(See also, map below.)
Essex County Greenbelt Association, which has been growing its presence in Haverhill in recent years, is now looking at an opportunity to protect 88 acres of open space near Crystal Lake, but only if the public will help.
Plans call for Greenbelt working with the city to jointly purchase development rights to 54 acres, buying 19 acres of land outright and accepting a donation of 15 acres of lakefront. Standing in the way are tight deadlines and a shortfall of about $265,000, which Greenbelt Vice President Christopher B. LaPointe hopes will come from the public’s generosity.
“Part of tonight is to talk about Greenbelt. Part of the night is also to say we could really use your help on this project if you’re able to make a gift. If you know people who aren’t here tonight to make a gift, come find us. We would really love your support to get us as close to the goal as we can,” he told residents at a recent neighborhood gathering.
As only WHAV reported in June, Haverhill was awarded $250,000 toward what was called the Meserve Woods Conservation Restriction Project by the state’s Drinking Water Supply Protection Program of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Greenbelt also raised $310,000 from a combination of individuals and foundations. The public is being asked to pay the remaining balance.
The purchase of the 19-acre segment is up against an end of year deadline, while the 54-acre conservation restriction must be completed by the end of March.
LaPointe explained the urgency of the project.
“If you can imagine these properties without trees…and with lawns and homes and driveways and dog waste and swimming pools and septic systems. All of that has to go somewhere and, in this case, that’s running into your drinking water,” he said.
All told, Greenbelt staff say the initiative protects forests around drinking water supplies, preserves threatened wildlife by keeping vernal pools and forests intact, expand Crystal Gorge Conservation Area to more than 450 acres of contiguous open space and expand a network of trails.
In addition, a tiny, contiguous piece of land, already under conservation restriction, must be transferred to Greenbelt by way of the Haverhill City Council waiving the city’s right of first refusal to buy the land.
The land is bounded by the Atkinson, N.H., town line, Haverhill’s Crystal Street and Crystal Lake.
Donations may be made online at ecga.org/Crystal-Lake-Watershed.