Grant awarded for Russells Mills conservation project

Nov 6, 2020

The Massachusetts government has awarded Dartmouth $312,000 in funding for a conservation project in Russells Mills village, according to a Nov. 5 press release from the state.

Two town agencies have been working with Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust to purchase and preserve 24 acres of land off Fisher Road north of Alderbrook Farm.

The town’s Conservation Commission and Community Preservation Committee are working with the local land trust to buy the land with a combination of town, state and private funding, according to Dartmouth’s interim Environmental Affairs Coordinator Marc Garrett.

Fall Town Meeting approved the release of $300,000 in Community Preservation Committee funds for the project on Oct. 27.

“It’s really a partnership,” Garrett explained of the project, noting that while DNRT will own the property, the Conservation Commission will hold a conservation restriction on it. “It is a cooperative effort.”

The conservation restriction will prevent the land from ever being developed, he added, although a portion of it will continue to be used for agriculture.

“There is local farming taking place there — we don’t want to get in the way of that,” Garrett said. 

The state announced the LAND (Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity) grant as part of more than $8.7 million awarded to municipalities across Massachusetts for local parks and land conservation projects.

Funds will go to acquire and conserve more than 676 acres of land in 35 communities through four separate grant programs, the release stated.

“Massachusetts’ open spaces are a significant asset to our state, providing recreational opportunities to residents across the Commonwealth while also helping to build resiliency to the impacts of climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is proud to fund these important efforts that will create new parks, support the agricultural community, and conserve critical natural resources.”

Garrett noted that the parcel is being preserved due in part to its proximity to DNRT’s popular Destruction Brook Woods. At just over 280 acres, Destruction Brook is the largest of DNRT’s properties.

The new property is located just across Fisher Road from the larger one, providing the potential to preserve a “green belt” in Russells Mills. Part of the property will continue to be used for agricultural purposes.

“That’s part of what’s so valuable about this land,” Garrett said. “It’s a large open space parcel. And even though there’s a roadway — Fisher Road — that bisects [the area], in developing conservation networks, the interconnectivity is really pretty obvious.”

DNRT’s Executive Director Dexter Mead said that the land trust plans to raise funds to buy the land, and will likely maintain the property and create trails linking it to Destruction Brook.

It will launch a private fundraising campaign, similar to that used to preserve Eva’s Garden on Jordan Road in South Dartmouth, he noted.

If all goes well, Mead said, “We’re supposed to close in March of next year.”