Effort Helps Preserve Land, Region's Identity

December 27, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

We appreciate the recognition in the Sentinel of all the work done by so many to protect, for generations to come, the California Brook Natural Area:

Sentinel Editorial

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2013

For a time, particularly preceding the development of the Monadnock Marketplace shopping center, a common refrain in Keene was "We don’t want to become another Nashua."

That this was an exceedingly unlikely possibility, given the distance Hike of Keene ConnectorHike of Keene ConnectorHike of Keene Connector, October 2012 between the Elm City and any sizable metropolitan area, was beside the point, apparently. The fact was, locals had seen the suburban sprawl extending from Amherst to Nashua — with its high concentration of big-box stores, fast-food restaurants, strip malls and parking lots — and found it lacking compared to the trees, fields and homes that dot the roadways hereabouts.

 

In fact, the scenic splendor of the Monadnock Region is one of the main "quality-of-life" benefits often cited by employers, real estate agents and other civic boosters. Others include the opportunity to hike, bike, fish, swim, sail, leaf-peep, ski, snowshoe, snowmobile and, not infrequently, spy fox, deer, bears and moose.

All of those luxuries are aided by the preservation of lands throughout the area. There is, as civilization advances, a constant tug of war between development and conservation, between grass and pavement. It’s not just about views, but water and air quality, history and recreation.

New Hampshire’s governments understand this, from the state and county level to our municipalities. But generally, regional planning is a challenge in a state that promotes local decision-making.

That’s where regional land trusts come in, helping coordinate such efforts, arranging for financing and working with communities and landowners to protect areas from overdevelopment.

W-MTrail, Keene ConnectoreW-MTrail, Keene Connector The Monadnock Conservancy is, by any measure, among the most successful of these organizations in New Hampshire. Since 1989, it has helped preserve 17,000 acres in the Monadnock Region.

Fortunately, local officials are often on the same page, an example of which is the collaboration between the conservancy and the communities of Keene, Chesterfield and Swanzey to preserve 688 acres as part of a planned swath running from Pisgah State Park to Keene’s West Hill.

The three communities approved $66,000 in funding to help the conservancy acquire three key properties. The project’s ultimate goal is to create a 28,223-acre corridor known as the California Brook Natural Area. The conservancy added 903 acres to the project in 2006, and 300 more in 2012.

Make no mistake: Progress is a good thing, and there are plentiful opportunities in the region for development. But thanks to efforts such as this, that growth will not come at the cost of the benefits we’ve come to identify with the Monadnock Region.

 


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