting organized.

Another meeting is set for tonight at 6 in Room 208 of City Hall.

“There is a huge task ahead of us,” Wingerter said.

The land is a valuable sanctuary in the midst of the city’s urban environment, she said. Still, much of the environment here is fragile, she said, so the community needs to be educated on how to use it.