Durham Conservation Lands, Easements, Land Stewardship

Volunteer Workday at Doe Farm, May 2011

A legacy of conservation

The Town of Durham has been a partner in many successful conservation projects. Since 2003, when voters overwhelmingly approved a warrant article authorizing a $2.5 million "Open Space" bond to fund land conservation projects, the Town has protected over 800 acres of undeveloped land in Durham, adding to its hundreds of acres of already-conserved land.

The seven conservation projects completed between 2003 and 2008, comprising 465 acres, are highlighted in the brochure Scenic Durham, which can be viewed and downloaded from below. Funds provided by the Town for these and subsequent projects were highly leveraged through state and federal grant programs and augmented by private donations. 

Although some important natural resources remain unprotected, over 25% of Durham's land is under some form of permanent conservation. (See section below titled "Map of Conserved and Public Lands.")  However, as of April 2013, only one of these properties is both permanently protected and owned by the Town—the Oyster River Forest, formerly known as the Sprucewood Forest.

The success of a long legacy of land conservation efforts means that many of Durham's most visible scenic landscapes and farms will remain intact for future generations. The forests, rich farmland soils, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitats, wetlands, drinking water supplies, and other natural resources on these parcels will remain part of the fabric of our town forever.

Conservation Highlight: Durham's Town-Owned Lands

  • Doe Farm - Forested conservation area off Bennett Road
  • Wagon Hill Farm - Historic farm property located on Route 4 and Watson Road
  • Oyster River Forest (Sprucewood Forest) - Woods and fields fronting the Oyster River off Packers Falls Road
  • Longmarsh Preserve - located at the end of Longmarsh Road
  • Wiswall Dam Properties (site under construction)

 

Nearby Conservation Lands Worth a Visit

  • College Woods - owned by UNH and managed by the UNH Office of Woodlands;  next to UNH Campus, trails connect to miles of other trails including those at:  West Foss Farm, East Foss Farm, and Thompson Farm.  Other nearby UNH properties with recreational access include Kingman Farm (Madbury) and Mendum's Pond (Barrington)
  • Adam's Point - owned by NH Fish & Game;  trails traverse forests and fields overlooking the coast of Great Bay in Durham
  • The Sweet Trail - a 4.3 mile trail connecting many conservation parcels in the Crommet Creek/Great Bay region of Durham

 

Other Important Conservation Easements Funded (in part) by Durham's Voters

All of these lands have permanent conservation easements that protect their scenic and natural resource values forever. Except where noted, these are private​ lands, and public access varies by property.  Please pay attention to signage and respect private property. Most of these projects are described in detail in the 2008 issue of the Scenic Durham Newsletter.

  • Amber Acres - Easement, Mast Road (Route 155A), land owned by Southeast Land Trust of NH (SELTNH); together with the Oyster River Forest (formerly known as the "Sprucewood Forest") in 2012 formed the "Oyster River Initiative" (download map below)
  • Emery Farm - Easement, Route 4, toward Portsmouth
  • Langley Farm - Easement, Durham Point Road
  • Mill Pond Center - Easement, Route 108, south of the Oyster River bridge/Mill Pond dam
  • Fogg Farm - Easement, Mill Road and Packers Falls Road
  • Merrick Easement - Easement, Canney Road, just west of Rte. 108 (Dover Road)
  • Roselawn Farm - Easement, Perkins Road (off Madbury Road, just north of Route 4)
  • Beaudette Farm & Woodlot - ​Easement, land owned in fee by NH Fish & Game (Route 108 & Bennett Road)

 

Stewardship Plans
In the spring of 2009, the Durham Conservation Commission, with the endorsement of the Town Council, submitted a grant application to the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), Community Technical Assistance Program, for the development of a stewardship plan to better track, manage, and protect the ecological values of Town-owned conservation lands. Subsequently, the DCC hired a Technical Assistance Provider, Ellen Snyder, of Ibis Wildlife Consulting (Newmarket, NH) to develop stewardship plans on four Durham properties: Wagon Hill Farm, Doe Farm, Longmarsh Preserve, and the Weeks Lot.

