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Land trust could help Northfield  to keep golf course

NORTHFIELD — A national land trust could help a group of Northfield residents preserve the local golf course and surrounding open space.

But before the Trust for Public Land borrows the $1.25 million asking price, it would have to be sure it could recoup its investment, by re-selling the parcels that make up the 154-acre property.

“I wish we could say that we’re the type of organization that could bring that kind of money to the table,” said Clem Clay, Connecticut River program director for the trust. “We’re not.”

However, he said, the nationwide organization does have that kind of borrowing power. But it doesn’t want to wind up the long-term owner of the property.

“We’re not going to buy it if we don’t have a contract to sell the golf course,” Clay told a group of local residents who are trying to buy the property and control its development destiny.

There have been several inquiries, said D. William Pratt, the real estate agent handling the property for the Northfield Mount Hermon School, but nobody has put in an offer.

Part of the problem could be the other properties that are for sale with the nine-hole course.

The golf course, at 52 acres, makes up about a third of the entire lot. It’s bundled with wetlands, four houses, an outdoor pool and pool house, two buildable lots and a field. The property is the legacy of the private boarding school’s decades-long presence in Northfield before it consolidated operations into its Mount Hermon campus across the Connecticut River several years ago. The school’s main campus also has already been sold off and is awaiting development.

“It’s a complicated offering, and the pieces don’t really make sense,” said Clay. “There isn’t one good buyer for all of those pieces.”

That could work out in townspeople’s favor.

“This property is not going to move fast,” said Clay, for the above reasons.

A citizens’ group has asked Pratt to keep them in mind when showing the property, and tell interested parties that locals would like to help them unload those attached properties. They will work up a formal letter outlining their goals, priorities, possible partners, and contact information, so Pratt can give copies out when he shows the course.

Clay said he and the Trust for Public Land would like to talk to prospective buyers as well.

Potential funding for the wetlands and fields could come from the town’s property tax-subsidized community preservation account and possible state matches, other grants, or groups like Mount Grace Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land. Community preservation funds are earmarked for conservation, recreation, and historical preservation projects, but require town meeting approval.

Both the Open Space Committee and Recreation Commission have expressed interest in parts of the property. Jerrold Wagener, chairman of the Open Space Committee, said it would like to look at conservation and recreation options for the woods and wetland. Recreation Commission Chairwoman Melissa Gamache said the open field could make a great spot for a softball field and a town park, projects of great interest to her committee.

The citizens’ group will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, in Northfield Coffee and Books.

David Rainville can be reached at:


or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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