the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Monday, November 4, 2013

Boxborough Celebrates Steele Farm conservation success with Local Heroes, with Legislators, and The Trustees!

Beautiful autumn colors at Steele Farm in Boxborough.
Last week, Boxborough residents and a lineup of special guests came together at Boxborough Town Hall to celebrate the permanent protection of town-owned Steele Farm, through a Conservation Restriction (CR) to The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) and Historic Preservation Restriction (HPR) to The Boxborough Historical Society (BHSI), a project completed in close partnership with the Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCT) and the Town of Boxborough. This celebration was well-earned, to recognize the hard work of local heroes in Boxborough to complete a six-year cooperative conservation project that was twenty years in the making!  The 36 acres at Steele Farm protect beautiful meadows that host grass-nesting birds, three National Registry historic buildings that reflect the agricultural history of Boxborough including the Levi Wetherbee farmhouse dating to 1784, and offer hiking trails that meander through fields and woods on Steele Farm and connect to other conservation areas next door.  For our earlier exciting news and description of Steele Farm, see our August blog post by clicking here!

The Trustees provided a 'Protected Forever' sign which will be adapted to commemorate the collaboration that led to the property's permanent protection. 
From L, Bruce Hager (SFAC) & John Fallon (VP of BHSI & Town Moderator), Alan Rohwer (BHSI & Historical Commission), State Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Jen Benson, and Duncan Browne (BHSI). 

The guests of honor were the members of groups like the Steele Farm Advisory Committee (SFAC), the Boxborough Historical Society (BHSI), Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCT), the members of the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator, and so many supportive local citizens, who all came together to make this project possible.  These dedicated groups saw this project through years of complex negotiation at the town level, to muster support for the farm's permanent protection - a process driven by passionate local citizens like Alan Rohwer of the Boxborough Historical Society, whose patience and dedication have paid off, despite what he described as a process sometimes feeling like "dragging a battleship across the desert!" 

Alan Rohwer (L) & Bruce Hager (R) accept commemorative hiking sticks, awarded to commemorate their roles as two of the Steele Farm "SF 3"! (not present was Arden Veley) 

Boxborough acquired Steele Farm in 1994 - however, the land was not donated to the town as protected conservation land, as it would have been if it was donated to the town's Conservation Commission, and therefore qualify for the substantial protections of town-owned conservation land under Article 97 of the Massachusetts constitution.  Municipal land in Massachusetts, even if it functions as conservation land, is not securely protected if it is not owned under the care of the Conservation Commission or other such protection-oriented municipal body such as a parks department, or unless there is a conservation restriction on the land - in other words, such surplus land can be converted to other uses.  The committee was faced with finding a solution to how the land would be conserved - and to muster local support!  The negotiated solution garnered citizens' and Board of Selectmen support through an annual town meeting vote, and the conservation solution was to donate a conservation restriction to The Trustees and HPR to the Historical Society that now ensures Steele Farm's permanent protection.  Such restrictions are permanent and this one ensures that the conservation and historic values of Steele Farm will not be lost to other uses of the land.  
At the celebration, Committee members were joined by TTOR CR Program staff, and even the talented former staff member, Chris Rodstrom, who drove the project forward for The Trustees from the beginning of TTOR's involvement in 2007 until his departure from TTOR in May of 2013.  State representatives attended as well - Jen Benson of the 37th Middlesex District, and State Senator Jamie Eldridge as well, to add congratulatory remarks.  Senator Eldridge had this to say about the success, "The conservation and historic preservation restrictions placed on Steele Farm represent a 20-year effort to protect this special property for Boxborough residents for generations to come. I congratulate all of the stakeholders involved."

Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Jen Benson came to praise the successful conservation project.

Boxborough was also host to a very special guest, Irene Del-Bono of the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), Division of Conservation Services, the governmental body which reviews and approves all conservation restrictions at the state level.  Ms. Del-Bono is the EOEEA staff member who conducts legal review of every single CR document from all corners of Massachusetts, and her reviews ensure a gold standard that each CR be legally sound to protect land forever.  Irene expressed her appreciation for the invitation to get out of her office and into a community to celebrate their conservation victory, and loved the opportunity to meet with some of the local heroes who make successful conservation efforts happen! 

Alan Rohwer poses with Irene Del-Bono, the EOEEA's Conservation Restriction reviewer.

Special thanks is reserved for the local groups who worked together to make this happen!  Duncan Browne, John Fallon, and Alan Rohwer of the Boxborough Historical Society; Rita Gibes Grossman of the Boxborough Conservation Trust; Bruce Hager, Jeanne Steele Kangas, Judi Resnick, Ed Whitcomb, and among former members David Birt, Eric Tornstrom, and John Skinner of the Steele Farm Advisory Committee; and Town Administrator Selina Shaw, are among the local heroes who saw this project through to completion!  On The Trustees of Reservations's end, Chris Rodstrom negotiated the project, Andrew Bentley saw this project through to completion, and the CR Program staff will visit annually and advise Boxborough on protecting its conservation values - sealing TTOR's collaborative promise that Steele Farm will be protected for everyone, forever. 

Steele Farm Advisory Committee celebrates their conservation victory! 
From L, Jeanne Steele Kangas, Ed Whitcomb, Judi Resnick, Bruce Hager.

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