Town, DNRT join forces to preserve land in Russells Mills

Oct 2, 2020

Dartmouth’s historic Russells Mills village may be staying green, as two town agencies are 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.

“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. 

He noted that both the town and the land trust wanted to protect the parcel due 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.

“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 the new property stretches between Fisher Road to Russells Mills Road, although it won’t have any frontage on the latter.

“It’s part of a property with a house on it, and the house is being divided — there’s some land around the house that’s being divided off, and we’re getting the rest,” he explained.

The plan is for the Conservation Commission to buy a conservation restriction with CPC funding and a state LAND (Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity) grant, while DNRT will raise funds to buy the land itself, said Mead. “We’re supposed to close in March of next year.”

“DNRT will maintain the property,” he noted, adding “We’re going to have trails on part of [it],” while around seven of the 24 acres will be used as agricultural fields.

Town Meeting still has to vote to release the CPC funding for the project — an article that will come before the meeting this October. 

Meanwhile DNRT is launching a private fundraising campaign, similar to that used to preserve Eva’s Garden on Jordan Road in South Dartmouth, to protect the Russells Mills land for future generations.

“Hopefully if everything comes together, the town will approve the CPC [funding], the state will approve the grant, and we’ll raise the money,” said Mead.