 

Future Land Conservation Priorities

The Durham Conservation Commission remains actively involved in conserving important natural resources in Durham.  Learn more about our conservation efforts and priorities here:

 

Land Stewardship Committee

In 2010, a new committee made up of Conservation Commissioners and other interested members of the public and Town staff was formed to help work on stewardship of Town lands.  In 2012, the Committee expanded to include members of the Durham Agricultural Commission and the Durham Parks and Recreation Committee.  The Committee is working on several initiatives for 2012:

  1. Develop an online inventory of Town Lands (project in process; for related documents, see Town Lands Records)
  2. Improve public outreach and education on Town Lands
  3. Focus stewardship projects on Wagon Hill Farm, including expansion of parking, community gardening and agriculture, and exploration of habitat management for New England cottontail rabbits

Durham residents interested in joining the Land Stewardship Committee should dcc [at] ci [dot] durham [dot] nh [dot] us (subject: Durham%20Conservation%20Commisson%20query) (email the Chair of the Conservation Commission)dcc [at] ci [dot] durham [dot] nh [dot] us (subject: Durham%20Conservation%20Commisson%20query) (.)

 

Conservation Volunteers in Action

Doe Farm Workdays

Over 100 volunteers from Durham, the University of New Hampshire, and local corporations have been working since 2011 to help restore native plants at Doe Farm, a town property that offers excellent cross-country skiing access located off Bennett Road. Volunteers have spent many hours over the course of four different workdays pulling common buckthorn, a non-native invasive shrub that has taken over the understory of the forest. Dense stands of common buckthorn prevents the establishment of the next generation of native tree seedlings— such as white pine, hickory, oak, and maple. Pictures from the workdays are posted; visit the link below to view them.

Additional sections of Doe Farm have yet to be tackled for buckthorn removal. If you are interested in helping out at other workdays (likely this coming autumn), please dcc [at] ci [dot] durham [dot] nh [dot] us (subject: Durham%20Conservation%20Commisson%20%7C%20workdays) (email the Chair of the Conservation Commission).

 

Map of Conserved and Public Lands

Included in the list of downloadable Supporting Documents (below) is a map of the "Conserved and Public Lands" of Durham, dated September 26, 2011. This map is based on NHGRANIT (New Hampshire's statewide GIS data clearinghouse) data. It shows three categories of properties:

  • Permanent Conservation Land;
  • UNH non-core Campus and Wagon Hill (unprotected); and
  • Developed Public Land.

The map does not reflect the 2012 addition of the Amber Acres conservation easement on Mast Road (Rte. 155), the addition of the Oyster River ("Sprucewood") Forest property (along Mill and Packers Falls Roads), or the Cottages of Durham ("Capstone") conservation easement (off Technology Drive). The NHGRANIT Protection Level Descriptions, which may be difficult to read on the PDF, are as follows:

  • Permanent Conservation Land: Land permanently protected from development through legally enforceable conservation easement, deed restriction, or outright ownership by an organization or agency whose mission emphasizes protecting land in perpetuity; more than 50% of area will remain undeveloped. Examples include, but are not limited to, federal and state natural resource agency lands; tracts owned by land trusts; town lands or town forest formally assigned to the Conservation Commission through a warrant article; and lands encumbered by a perpetual conservation easement.
  • UNH non-core Campus and Wagon Hill (unprotected) (GRANIT's category "Unofficial conservation land"): Not permanently protected through any legal mechanisms such as deed restrictions or conservation easements. Owned by a public institution, public agency, or other organization whose mission may not be focused on conservation, but whose clear intent is to keep the land for conservation, recreation, or educational purposes and in mostly natural land cover. Examples include, but are not limited to, lands with mostly natural land cover owned by academic institutions; town lands not permanently protected through legal mechanisms; and unprotected county farms.
  • Developed Public Land: No known institutional or legal mandates to prevent conversion of natural land cover to human uses. Includes public land having, or expected to have, developed infrastructure on more than 50% of its area (e.g., beaches, picnic areas, ball fields, boat ramps/parking, municipal wellfields).

 

Click any thumbnail image to view a slideshow

Invasive Workday, Doe Farm - October 2011A volunteer holds common buckthorn pulled from Doe FarmFamilies help pull buckthorn at Doe Farm, May 2011Touring our trails in February 2007: Longmarsh to LubberlandAssessing a wetlands impact for a dock permit request on the Oyster River 2008Nature walk at Emery Farm June 2008Site walk at Beaudette(2) property July 5, 2011Sprucewood Forest / Oyster River Forest, Durham, NHSprucewood Forest/ Oyster River Durham, NH; photo credit Jerry MonkmanSprucewood Forest / Oyster River Forest, Durham, NHSprucewood Forest / Oyster River Forest, 2012Amber Acres, Durham, NHAmber Acres, Durham, NH | Oyster River