PEPPERELL — When a parcel of land is put under a conservation restriction, a lot of work has already been done.
Protecting land means getting landowners onboard, determining if it is an area that fits with other open space and raising funds to purchase the land or the conservation restriction.
Once the land has a conservation or agricultural preservation restriction, it can no longer be developed. The intent is to protect the natural resources, such as habitat and water supply, or to keep agricultural land in use, said Conservation Administrator Paula Terrasi.
Another important use for open tracts of land is to connect areas of open space together for both people and wildlife, she said. Sometimes new trails and structures are built to allow people to get from place to place.
The Keyes Farm property on Elm Street became protected land in 2008. The town owns 40 acres and controls the conservation on the other 100 acres. The Nashoba Conservation Trust owns the 100 acres, and holds the conservation restriction on the town’s 40, according to a press release by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization that assisted in the sale.
A property owner cannot hold the conservation restriction for its own land. Terrasi said it would be like the fox guarding the hen house. The holder of the restriction is required to monitor the land to ensure that nothing is built that violates the restriction.
Trails on the wooded section of Keyes Farm lead to the adjacent town forest. But a bridge on one of the connecting trails needed to be replaced.
A photo shows the 18-foot span with gaping holes. Walkers needed to balance on the long beams underlying the deck should they care to cross it.
Horses go on the trails and this was especially concerning, Terrasi said. If they just cross through the water, avoiding the bridge, they will break down the banks of the stream.
When one of the newest board members at NCT learned the bridge needed replacing, he was ready.
“I just like projects like that,” Paul Peavey said. He recently retired from a job in high-tech. A resident of Pepperell for over 30 years, he was ready to start giving back to his community.
“I really love this town,” he said.
Since the bridge was on town-owned land, the town purchased the materials and then it was up to Peavey.
The sturdy bridge, with railings on both sides, went up in one week.
The project was pretty straightforward, Peavey said. He worked between two and four hours a day, doing 99 percent of the work himself. He tore down the old bridge and picked up new materials. Then he precut and treated everything, got it to the site and assembled it.
He even managed to get a compressor out to the site, Terrasi said.
Peavey’s one disappointment in the project is not seeing any evidence that horses have used the bridge to cross the stream.
Other nearby land will soon be protected, Terrasi said. The Gardner family, who lease some of the agricultural land from the Keyes, are in the process of putting an agricultural restriction on their land on either side of River Road.
The land can be used for any agricultural purposes, but cannot be developed, she said. If the property is sold, the restriction remains.