Northborough takes new step after buying Howard Street conservation land

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By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Signage greets visitors to the Mount Pisgah conservation area in Berlin. The sprawling collection of open space in this area got 19 acres bigger last year when Northborough bought a parcel of land a few hundred feet down Howard Street from this trailhead. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

NORTHBOROUGH – The Town of Northborough took another step June 28 towards integrating a parcel of land near its border with Berlin into its network of publicly accessible open space.

By unanimous vote, the Board of Selectmen approved a conservation restriction under the supervision of the Sudbury Valley Trustees for 19 acres of open space at 615 Howard St.

That happened as the Board and Open Space Committee expect to connect new trails on this Howard Street property with trails on neighboring state and local land in the Mount Pisgah area.

“It was an excellent candidate for conservation,” Open Space Committee Chair John Campbell said in a presentation to the Selectmen’s decision to acquire this property.

The town first learned about the option to buy land at 615 Howard St. in early 2019. At that point, it initiated an approval process and eventually worked through the Open Space Committee, the Conservation Committee and the Board of Selectmen to approve a $390,000 purchase.

The price, Campbell said, was calculated based on the option to build a number of single family homes on this land. 

“We, of course, wanted to see it preserved as open space and contribute to the trail networks and passive recreation areas,” Campbell said.

Northborough now owns the land after all. As it funded its buy with Community Preservation Act dollars, though, it must now comply with stipulations in the CPA legislation. 

Notably, the town needs to place a conservation restriction on the property, effectively limiting its use to certain activities that are in line with a broad mission of conservation and preservation. 

That’s where the Sudbury Valley Trustees came in. 

State law dictates that the owner of a piece of land cannot hold and execute the conservation restriction on it. An outside party must shoulder that burden.

The Trustees have worked with Northborough in the past to do just that. 

“[The Sudbury Valley Trustees] provide an excellent service of being the overseer of the guidelines and the conservation restrictions and enforcement,” Campbell said.

The town-owned property at 615 Howard St. is actually a 19-acre “back-parcel” of a larger property on Howard Street. It’s located just a few hundred feet south of trail parking for Mt. Pisgah. Likewise, it occupies space just to the east of a cluster of town-owned land running from the Berlin border to the backside of properties just over a half mile to the south. A large plot of land under the control of the state’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and nestled between Howard Street and Green Street also augments the existing green space. 

A series of trails already criss-cross this patch of forest. Within that, the “Sparrow Trail” and the “Tyler Trail” specifically intersect just shy of where this new 615 Howard St. land begins. As such, town officials are eyeing expansion of those particular trails.