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Bedford council approves conservation easement for Pulpit Rock

BEDFORD - The town council Wednesday night approved a conservation easement for the Pulpit Rock Conservation Area, a move described as adding an extra layer of protection against any future plans to sell and develop the 337-acre parcel.

Ruth Ansell, chairman of the Bedford Land Trust, said that while there are already restrictions against future development in various deeds connected to the area, this easement would act as an overlay, giving a uniform and consistent layer of protection for the parcel that is enjoyed for various recreational purposes, such as hiking or snowshoeing.

"We would take over monitoring of the property to be sure that it remains true to its nature," Ansell said. "That means no encroaching on the boundaries, no dumping, no development - those sorts of things."

Ansell said it took about two years for the Bedford Land Trust, working with its attorney, to draft the easement document.

At a meeting of the conservation commission last month, Ansell told commission members there would be a cost of about $600 a year to maintain insurance on the easement, and between $5,000 and $6,000 to have professionals prepare a report on the property's boundary conditions.

Although the property already has some existing walkways and bridges, the town council is seeking grant money for adding more walkways. Ansell told commissioners the easement would not affect the grant application already submitted for making improvements to the property, and that footbridges and walkways would be allowed under the terms of the proposed easement.

The maintenance of the trails and the day-to-day monitoring of the property is currently done by members of the conservation commission's Pulpit Rock conservation subcommittee, a group of volunteers. Under the terms of the easement, those same volunteers would continue the work of monitoring the property and maintaining its trails.

Ansell said the Pulpit Rock property abuts Amherst conservation land which then abuts the Joppa Hill conservation area. There is a new connector trail from Pulpit Rock to Joppa Hill. The three properties combined create a meaningful conservation area for wildlife and recreation, Ansell said.

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