Franklin Land Trust acquires ‘hole in the doughnut’

  • Mount Sugarloaf as seen from Brown Cross Road in Sunderland, a parcel of land recently preserved by the Franklin Land Trust. Contributed photo

  • Land preserved by the Franklin Land Trust. Contributed photo—

  • A parcel of land in Sunderland recently preserved by the Franklin Land Trust. Contributed photo—

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/22/2017 10:27:05 PM

SUNDERLAND — Eighteen acres of land not far from the Connecticut River have been conserved by the Franklin Land Trust — the final piece in a larger conservation puzzle.

“It is a beautiful piece of prime farm land. We have some of the best soils in the world here in the valley — not just in Massachusetts, or this country, but in the world. It’s some of the highest producing soils in the world,” said land trust Executive Director Richard Hubbard, who has been working toward the acquisition for nearly 30 years.

The land, owned by The Monterey Rose, LLC, was preserved by purchasing an Agricultural Preservation Restriction using “scenic by-way funding,” Hubbard said.

It’s the last remaining swath in the middle of a larger block of land across Sunderland that has gradually been conserved over decades.

“It represents the ‘hole in the doughnut.’ Its conservation insures that larger block of (preserved) land won’t be broken up,” Hubbard continued. “If you stand at the top of Mount Sugarloaf and look down at that incredible view, 90 percent of that farm land has been conserved.”

As is the case in this latest acquisition, the land trust does not own much of the land it conserves. Rather, Hubbard said if the Land Trust does its job well — connecting land owners to funding sources, taking out loans, and overseeing the process — no one knows how much work has been done behind the scenes.

“If it was a farm yesterday, and a farm today, and will be a farm tomorrow, not many people appreciate the amount of effort, time, and in some cases, money, that go into conserving farms in this area,” Hubbard said. “The land is just so valuable for agriculture; it’s a shame when houses end up on it.”

The Land Trust has since assigned the land “to the Town of Sunderland’s Conservation Commission,” according to a press statement.

Moving forward, the Land Trust and town “will work together to monitor the (land) through a Memorandum of Understanding. Funding for the purchase was provided through a loan from The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, Va., land conservation organization, in anticipation of funds coming from the Mass. Department of Transportation’s Scenic By-way Program, which is administered in Franklin County by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.”

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