Sixty acres along Palmer likely destined for conservation

Town council expected to vote on deal to convey three properties to Warren Land Conservation Trust

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Nearly 60 acres of land along the Palmer River will likely be preserved forever, following a vote expected Tuesday night by the Warren Town Council.

The council is expected to vote on whether to approve the deeding of three lots west of Market Street to the Warren Land Conservation Trust, dramatically increasing the trust’s protected lands from about 90 acres to 150.

“This is a big deal for the land trust,” said the trust’s president, Mike Gerhardt. “It’s a jewel for us and I’m really glad that (Warren Town Manager Jan Reitsma) advocated for it.”

The three parcels — of 55.49, 2.61 and 1.1 acres — lie just off Market Street, behind the FedEx facility. They have all been owned by the Town of Warren since the late 1990s, after their former owners went delinquent on their taxes and the town claimed title. The town has held them ever since with little activity, but over the past few months Mr. Reitsma and Warren Town Planner Kate Michaud started researching the benefits of deeding them to the trust. The work is part of a larger move by the town to set aside as much undeveloped land along the Palmer and other waterfront areas as possible.

“These will be conveyed to the land trust so that we can get started with protecting, in a more robust way, the properties along the river,” Mr. Reitsma said.

“Given their habitat and flood hazard management value there is value from protecting them from any development.”

Ms. Michaud said that while all three parcels have “significant” barriers to development, including CRMC restrictions and wetlands issues, they also have significant value given the effects of sea level rise.

“They are uniquely suited for salt marsh migration,” she said.

In return for deeding the properties, Warren will accept a proposed conservation easement and management plan from the trust that spells out how the lands will be managed in the future.

Mr. Gerhardt said Friday that the lands, while overgrown and largely wet, present many opportunities.

“We’ve walked part of the property and have begun to determine where we might put trails in,” he said. “There’s enough uplands there we could put trails in. 

There are also two rights of way to the water through the properties, though they have become overgrown in the nearly 20 years since the town took title to them. There is a National Grid easement through them, and Mr. Gerhardt said the trust will eventually reach out to the Grid and request that some clearing be done to help accommodate trails.

Overall, he said he is optimistic that the town’s conveyance of the three parcels will set a conservation trend, as there are other similar properties in town that could follow the same course.

“I see this as setting a pattern for other transactions,” he said.

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“Kate (Michaud) is plotting them all out and then we’ll sit down and see what makes sense for the land trust to take. There are several that are of big enough size and abut open space, and there’s some good reason to take them.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.