Bedford Land Trust conserves town’s open spaces

Submitted by Jeanene Procopis

Bedford Land Trust trustee

While Bedford residential agricultural zoning still favors large lots with a 1.5 minimum acreage for single-family dwellings, one wonders what may happen in the future as populations increase.

Decades from now, will zoning ordinances change and housing patterns shift to increased density? As we speculate about the future, what will happen to the rural atmosphere that we have always valued?

Our heavily wooded lots give the impression that Bedford has plenty of green space, and current residential zoning and state wetlands rules have helped to conserve woodlands and protect wetlands. But in reality, Bedford doesn’t have an overabundance of protected space. Only land that is deed restricted or protected by a conservation easement will continue as open space "forever."

Qualified land trust organizations that hold conservation easements play an important role at the local and state levels in ensuring that open space will remain that way in perpetuity. A conservation easement is a contract between the property owner and a qualified land conservation organization that controls uses and future development.

Within Bedford’s approximate 21,000 acres, a little more than 700 acres is permanently protected by conservation easements held by the Bedford Land Trust. Over the last 25 years, the BLT has been the recipient of four conservation easements on private land – the Pointer Brook Easement (for wildlife habitat), the Nault property bordering Route 101 at Meetinghouse Road, the 14-acre Fortin property on Old Mill Road and the 68-acre woodland known as the Van Loan Preserve.

In July 2011, the Van Loan family donated the fee simple ownership of the preserve to the town of Bedford, but the BLT retains the conservation easement on the land. In addition, the BLT was the recipient of the fee simple ownership of two properties: the old Town Pound, donated by Ann and Jack Middleton in 2003, and an access parcel to the Van Loan Preserve donated by Alison and Wally MacDermott in 2002.

Most conservation easements are donated by those who have owned the land for many years and wish to conserve the land in its natural state for future generations.

During the last 25 years, the BLT has partnered with public entities to conserve and protect land. Today, the trust holds conservation easements on seven town-owned properties including the Joppa Hill Conservation Land, Benedictine Park, Linda Hockman Conservation Land, Sebbins Pond Drive Conservation Land, Pulpit Rock Conservation Land, Van Loan Preserve and the Bedford Village Common. It holds conservation easements on two School District properties at Bedford High School and McKelvie School/SAU properties.

If land uses happen to change in the future, our conserved land will remain a constant. It will be open space in perpetuity. It will benefit all of us by providing water quality, wildlife habitat protection, flood protection, natural resource protection and passive recreational opportunities.

For more information on conservation properties, visit www.bedfordlandtrust.org.