The Town of Orford recently donated a conservation easement to the Upper Valley Land Trust (UVLT) in order to protect 11.13 acres of town-owned riverfront land from future development. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund provided key funding to complete the transaction and contributed necessary funds to UVLT’s stewardship endowment to which supports the land’s protection in perpetuity. The conservation easement on this parcel ensures that the land will remain available for agriculture, wildlife habitat, and public enjoyment.
In 2004, Mrs. Hilda Richmond gave the Town of Orford a small parcel of land just north of the village. She consulted with the Conservation Commission about her gift, and gave it as a memorial to her late husband, Gould S. Richmond, for the enjoyment of the citizens of Orford and as a place for wildlife. Bry Beeson, Chair of the Orford Conservation Commission played a lead role in the Town’s commitment to permanently conserve this parcel of land.
As is his way, Beeson proceeded carefully and thoughtfully, researching statutes that might apply and looking for examples of similar initiatives. He talked with Orford residents and outlined the necessary steps. He wrote an article and petitioned that it be placed on the warrant for vote on Town Meeting Day 2008. His proposal was not universally popular; however, Beeson continued to talk patiently, and with passion, about the conservation values of the property, the role of the Town in land conservation, and the wishes of Mrs. Richmond when she gave the land to the town. Eventually, the public consensus emerged. At their Town Meeting in March of 2008, the citizens of Orford voted to have the Town explore options for permanently protecting the parcel with the Upper Valley Land Trust through a conservation easement.
The Orford Conservation Commission spent the year following the vote educating themselves about the legal structure and terms of a conservation easement deed. They visited the property and documented its natural resources and current condition, and developed management objectives. At a series of public meetings they talked about the Richmond parcel and the easement that would protect it. Similarly, the Orford Select Board carefully reviewed the terms of the conservation easement. Overall, says UVLT President Jeanie McIntyre, “the conservation of this property included lots of different people with different skills and interests. I think it was a great learning opportunity for people to be engaged in establishing the legal instrument that will permanently protect a place that means a lot to the community.”
The Richmond parcel is in an area of Orford previously targeted for protection by the town and UVLT. With frontage on the federally recognized Connecticut River Scenic Byway, and Route 10, a state and locally recognized scenic byway, the conservation easement on this parcel provides scenic benefits to travelers in the area. Other features of the property include open farmland, woodland borders, and approximately 563 feet of Connecticut River frontage. In addition, the parcel has frontage on the marshland at the outlet of Jacobs Brook. The property will continue to be used for agriculture and low-impact recreational activities, such as walking, picnicking, or wildlife viewing. “The Richmond land is a really neat place to get some great views of the Palisades, and take a walk down to the river,” said Sara Cavin, a Project Manager at UVLT. “It is a wonderful accomplishment by the Town of Orford to honor the wishes of Mrs. Richmond and preserve this special piece of land for the enjoyment of everyone.”