2000-2008–An Era of Partnerships
The new millennium marked the end – and the beginning – of an era for BLT.
In 1999, the Cape Cod Land Bank was adopted by voters, creating a dedicated stream of revenue for land preservation efforts in Barnstable. At the same time, Jaci Barton, BLT’s Executive Director, stepped down from the Barnstable Town Council.
“Not wearing two hats cleared me from potential conflicts of interest, created the flexibility to work more closely with the Town on important projects and gave me more time to focus on BLT,” Jaci said. “Little did any of us know that we were about to embark on project partnerships the likes of which we had never seen before.”
A serendipitous event occurred. BLT received a donation from Floyd and Ronald Silvia of Silvia & Silvia Associates, a custom home and remodeling company. The brothers said they made the donation to set an example for other businesses. The Silvias inspired BLT to create a Green Fund to attract and earmark monies for major purchases, which, in turn, would enable BLT to take on more complicated projects. The timing was perfect. The Green Fund helped put BLT at the forefront of land conservation efforts. “BLT’s Green Fund plus the Land Bank presented opportunities for us to think big and take on projects we would have shied away from a few years before,” said Jaci.
On the Move
In 2000, BLT relocated from its cramped Winter Street office to new headquarters on North Street. With three times more space, there was room to begin growing staff and recruiting volunteers. The critical business of saving land was moving into high gear.
The first year of the new millennium was booming. A 26.97-acre conservation restriction – a generous gift from Catherine Conover – retired eight house lots with attendant lawns and septic systems and protected a scenic open space corridor as seen from West Bay. On the Grand Island in Osterville, surrounding a narrow inlet known as Great Cove, the land also protected the water quality of adjacent shellfish beds.
A significant project on Sea View Avenue in Wianno also came alive. The Fox family donated a conservation restriction in memory of their mother, Elizabeth Heywood Fox. Their gift focused BLT’s attention on an open space area that had somehow managed to escape notice. Over the next few years, the new awareness attracted $2.5 million; in all, 13.44 acres were preserved. According to Executive Director Jaci Barton, “Sometimes the neighborhood sees a possibility. Then their energy and enthusiasm drive the effort. This was a classic case. The support of a caring community made all the difference!”
In 2001, BLT reached a 500-acre “LANDmark,” which was achieved when heirs of Catherine Lowell donated 7.38 acres of shorefront and two acres of beach and marsh in Barnstable Village. The parcels were adjacent to already protected land, creating a 2000-foot undisturbed buffer along Barnstable Harbor.
In 2002, BLT completed seven land-saving initiatives, preserving 13.89 acres. The largest of the acquisitions was 4.81 acres of woodland and wetlands on Barnstable Harbor donated by Patricia Chase. The villages of Osterville and Cotuit also saw gains in protected land.
In 2003, Terry and Wingate Lloyd followed their father’s lead. Almost a decade earlier, H. Gates Lloyd had bequeathed 29 acres in Cotuit to BLT. The land, known as Meadow Point, lies at the entrance to Popponesset Bay and is a stunningly beautiful marsh, fringed by wooded uplands. With their gift of a 14.5-acre conservation restriction, the Lloyds preserved the integrity of the Meadow Point ecosystem by protecting the fragile marsh and the remaining upland surrounding it. This donaton was the highlight of BLT’s 20th anniversary.
2003 also marked the beginning of several major projects, which vied for attention and spanned multiple years. When BLT was approached by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to assist with a 57-acre acquisition in West Barnstable, we didn’t have to ponder. BLT opened the door to the landowners, Jack and Sylvia Furman, who had donated land in Centerville a few years earlier. BLT also connected TNC to local decision-makers.
The location of the Furman property, north of Route 6A near Navigation Road, placed it partially within the 9,000-acre Sandy Neck Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The ACEC is a valuable ecosystem that warrants special protection because of its unique and significant natural and cultural resources. This extraordinary coastal ecosystem provides crucial nesting and feeding habitat for migrating shorebirds and endangered species. Its special status helped focus federal and state dollars on the acquisition.
On the local level, the Town’s Land Bank, together with many individual donations to BLT, ensured that the land was protected. The Town of Barnstable owns the property; BLT and the Mass. Division of Conservation and Recreation jointly hold a conservation restriction that ensures this irreplaceable parcel remains forever wild.
In 2003, Bone Hill Farm in Cummaquid was threatened by development. As the visual gateway to Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Sanctuary, the two-acre scenic meadow is vital habitat for many species of wildlife. It is one of a few known spots where American Woodcocks perform their spectacular breeding display each spring. The campaign to save the meadow gained momentum when BLT, Mass Audubon and the grassroots Committee to Save Northside Open Space joined forces.
In 2004, the Town Land Bank bought into the Bone Hill partnership. Matched by private gifts and grants, the Town purchased the one-acre corner lot. Emboldened by success, the partnership carried on. By November 2005, the two-year effort had secured enough gifts, grants and pledges for Mass Audubon to purchase the second lot.
Preservation of this historic natural area was made possible by the energy and enthusiasm of a community partnership that would not give up. With conservation restrictions held by BLT on both lots, the community is now assured that the scenic and natural beauty of the meadow remains intact.
