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SRC Celebrates 25 Years of Land Conservation
|SRC founder Ashton Hallett|
More than 3,000 acres of protected and stewarded land, untold volunteer hours, lifelong friendships: that’s the Strafford Rivers Conservancy of today.
It was 25 years ago (Feb. 2, 1989) that the SRC received its corporate charter and began the important work of protecting natural areas in a New Hampshire county that was experiencing intense development pressures.
Dover’s own Ashton Hallett, a part of the family that for generations lived at the “big house” at Three Rivers Farm, was a passionate and dedicated conservationist. It was his vision for a regional land preservation organization, along with the work of lawyer and 25-year SRC Board member Steve Dibble, that led to SRC’s creation. Ash died of cancer in 1997, leaving the SRC Board of Directors, his family, and friends like noted local conservationist Robin Aikman to tend to his legacy.
During these years, three current board members - Steve Dibble, Kevin McEneaney and Nancy Carmer - have given a total of almost 70 years of volunteer service to the Strafford Rivers Conservancy. Here are some thoughts from them and others who have made it their life’s work to care about the creation and maintenance of natural spaces in Strafford County:
Nancy Carmer: 20-year board member and city of Portsmouth economic development program manager
I was recruited for the Strafford Rivers Conservancy Board of Directors by founder Ashton Hallett in the mid-1990s. As a working parent with two young children and a husband who traveled, I was not looking to serve on a board at that point in my life. However, my reluctance to commit to such service was no match for Ash's passion, charisma and compelling plea to promote land conservation in our region at a time when there was significant development pressure.
I eventually caved to Ash's appeal and have not regretted the decision. Over the years, the SRC has grown to an effective and respected land preservation organization thanks to a dedicated Board, staff, members, donors and collaborative partners. I have been privileged to meet many remarkable people at SRC events who share and support the SRC mission of balanced land use. One thing I appreciate about SRC is that this organization consistently mixes fun with purpose. Whether it was the Great Cocheco Boat Race, hawk watches, site walks, kayak trips, dance parties, lectures or the annual Celebration of Conservation, SRC has served this region well. What keeps me motivated to do this work is knowing that through our collective efforts, SRC has protected important properties for future generations.
Kevin McEneaney: 24.5-year SRC board member (many of those years as board president), owner of McEneaney Survey
I started at the SRC 6 months after it began. Ash asked me if I would be a technical adviser to the board because of my surveying experience and the fact that I knew just about everyone in the area.
That lasted about a year or year and a half when Ash said..."You know, you really should be a board member." Thus it began.
Ash was definitely the key to the SRC founding. His passion was infectious! I believe he was with the Forest Society at that point and was doing aerial monitoring for them. He would stop by my office at least a couple of times a week asking questions about surveying and inquiring about certain parcels of land. He was the one who approached Walter Franklin about placing an easement on his property, which we eventually came to own when Walter passed. That was our first easement.
When Ash became sick he put the full-court press on me. I first became president when he was so sick that he could not carry on that duty. He said that he was very comfortable that the SRC was in good hands and that I and the board would keep it going. He was right! That is why you have not been able to get rid of me all these years...I’ve been living up to Ash’s expectations and hopes for SRC!
It hasn’t hurt, also, that there have been so many good people involved with SRC over the years: other board members, volunteers and members. I have made some very good life-long friends and I am very grateful for that!
Michael Hallett: Longtime SRC supporter and son of Ash Hallett
It's funny but when I am asked to reflect on that time and Ash’s excitement about conservation and starting SRC, I think part of what makes it hard to remember the specifics is that he was always excited about conservation: no time was particularly more pronounced than any other. He was always fired up about the subject whether it was 1965, 1971, 1980, or 1989.
If there was a positive during the time of his illness (and of course, knowing Ash, somewhere in his core there was always a positive) it was the SRC. He was jazzed to have helped start it and jazzed the there were like-minded people like Kevin, Nancy, Steve and Robin who were on board.
SRC, NH Audubon and Town of Lee Work to Preserve Ford Property
Lee resident Joe Ford loved wildlife, natural areas and the town of Lee: not necessarily in that order.
The Oyster River flows through the
eastern portion of the property.
