Wilton’s Frye Farm easement discussed

WILTON – The Conservation Commission’s plan is to preserve 105 acres of Frye Farm property on Abbott Hill in Wilton, plus 54 acres owned by High Mowing Waldorf School. The school would ultimately use the land for an outdoor classroom.

The Wilton Conservation Commission approves of the plan, but backers are asking the town to contribute $80,000 toward the purchase of land rights on Frye Farm. That request will be on the warrant for Town Meeting on March 13.

On Feb. 3, Ian McSweeney, of the Russell Foundation, a New Boston-based land trust dedicated to the preservation of agricultural lands, which is coordinating the purchase, met with selectmen to discuss the plan. He was accompanied by supporters and several Conservation Commission members.

McSweeney said it would “be a permanent conservation easement protecting four of seven town-owned wells and 800 feet of frontage on the Souhegan River,” as well as preserving an existing snowmobile trail and allowing public use for “passive recreation.”

The selectmen, however, had several reservations and concerns. Chairman Dan Donovan said he was opposed to spending the money because “of individual gain and I don’t see a benefit to the town.”

Selectman Bill Condra said, “It is an attempt to direct public money to a private use. The beneficiary is the High Mowing School. I believe it is inappropriate. Public money can’t be used by a private school.”

McSweeney said the school was not the purchaser. “The easement will be held by a land trust,” he said.
Conservation Commission member Spencer Brookes said, “A study was done of the (Souhegan) river that shows this is only spot for natural salmon breeding. You also have to consider the habitats that are present.” He mentioned the nesting bob-o-link.

Commission Member Joe Broyles asked, “If High Mowing benefits, does that preclude a town benefit?”

Donovan said, “We are the board that determines what goes onto the town warrant. We want this to be decided by the voters.”

The board voted 2-1, Rick Swanson disagreeing, to not recommend the article.