The 171±-acre Oyster River Forest (previously known as the Sprucewood Forest) is owned by the Town of Durham. Consisting of both woods and fields, it is located approximately three miles from the center of town. Boundaries of the property include Mill Road to the south and southeast and the UNH College Woods to the northeast, and on the west it abuts the Spruce Hole Bog and Spruce Hole Conservation Area off Packers Falls Road. A small amount of parking is located near a gate off Packers Falls Road (see below for access and a downloadable Google map).
The property will permanently protect Durham's current and future water supplies, contribute to the health of the Great Bay, provide habitat for the threatened New England cottontail rabbit, and provide public recreational access adjacent to the College Woods.
Purchased in 2013 through partnerships with the U.S. Natural Conservation Resources Service (NRCS), which will hold an easement on the property, and The Trust for Public Land, the property sits over a large portion (approximately 55 acres) of the Spruce Hole Aquifer. The Town of Durham intends to use this stratified drift formation, which that has the potential to both yield and store large quantities of water, as a public water supply in the near future. Together with the conserved abutting Amber Acres Farm, the property will protect over a mile and a half of frontage along the Oyster River.
Easy access is obtained from an abandoned forest road or from College Woods. The public may enjoy low-impact recreational uses on the property, such as birding, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing. Other permitted uses have yet to be determined; the Conservation Commission and the Town Council will develop a policy, considering the natural resources that the property is intended to protect. The property affords significant opportunity for trails on the property itself and as part of a network of trails on nearby properties.
Note that Town policy prohibits the shooting of any firearms on Town-owned property.
Supporting documents that may be downloaded from below include draft restoration plans and maps for New England Cottontail rabbit habitat, provided by NRCS, which will also fund the restoration and be responsible for easement monitoring. (Learn more about the New England cottontail rabbit by going to the links shown below.) Notes: Plans are provided for the Sprucewoods parcel and for the Tecce parcel that together form the "Oyster River Forest"; a single map is provided. NRCS files will continue to reference these two separate parcels.
See the slideshow, below, for photographs of the property, beautiful at any time of the year.
The property is located along Mill and Packers Falls roads and is shown as Map 13, Lots 14-2 and 6-3 on the Durham tax maps.
There are two ways to reach the main access point, off Packers Falls Road:
A small parking area is located near the gate. Walk past the gate on an unused road. At the first clearing and fork, head slightly left to continue through woods that open onto the fields that will become habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit.
Click any thumbnail image to view a slideshow