Thanks to Mr. Ford, who passed away at age 82 in August of 2011, there will be 71 acres of land in Lee preserved in perpetuity that will benefit all three of his great loves. Upon his death he left his property to the town of Lee. From there, the town of Lee, the Strafford Rivers Conservancy (SRC) and New Hampshire Audubon worked in concert to ensure that Ford’s wishes that his property be “forever wild” became reality. Although the property has been conserved since 2008, the final easement was completed in November of this past year.
SRC Board President Sam Reid said, “Joe was a local character-beloved and respected in his hometown of Lee-whose great passion was land conservation. This beautiful property is his legacy.
The property contains significant wildlife and water resource features. It includes 7.5 acres of hay fields, 52.5 acres of forestland and 10 acres of floodplains. NH Fish and Game identifies 34 percent of the property as “Tier 1”, indicating that this portion contains the “highest-ranking habitats by ecological condition in the state.”
“Joe loved animals and birds, his quiet life on Garrity Road, and public dialog,” says Cathy Short, Mr. Ford’s neighbor for more than 20 years. “For many years, Joe and others met on Sunday afternoons at my house for pie and preservation talk. He led the way for land conservation in the town of Lee until it became the norm at town meeting to vote in rather large chunks of money to be spent on land preservation and conservation easements, often with only a few minutes of discussion.”
The Oyster River flows south through the eastern portion of the property, with about 1,750 feet of frontage along both sides of the river. There is also 2,200 feet of frontage along Laynes Brook. The entire property is located within the Oyster River Core Focus Area identified by the Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire’s Coastal Watersheds.
Ford’s expressed wish that the conserved land be “forever wild” means that native plants, trees and shrubs will not be cut or removed from the property. Any logging activities will be confined to the removal of invasive species and public access will be limited to activities that require no modifications to accommodate recreational activities.
This “hands-off” approach to conservation easement management is consistent with Ford’s longstanding passion for and commitment to preservation of natural areas.
Bill Pearce, a longtime friend of Ford’s who worked closely with Audubon and SRC to finalize the conservation easement on the property, noted that this non-interference with habitat for wildlife was of utmost importance to his friend.
“He was delighted by his deer herd, birds - all plants and animals,” said Pearce. “Thus, the easement restricts use of the property to non-impacting activities such as walking, bird-watching, snowshoeing...all without making paths, parking lots, etc.”
Strafford Rivers Conservancy and NH Audubon, primary and secondary easement holders respectively, hope to showcase portions of the property open for public access at a celebratory event in June. Stay tuned.
“This guy really represented what land conservation is all about. We are honored that SRC is tasked with watching over this beautiful stretch of land that was so important to him,” Reid said.
SRC Board Names One of Its Own to Interim Executive Director Position
The Strafford Rivers Conservancy Board of Directors has named long-time board Executive Committee member Linda McGivern to lead the organization forward as it evaluates its strategic alternatives during the next several months.
McGivern comes to the position with extensive experience working with the SRC in its financial and development realms. She has served as treasurer of the board for more than three years and, most recently, was co-chair of the committee that put together this past’s year’s Celebration of Conservation -- SRC’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“SRC is in a great place,” McGivern said. “We are coming off our best fundraising year ever and so now we have a unique opportunity to take our time, take a close look at our organization here in its 25th year, and then make the important personnel and structural decisions that will be necessary.”
In addition to her conservationist leanings, McGivern is a master gardener and has an MFA in writing from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Rollinsford, NH with her family, pets and plants.
2014 OUTREACH PROGRAMS
Eclectic, Engaging, and Educational Events!
February 22nd: Collaborative snowshoe/hike on the Scoutland Property with The Association for Rollinsford Culture and History (ARCH)(No charge but RSVP appreciated.)
March 20th: Annual Meeting at Cara Restaurant and Pub in Dover ($30 per person, RSVP required)
Late March: Timberdoodles at Dusk: Observing the birds’ flight rituals (date to be determined by the birds!)(No charge but RSVP appreciated.)
May: Trail clearing (date and location to be determined)
June: Introduction to the Ford easement, in collaboration with NH Audubon
July or August: Kayak/canoe paddle on the Salmon Falls River, with ARCH, highlighting SRC conservation properties and historic points of interest on the tidal portion of the river (No charge but RSVP appreciated.)