Sunderland Water District land buy example of ‘how public-private partnerships should work’

  • In May, the Amherst-based conservation nonprofit Kestrel Land Trust acquired a 40-acre parcel of land at the base of Mount Toby in Sunderland. The property has now been sold to the Sunderland Water District. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ELI SMITH

Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2020

SUNDERLAND — The Sunderland Water District recently acquired a 40-acre parcel of land at the base of Mount Toby to help continue local conservation efforts.

“The plan (for the property) is what the state requires,” said Water District Commissioner Fred Laurenitis. “You can have passive recreation, but obviously no development.”

The parcel, which had been sold in May to the Amherst-based conservation nonprofit Kestrel Land Trust by Ann and Raymond Samson for $272,000, includes the land 10½ acres east of Cross Mountain Road and 30 acres west of it, according to the property listing on realtor.com. The plots were sold together.

“It’s a beautiful piece of forest land that deserves protection,” Kristin DeBoer, executive director of Kestrel Land Trust, said during an interview in May. The land is a forested parcel with a brook that flows through it into the Sunderland Water District.

Nancy Pick, a member of the Conservation Commission, said in an email that the plan was never for Kestrel Land Trust to keep the land. Rather, the nonprofit was willing to provide a “bridge loan” until the town or Sunderland Water District could put together a financial package.

Laurenitis said the Conservation Commission approached the Water District last year to say there was a grant application available through the state for water protection, but that the applicant had to be a water supplier.

The Water District applied for the grant and, earlier this year, the state awarded the protection project a $142,000 drinking water grant.

The land, at the price of $272,000, was paid for in part with the $64,000 that was appropriated from the Community Preservation Act Open Space Reserve to the town’s Conservation Trust, as well as additional funding from the Conservation Commission. Kestrel Land Trust also contributed a small percentage, largely to cover administrative expenses.

“For Kestrel, the town and the Sunderland Water District,” Pick said, “this was a textbook example of how public-private partnerships should work.”