News

Preserve Abbott Hill land

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tonight, the folks attending Wilton Town Meeting have a chance to help preserve more than 150 acres of land at the top of Abbott Hill and at what is a negligible cost: $80,000.

That would be the town’s share of the full $1.6 million easement purchase for 105 acres of the Frye Farm and 54 acres of High Mowing School farmland.

For what we think is a somewhat specious reason, the Board of Selectmen came out against the purchase, saying they could not see the benefit to the town.

No benefit to the town?

Here is what Spencer Brookes, of the Wilton Conservation Commission, said about benefits in a story in the Feb. 27 Cabinet:

The land, he said, would be open to the public for hiking, snowmobiling, fishing and other public uses.

How are these things not a benefit to the town? Do not the people of Wilton hike and fish and ride snowmobiles?

The property includes 800 feet of frontage on the Souhegan River and provides a link to a state snowmobile trail that runs from the Massachusetts border to the White Mountains.

Sometimes, it seems that public officials see things only in terms of dollars and that is what the Selectmen seemed to be doing when they voted to not support this purchase. On the one hand, they seemed to be saying, the town would have to spend $80,000. On the other hand, no homes or businesses would be built upon that land, so no new tax revenue would come in.

But that’s short­sighted.

It has been shown, time and time again, that the more homes are built, the more costs to a town rise. They mean more children in schools, thus, the need for more space and teachers. They mean the need for more fire protection, more ambulance service, more calls to the police department. Those are costs that continue year after year, while the easement is a one-time cost of about $50 for the average house.

And any thought that businesses would locate at the top of Abbott Hill is serious wishful thinking.

Preserving this land is a great use of the town’s $80,000, if for no other reason than it will permanently save some of the most beautiful views around here and prevent new houses from sprouting like sore thumbs in the farm fields.

As Ian McSweeney, executive director of the nonprofit Russell Foundation, which is facilitating the easement, said, “The town will acquire rights to permanent public recreation land … and access to the (Souhegan) river.”

Tonight, March 13, at Wilton Town Meeting, held at 7 p.m. in Florence Rideout School, voters have a chance to do something positive for the town, for themselves and for the future. Let’s hope they do.

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