Activists have saved about 2,500 acres of open space near the Valley. They announced the news on November 13. The land is in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Part of the land is in Gilsum, New Hampshire, about nine miles from Keene. Another piece of the protected land is in Barre, Massachusetts, about an hour by car northeast of Springfield. Some is in Warwick, Massachusetts, about half an hour northeast of Greenfield by car. The activists have a web site: www.ForestSociety.org.
Springfield's first bicycle lane opened October 26. A day earlier in Keene, a $15 million, energy efficient, affordable housing project opened. It was built by www.kha.org. Riding a bicycle rather than driving, reduces global warming, acid rain, and smog. Living in multi-family housing, rather than a one-family house, saves farmland and forestland, and makes using public transit a viable alternative to owning a car.
In a victory for forest protection, 680 acres near Brattleboro and Greenfield was saved from development. The forestland is in Readsboro, Vermont, about 15 miles from Brattleboro and 20 miles from Greenfield. It was protected on March 26 by the Trust for Public Land www.tpl.org
Next month or in April, a local land trust will almost certainly protect 300 acres of forestland in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, between Keene and Brattleboro, said a spokesperson. "We expect to have the deal done in early spring, Katrina Farmer told the Valley Post on Feb. 3. She works for the Monadnock Conservancy in Keene. The group is also working to protect 145 acres in Swanzey, the next town south of Keene.
On December 23, environmental groups announced they had saved 3,486 acres of forestland near Amherst from development. It is the biggest such environmental victory in the Valley in years. Smaller parcels of land were protected near Brattleboro and Keene.
In the Valley, farmland and forest land are being permanently protected from development. Meanwhile in the Valley’s downtowns, parking lots and run down, single family houses are being transformed into attractive apartment buildings.
Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new building in downtown Keene that will contain 16 energy efficient apartments. The building , at 75 Railroad Street, will be owned by the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation.
On January 27, the Franklin Land Trust announced it had saved farmland and forest land from development in the Massachusetts towns of Ashfield (near Greenfield), Conway, Hadley (near Northampton), Heath, Leyden and Whately. In Ashfield, the Trust worked with landowner Peter Corens to conserve 81 acres of land, including pasture that was most recently leased to Sidehill Farm for their dairy operation. Also protected are critical woodlands and historic sites along Bear River.
On August 23, the Keene Planning Board approved construction of a 37 home apartment building a few blocks from the center of downtown. The building will create affordable housing and protect farmland and forestland by reducing pressure to build single family houses on the outer edges of town. The new building will replace a vacant, run-down industrial building now at the corner of Emerald and Ralston streets. It will be built and owned by J. Chakalos Investments Corporation.
This month, the state of Vermont gave the all-volunteer run Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association $591,000 to buy land near Brattleboro. The Pinnacle is the highest and most scenic peak in Westminster, Vermont, near Brattleboro. From the Pinnacle you can see Stratton Mountain, more than 20 miles away. The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association owns 1,662 acres in Rockingham, Athens, Brookline, and Westminster, all of which is open to the public. There is a 14 mile hiking trail and a wildlife sanctuary. Details are at www.windmillhillpinnacle.org
Massachusetts loses some 40 acres of open space to development every day. Every year, about 8,000 single-family houses are built in the four counties of western Massachusetts. In Hampshire and Hampden counties alone, more than 1,500 acres of open space have been lost every year for the past 20 years. That loss is, for practical purposes, irreversible; the chances of a Wal-Mart or a McMansion being torn down and replaced with prime farmland or wilderness are slim to none.