Wilton considers purchase of the Horseshoe

WILTON – On Monday, May 6, the Select Board signed an option agreement which will keep the Horseshoe property off the market for the next year. That will give the Conservation Commission time to apply for grants and conduct fund-raising. A purchase would have to be approved by town meeting.

Conservation Commission Chairman Bart Hunter said Horseshoe Falls Gorge was one of three properties the commission would like to protect, and the Horseshoe is the first they will work on.

The other properties under consideration for protection are Garwin Falls and the New Reservoir.

The Commission is applying for a state LCHIP (Land and Community Investment Program) grant, he said, “and the owners have agreed to keep it off the market for a year.”

There is also a plan for public fundraising. Total cost of the project is $326,400. Williams said the property had been appraised as house lots “and it really isn’t good for that.”

The popular swimming area in the Souhegan River totals 10.3 acres and consists of three lots. A field beside Burns Hills Road would be used for a community garden and an agricultural program at the high school. The property would be minimally maintaine and be a “carry in-carry out” facility. While the area’s cliffs are a potential danger, landowners who allow public use at no cost do not have a liability.

Selectwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault said she was against the town owning it, noting the cost. “We need to keep taxes down. And it is just an accident waiting to happen.” She was also concerned about traffic on Burns Hill Road. “We should look at the Reservoir first.”

Selectman Matt Fish also said he was opposed. “It isn’t Garwin Falls,” which attracts many more people and is a better recreation area. He added, “If we get LCHIP for this, we won’t for Garwin Falls.”

Williams said LCHIP projects are considered separately and the town has received several.

Hunter said the owners of Garwin Falls have not responded to their letters, “we have no commitment from them.” He added, “We are just looking for an agreement to buy time.”

Since there was no financial commitment by the town, the agreement was signed.

In other business on Monday, the Board discussed the non-profit status of Gaia Institute at Four Corners Farm, which the town assessor had denied. The board will review the documents.

They discussed the lease on the ambulance bay with Association Member Ken Chaisse. The mortgage has been paid and the Association wishes to continue to lease the building to town. The money would be used for items not covered by the town.

Further discussion was planned.

The board agreed to accept an Emergency Services Grant of $6,000 for active shooter training. How it will be used is still under debate.

The next meeting of the board will be Monday, May 20, 6 p.m., in the town hall courtroom.