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Two North Country Conservation Projects Among Largest of 25 LCHIP Grants

CONCORD – Twenty-five conservation projects from Westmoreland to Dover, and Plainfield to Ossipee were approved for grants from the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

Two of the largest projects in grant size went to land conservation projects in the North Country: expansion of the Gorham Town Forest, home to a rare bat hibernaculum and 900 acres for the Milan Community Forest which will link Nordic trails and the Nansen Ski Jump to Milan Hill State Park.

Non-profit and community organizations compete annually for a pool of money that comes from real estate transfer taxes. No property taxes are used for the program but when a property changes hands, the program gains a little cash.

It also receives funds from the moose license plate program. On Monday, the winners for 2023 were announced totaling $3.7 million in matching grants to support conservation and historic preservation projects across the state.

In all, the grants will support efforts to rehabilitate 12 historic buildings and permanently conserve more than 4,300 acres of farm, timber, and ecologically significant land in all ten counties of the state. The announcement of the allocations was held Monday in the Executive Council chamber of the State House attended by many supporters.

The competition was significant and it came at a time when there are fewer land transactions than normal, due to the real estate market which is comparatively slower than in other years. There were 48 proposals which sought more than $7.3 million in funding from the program which had only $3.7 million in available funding.

Some of these will be unable to move forward without LCHIP’s support, leading to a possible loss of farm and recreational lands, and the very real possibility of permanent damage to historically significant buildings, officials said. All projects have to have matching grant funds.

Others may be able to reapply for 2024 grants.

“Our historic buildings and the landscapes that surround them connect us to our communities and provide us with a sense of place,” shared LCHIP Executive Director Paula Bellemore. “The historic buildings that LCHIP grants help rehabilitate are not just bricks and mortar, and the lands conserved are more than geology and topography. Our surroundings, both built and natural, connect us with who we are and what we value. Building and strengthening that connection is a big part of what we do every day at LCHIP – because those connections are a big part of what makes NH special.”

LCHIP Board chair Ben Wilcox, said it is appreciative of legislators for their support of the program. It was former state Senator Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth who championed the effort to create a permanent program starting in 1990, noted Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, in a post on the platform X formerly known as Twitter.

He said her’s is “an incredible legacy.”

The demand for the program has outstripped its funding capability and more so now, as real estate prices soar.

“Rising land conservation and historic preservation costs have resulted in a 50 percent increase in the average LCHIP grant request in the past five years. This fact has made it more difficult for our Board to award sufficient funds to grant applicants,” Wilcox said. “It is satisfying to see our state communities working to preserve our natural, historic, and cultural heritage. In the years ahead, we will need to continue to find ways to enhance our funding to meet the needs of our communities.”

Established in 2000, the independent state authority provides matching grants to help preserve the state’s most important natural, cultural, and historic resources. So far there have been 589 grants in 200 NH communities to help conserve more than 241,000 acres of land and rehabilitate 172 historic structures. This is the 22nd round of funding.

The 2023 Awards are as follows:

  1. Dover Friends Meetinghouse.

The 1768 structure is nestled in an area of Dover that retains its historic identity and simple sense of dignity. Now 255 years old, this beloved meetinghouse’s roof truss system needs significant structural repairs. A $100,000 LCHIP award will help restore and preserve this architectural treasure.

  1. Bickford-Chesley House, Durham

A $286,600 LCHIP grant will support an extensive rehabilitation of the 1804 farmhouse in Durham, an outstanding example of Federal-era rural architecture, which is part of Wagon Hill Farm along Route 4.

  1. Effingham Library

LCHIP has awarded a $172,000 grant to the town to help with continued rehabilitation of the Effingham Library and Old Town Hall. Work will involve restoring the six-story belltower, double doors, and upper story windows, along with insulating the ceiling and updating wiring. The 1858 Italianate structure was the New England Masonic Charitable Institute, the only known boarding school sponsored by Freemasons. After the school closed, the first floor served as the Town Hall for over a century, before the Town converted it to a library, now referred to as a “community center with books.”

  1. The Green Mountain Conservation Group in Effingham

The GMCG has been awarded a $47,250 grant for acquisition of the 34-acre Thurston property on Route 25, which serves as a critical wildlife corridor on the northern slope of Green Mountain. The GMCG protects 2,600 acres in the Ossipee River Valley of eastern New Hampshire and western Maine, a region that lies above the Ossipee Aquifer, the state’s largest stratified drift aquifer.

  1. Shillaber Conservation Easement, Farmington Moose Mountains Regional Greenways has been awarded a $120,000 grant from LCHIP in support of its efforts to permanently conserve the 200-acre Shillaber property in Farmington and Strafford.