Times They Are A’Changing
The 13-acre Archibald property forms the backdrop for the scenic Mill Pond in Marstons Mills. One of the most picturesque areas in Town, it had been on the community’s priority list for decades. Due to its proximity to the pond and location within a zone of contribution for a primary well, it was identified as important for both surface and ground water protection. In addition, it is part of a major wildlife corridor stretching from Mill Pond to the cranberry bogs north of Lovell’s Pond in Cotuit.
Thanks to the efforts of BLT and the Mill Pond Preservation Committee, District voters overwhelmingly supported an appropriation of $375,000 to purchase three acres of the Archibald Property abutting the C-O-MM well #15. A $500,000 grant from the State matched the Town’s last Land Bank appropriation. BLT then dug into its Green Fund for the $125,000 needed to complete the purchase of the 10 acres that fronted the Pond.
During its seven-year heyday, from its first purchase in 1999 to its last purchase in 2005, the Town Land Bank completed 33 projects (five in partnership with BLT). For a cost of just under $39 million, 1,137 acres were protected. The community owes a debt of gratitude to the Land Bank Committee for its unparalleled efforts, especially chairman Lindsey Counsell whose leadership ensured that vital lands were protected.
As property values continued to rise and the Land Bank spent its last dollar, open space preservation became more daunting. A seemingly unlikely alliance formed when Barnstable Land Trust and Housing Assistance Corporation united to persuade voters to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA provided access to state funds for three critical community needs: land acquisition, affordable housing, and historic preservation. Because CPA funds would not be available until 2006, building partnerships and broadening local support became crucial.
It’s All About Partnerships
Bayview Farm is the essence of West Barnstable; the scenic and cultural landscape typifies this quaint northside village. But it wasn’t the scenic nature of Bayview Farm that attracted the unique partnership of local, state and federal partners in 2005…it was the location!
Robb Johnson of The Nature Conservancy was the driving force behind the efforts at Bayview Farm. He knew that as part of the Bridge Creek Wetland Corridor abutting the ACEC, this property was likely to attract national funding through the US Fish and Wildlife Coastal Wetlands Grant Program. An application by the State Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) found fertile ground with US Fish, launching Phase 1 of the “Save Bayview Farm” initiative, which protected 14.74 acres.
Phase 2 protected an additional 9.65 acres abutting the Town’s Bridge Creek Conservation Area. Although federal funding did not emerge, the initiative engaged new support from the Town through the recently adopted Community Preservation Act. In all, $1.35 million was raised to preserve nearly 25 acres, which include wetlands that connect to the ACEC and the open meadows in front and back of the historic homestead.
Simultaneously, “Save Cordwood” became the rallying cry to preserve 23 acres in Cotuit. Located along a half mile of an ancient “unimproved” town way, the land lies between the 150-acre Eagle Pond Sanctuary and the Almy Cedar Swamp owned by the Mary Barton Land Trust (MBLT). Cordwood was the missing link connecting 150 acres of protected land.
BLT and MBLT hashed out the details of a possible purchase when the land was put on the market. A developer offered to purchase the land for $3.2 million…a potential conservation nightmare. When the offer was rejected, a window of opportunity opened. As if by divine intervention, BLT encountered anonymous “angels” who agreed to purchase and hold on to the property while fundraising ensued. This extraordinary action, together with the unprecedented offer of a $1.6 million matching gift, stunned everyone.
“There is nothing more powerful than a major matching gift,” said Jaci Barton. “That single action, like none other in BLT history, empowered us and our partner the MBLT to embark upon a grassroots effort to ‘Save Cordwood.’ The remarkable story captivated the community for 18 months. Over 900 individuals, families, local businesses, corporations and charitable foundations contributed.
“I still get chills just thinking about it,” Jaci continued. “There are amazing people in our midst who care deeply about our community’s special places. These angels truly saved the land. We owe them a debt of gratitude beyond measure.”
In 2006, major changes in Federal Tax law also inspired and prompted many landowners to get serious about conserving their land. So while we were busy saving Cordwood, we were also working with landowners across the Town. By the end of 2007, 66 acres, including some of Barnstable’s most notable landscapes, were newly protected by eight conservation restrictions. If there was a common theme among those who placed CRs on their land, it was the belief that protecting land from development was more critical than ever.
During 2008, three unique transactions completed earlier gifts. The family of Elizabeth Heywood Fox donated the underlying ownership of the property, which had spurred the Wianno Project eight years earlier. The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts became the holder BLT’s conservation restriction, what is called the ‘belt and suspenders’ approach,” said the Compact’s Mark Robinson. “The Fox Property is now as protected as any land can be.”
When Jonathan Leonard and his wife Denise Martin donated their remaining two-thirds interest in land at 22 Leonard Road in Osterville, they completed a gift of land that began in 2002. The wooded lot is now an oasis for wildlife.
A gift by Richard and Doris Sellars of a one-acre lot to the west of Caillouet Lane in Osterville was matched in 2008. Mr. Sellars and his neighbors purchased the land to the east of the lane. Their donation of that land to BLT ensured that the character and charm of the neighborhood remains intact.
As if to celebrate BLT’s 25th anniversary, the five-acre Baker Property, identified as a priority around BLT’s birth, was preserved in 2008. Its location along the Little River in Cotuit added to a protected greenbelt spanning the Towns of Mashpee and Barnstable.
By the end of 2008 BLT had protected 745 acres over its 25-year history. Two critical projects – Galloway and Bush Brown – got underway, setting the stage for 20 more acres to be preserved in 2009.