Hope that twin goals of saving land and lowering tax bills can dovetail
Kayakers paddle near the Deerneck boat launch at Lake Massabesic in Auburn. Manchester Water Works is looking for a buyer for 7,200 acres of forestland it has managed for more than a century. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Massabesic land has 4 biddersOne of four bidders will likely end up owning some 7,200 acres of forested watershed that surrounds Lake Massabesic. They are:
• The Concord-based Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has applied for a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Environmental Services to acquire the land. Grant proceeds would also be used for staff time, title work, property management and other costs associated with the purchase. The Forest Society said it isn't interested in non-conservation uses of the land — including Water Works structures such as dams and buildings, the commercial property and utility easements — and wants them stripped from the package.
• Green Crow, a company based in Port Angeles, Wash., with an office in Auburn, is the only for-profit company to put in a bid. It would acquire title to the land and transfer a conservation easement to a non-profit organization such as the Forest Society. Green Crow would treat the land as a working forest. It valued the land between $55,000 and $1.49 million, depending on the intensity of logging that would be allowed.
• The Deerfield-based Bear-Paw Regional Greenway is trying to construct a green corridor that includes towns around Bear Brook to Pawtuckaway state park. The organization controls about 4,000 acres now and said a price would be determined by an appraisal; it would need two years to raise the money. It is mostly interested in Water Works land north of Route 101, including Tower Hill and Clay ponds.
• The Exeter-based Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire, which said it has conserved 9,000 acres in southeast New Hampshire and owns 19 preserves. It has applied for a $1.06 million DES grant as well as a $200,000 Open Space Initiative grant. Even if it received the grants, it would have to undertake a fund-raising campaign to acquire the Water Works lands, the organization said.
Deed restrictions would allow Manchester Water Works to retain much control over the property. For example, any subdivision and sale of land would have to be approved by Water Works, and Water Works would be able to access the property and its lakes and streams whenever it deemed necessary.
But Paris said some decisions, such as continuing leases and public access to the property, will be out of Water Works' hands. He noted that several of the organizations seeking to purchase the land have a commitment to access for recreational purposes.
Paris does not expect a decision will be made until the fall or early winter. Both the Board of Water Commissioners and Manchester aldermen will have to approve the sale.
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