The property features a valuable 74-acre wetlands complex with an associated 5,000 feet of frontage on the Berry River and 126 acres of mature forestland. The Berry River is a primary source of drinking water for the city of Rochester.

  1. Sugar Bush Farm, Goffstown

The Society for the Protection of NH Forests is working to conserve the historic Sugar Bush Farm property along Route 13 in Goffstown. A $150,000 grant from LCHIP will help in the acquisition of a 53-acre conservation easement on the property.

  1. Gorham Town Forest Expansion.

This will add 1,109 acres to the Gorham Town Forest, resulting in 6,876 acres managed by the community for sustainable forestry, wildlife habitat, education, public access, and drinking water protection. In partnership with the town and The Conservation Fund, it is supported by a $300,000 award from LCHIP. The expansion protects the Mascot Mine Hibernaculum, the state’s largest bat hibernaculum and home to federally endangered Northern Long Eared Bat. The property also features popular hiking trails including the Carter Moriah Trail, once an alignment of the Appalachian Trail, which is a primary access to Mt Moriah, one of NH’s 48 4,000-foot mountains.

  1. Moose Mountain Forest, Hanover

A $250,000 award from LCHIP will help the Hanover Conservancy protect 140 acres of high-quality wildlife habitat abutting the federally protected Appalachian Trail corridor and the Conservancy’s Mayor-Niles and Britton Forests. The project will add to a nearly 3,000-acre block of conserved land. This is home to the headwaters of Mink Brook, Hanover’s largest stream, protecting the source of key brook trout habitat and providing flood security to Etna village and neighborhoods downstream.

  1. Oxbow Recreation Area, Holderness

Holderness has been awarded a $210,000 award to aid in their acquisition of a diverse 243-acre property along a mile of the Pemigewasset River, home to wood turtles, bank beavers, bald eagles, and a wide variety of birds, both local and transitory. Prime agricultural fields adjacent to I-93 provide a north-facing view of the White Mountains.

  1. Dustin Conservation Easement, Hopkinton

This will protect 36 acres of land abutting the Warner River and add to two previously conserved parcels, forming a protected area of 314 acres. This project is made possible in part by a $88,250 award from LCHIP, as well as funding from the New Hampshire Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund Source Water Protection Program. Five Rivers Conservation Trust will hold the conservation easement.

  1. Durocher Farmland, Litchfield

Along the Merrimack River, the property features historic farmland, rolling fields, forest, and wetlands. Protection of these 60 acres by the Town of Litchfield is made possible in part by a $225,000 award from LCHIP.

  1. Littleton Community Center – Carriage Barn, Littleton

The Carriage Barn served as a meeting place for larger groups but closed in 2011 due to moisture damage. A $100,000 LCHIP award, along with matching funds, will help begin the rehabilitation of this structure and halt ongoing damage. The Carriage Barn will be raised, and its damaged understructure replaced and reinforced with steel before it is lowered down onto a new concrete slab.

  1. Madison Chain of Ponds, Madison

Upper Saco Valley Land Trust will use a $250,000 grant from LCHIP to conserve a diverse 625 acres, a chain of kettle ponds, bogs, and other wetlands stretches nearly two miles long. It contains high-quality aquatic and upland forest habitats. The grant will benefit hiking, paddling, hunting, and fishing and protect over 300 acres of mapped aquifer, and the headwaters of tributaries feeding the Saco River and Ossipee River.

  1. Manning House and Carriage House, Manchester

A $166,081 LCHIP grant will enable Brookside Congregational Church in Manchester to complete preservation work on a mansion and barn built in 1908 as a wedding gift for Mary Carpenter Manning from her father. In her seventies, she gave the estate to the Franklin Street Congregational Church, which constructed a large new sanctuary on the property in 1960. Work will include repairing the slate roofs and associated copper, along with repointing chimneys and replacing flashing. The Manning House is used for meetings and offices, while the Carriage House serves as thrift shop.

  1. Mason Town Hall

A $30,000 grant from LCHIP will help the town with the repairs to the Greek Revival style building which has stood as a key landmark in the village center since 1848. The scope of work will entail repairing windows, strengthening the structure under the ground floor, and undoing some later changes in the attic.

  1. Milan Community Forest – River and Woodland Tracts, Milan

This adds 900 acres to the Milan Community Forest, resulting in over 3,000 acres conserved by the Community Forest and satisfying Phase III of a locally-developed 2015 acquisition plan to create a climate-resilient conserved corridor across the town. In partnership with The Conservation Fund, this is supported by a $300,000 award from LCHIP. The project will enhance local quality of life and economic wealth, protect critical wildlife habitat and water resources, provide educational opportunities, and ensure the permanent protection of popular close-to-home recreational activities.

