OSI's Western Massachusetts Loan Fund Helps Protect Parcel in New Salem Acquisition will Preserve Local Character and Ensure Protection of Key Watershed

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman
OSI's Western Massachusetts Loan Fund Helps Protect Parcel in New Salem
Acquisition will Preserve Local Character and Ensure Protection of Key Watershed 

NEW YORK, NY - March 8, 2006 - The Open Space Institute's western Massachusetts Revolving Loan Fund, launched in 2005, announced today a loan to the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust (Mount Grace) to protect key watershed lands associated with the Quabbin Reservoir.

Mount Grace, a regional land trust serving north central and western Massachusetts, and New Salem residents, joined forces with OSI to protect the 136-acre parcel adjacent to the historic New Salem common from development. West Hill is located within the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed, which provides drinking water for half the population of Massachusetts. The property combines wetlands and views and its rural character is a valued asset in New Salem's historic district.

The West Hill property is highly visible from Rout 202 and stretches behind the row of historic houses on the town common. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has identified the central portion of West Hill as a Primary Protection Zone due to its key Quabbin Reservoir watershed lands and tributary streams. As a primary open space linkage between the Quabbin Reservoir and the greater Wendell State Forest, West Hill is also designated as a Biomap Core Habitat by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Using the loan from the Open Space Institute's western Massachusetts Revolving Loan Fund, support from many New Salem residents, and its members, Mount Grace purchased West Hill for $775,000. In November, 2005, the Open Space Institute launched its western Massachusetts Revolving Loan Fund, making its first loan to Mount Grace for its acquisition of a 123-acre parcel of forested land near Brush Mountain in Northfield, Massachusetts. To date, the Loan Fund has provided 3 loans in western Massachusetts, protecting approximately 265 acres at a total cost of $1.15 million. The program resulted from an OSI report, Western Massachusetts: Assessing the Conservation Opportunity, completed for the Kohlberg Foundation.

Mount Grace, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a goal of reaching over 20,000 acres of protected land in its twenty-three town region, will be able to continue its tradition of large block conservation projects, thanks to OSI's support.

In order to permanently protect West Hill and repay the OSI loan, Mount Grace needs to raise $250,000 for the cost of the conservation restriction. Mount Grace is relying on a combination of financial support from its members, the New Salem community, and possible State funding. Mount Grace is seeking a conservation buyer to purchase the home located on the property and the acreage subject to a conservation restriction. The house is located at 493 Daniel Shays Highway, New Salem. For more information about the project and how to donate to the West Hill project, see http://www.mountgrace.org/ or call the office at 978-248-2043.

The mission of the Open Space Institute is to protect scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character. OSI achieves its goals through land acquisition, conservation easements, special loan programs, and creative partnerships. The Open Space Institute has protected nearly 100,000 acres in New York State. Through its Northern Forest Protection Fund and Conservation Loan Program, OSI has assisted in the protection of 1.4 million acres in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust is a non-profit, member supported regional land trust founded in 1986 that serves a twenty-three town area stretching from Gardner to Greenfield. For project or membership information regarding Mount Grace see our website, or contact us at 978-248-2043 or landtrust@mountgrace.org.

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Brook at West Hill
Photo courtesy of Mount Grace

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