Groundwork: A Brief History of UVLT

In celebration of the Upper Valley Land Trust’s 25th anniversary this year, we have been remembering UVLT’s early days. We couldn’t fit all of the important people of UVLT’s past into this brief ten‐minute summary, but we have used sound & images of some of UVLT’s founders and early leaders – Fran Field, Dana Meadows, Vicki Smith, Freda Swan, Charlotte Faulkner, Dale Peters Bryant, and Lilla McLane‐Bradley, among others.

Breck Hill Easement Project

By Freda Swan

On a summer evening in 1986, I invited my neighbors to meet with Sarah Thorne, a land specialist with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. I wanted them to learn about conservation easements with the hope that we could protect our whole neighborhood from future development. I thought that we lived on a road that had conservation value for everyone, a gravel road with forestland, open farm land, wetlands, river banks, scenic views and even a covered bridge. In all, there are about 400 acres and over two miles of road frontage on both sides. It is used by walkers, bicyclists, horseback riders, and canoeists.

The meeting was very successful with almost everyone showing great enthusiasm. Sarah had to check on a few legal matters which turned out in our favor. There was no one available at SPNHF who was able to write the easement documents but she was willing to train Vicki Smith to do so. So we got to work.

I felt very strongly that everyone’s easement was their private affair and no one else would know what was in them unless the donor told them. I believe that this one thing was the main reason that we were successful. I set up appointments for Vicki, introduced Vicki, and then left them alone. We got an appraiser to do the work on all of the properties. I got surveys on all of the properties. I must admit that the whole process was much less strict than it is today. For example, there were two properties whose boundaries were marked with stonewalls and the abutting properties had been surveyed. They accepted surveys that I drew.

There were approximately 20 different properties included in the original project with others added later. They varied in size from about 5 acres to about 50 acres. They all abutted each other except for two holes in the middle which have since been closed with one being held by the UVLT. The lawyer of the owner of one of these “holes” felt she should subdivide a lot before doing an easement. This was accomplished and her easement supported a LCIP project. Another owner did not feel that they could afford to donate an easement so we raised the money locally to pay for a bargain purchase.

So, on an evening between Christmas and New Year’s, we all got together for a signing party. What a time we had with about 20 different documents that were signed by over 25 different people. There was great pleasure in the room that night. A great feeling of accomplishment.

I am not sure of the number of properties that have been added to the project since that night in 1986 but it must be close to a dozen. And there are more.