Completing a conserved buffer around the Nansen Ski Jump, a nationally significant historic structure restored and will provide recreational connectivity for a Nordic trail connecting the jump to Milan Hill State Park.

  1. Mt Jesse – Birch Ridge Community Forest, New Durham

The Southeast Land Trust of NH is the project lead for the Mt Jesse Birch Ridge Community Forest project, a community effort to conserve 606-acres in New Durham and Middleton. With help from a $250,000 award from LCHIP, this will add to the SELT-owned 2,664-acre Birch Ridge Community Forest and includes forestland, blueberry barrens, streams, wildlife habitat, rare plants, and public recreation opportunities. With its completion, much of Merrymeeting Lake’s watershed will be conserved. The project will also protect a 2-mile section of Snowmobile Corridor 22 and achieve the long-term vision of connecting Birch Ridge Community Forest to the 5,400-acre Moose Mountains conservation area.

  1. Simpson Conservation Easement, Ossipee

Moose Mountains Regional Greenways has been awarded a $45,000 LCHIP grant to be used to permanently conserve a 35-acre property in Ossipee and Tuftonboro through a conservation easement. The Simpson property features mature forests, old field habitat, and acts as a valuable buffer for Garland Pond and the abutting Garland Pond Wildlife Management Area.

  1. Plainfield Town Hall, Plainfield

Originally erected in 1798, this structure underwent two relocations before settling at its present site in 1846. Recently designated a “2023 Seven to Save” site by the NH Preservation Alliance, the structure has a three-dimensional Stage Set designed by famous artist Maxfield Parrish in 1916. A $21,400 LCHIP grant will help facilitate the repair and repointing of the building’s foundation, bring its chimneys up to code, and regrade the surrounding area to ensure proper drainage and improve moisture control.

  1. Wentworth-Gardner Warehouse, Portsmouth

The Wentworth-Gardner Historic House Association has been awarded $48,103 to help preserve one of only two surviving eighteenth-century warehouses in Portsmouth. Built in 1760 and part of the Portsmouth Downtown Historic District, the Wentworth-Gardner Warehouse is an example of the once-common vernacular structures that helped generate Portsmouth’s mercantile wealth. The funded work will include repairs to the windows, shakes, doors, trim, sills, and foundation.

  1. Rindge Second Meetinghouse, Rindge

LCHIP has awarded $91,850 to Rindge in support of preservation work at the historic meetinghouse. It was built in 1796 and modified in 1839 to facilitate separation of civil and religious functions. It remains one of only a few meetinghouses in New Hampshire still used by both Town and Church. It also helps define a village center, which includes other historic buildings, a common, and a cemetery. The funded work will focus on repairing the steeple, repainting the building, and repointing masonry.

  1. Swain Family Farm, Sanbornton

This landmark in Sanbornton has been in continuous operation since the 1800’s. The

Lakes Region Conservation Trust has been awarded $250,000 to assist in the acquisition of an agricultural land easement on the 320-acre property and will help to support the farm’s long-term viability, ensure that these lands remain available for productive agriculture and forestry, and permanently protect the land’s habitat, recreational, and scenic values. The farm property encompasses pastures and hayfields, cropland, a maple sugaring operation, forested lands enjoyed by the public for hiking and hunting, and shoreline on Hunkins Pond where fishing by the public is a long-standing tradition. Travelers along Hunkins Pond Road and visitors to the farm enjoy spectacular views of the Lakes Region from the farm’s fields.

  1. Little Red Schoolhouse, Wakefield

In 1858 the town of Wakefield appropriated $1,000 to build a new brick schoolhouse. Completed in 1859, it was one of the most substantial schoolhouses in eastern New Hampshire and proudly served its students for over 80 years. Today it is one of the few remaining rural brick schoolhouses in New Hampshire. A $36,960 LCHIP grant will be used for structural work in the foundation and correcting masonry foundation deterioration caused by years of excessive moisture.

  1. Washington Congregational Church, Washington

A cornerstone of the historic Washington Town Common – one of the most photographed town centers in NH. A $35,000 LCHIP grant will help to restore the building’s historic windows, and repair and paint the exterior. The church, built in 1840, is listed on the National Historic Register

  1. Westmoreland Town Hall, Westmoreland

Used as a town hall since its construction in 1917, this two-story building still contains the town offices on the first floor and a large auditorium on the second floor with a stage and balcony. A $128,800 LCHIP grant will assist the town in making repairs to the historic windows, plaster walls, and historic tin ceilings.

Source: The Telegraph