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Protecting Historic Land In Hanover

UV Land Trust Works to Raise Thousands to Conserve Farm

The Upper Valley Land Trust is trying to raise funds for a conservation easement on historic Alswel Farm near Hanover Center. Courtesy Photo

The Upper Valley Land Trust is trying to raise funds for a conservation easement on historic Alswel Farm near Hanover Center. Courtesy Photo

Hanover — The Upper Valley Land Trust is trying to raise more than $17,000 by the end of the year to help finalize the conservation of a historic farm in Hanover Center.

But on Ed Chamberlain’s 50-acre parcel on Wolfeboro Road, there was little indication on Thursday of the drama in which it plays a central role. The fields stretched out behind Chamberlain’s 19th century farmhouse, sloping down to meet the stark grays and greens of the adjoining woods. Grass tufts protruded from the snow and to the east, Moose Mountain stood prominently under overcast skies.

Peg Merrens, the land trust’s vice president of conservation, said the group is raising the money to help protect Alswell Farm from development.

An appraisal this fall showed the land is worth $260,000, and the land trust has agreed to purchase a conservation easement for a bargain price of $60,000. Chamberlain, in turn, would donate the remaining 75 percent of the value, taking advantage of federal income tax incentives for gifts of conservation easements that expire on Dec. 31.

By Thursday, just under $43,000 had been received, leaving more than $17,000 to be raised by Sunday, a deadline that would give Merrens time to complete and file the necessary paperwork.

For 75-year-old Chamberlain, conservation serves as a way to preserve the history and beauty of the property.

The land was originally granted to Rev. Eden Burroughs in 1772 as a homestead, Chamberlain said, in exchange for founding Hanover Center’s first church. The current house was built soon after in 1815, home to Burroughs’ 10 children. Since then, Alswell Farm has been one of the oldest continuously farmed properties in Hanover.

Chamberlain pointed down to the lowest point of the property, where Monahan Brook runs southerly to the Third Hanover Reservoir, and nearby, Slade Brook follows its course west to the Connecticut River.

“From a conservation point of view, we want to protect the headwaters of brooks,” Chamberlain explained.

Excluding the 1.5 acres that holds the house, woodshed, and gambrel style barn, the proposed easement would prohibit development and subdivision on the land, while allowing owners to continue to harvest timber and use the open fields for farmland. Chamberlain will continue to encourage public access, keeping the land unposted for hunters and maintaining trails for skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing.

Chamberlain, who grew up in Michigan, and his late wife, Ingrid, bought Alswell Farm in 1969. He worked as an engineer at Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, haying the fields, raising some cattle, and growing his own organic vegetables for the family.

Now, he refers to himself as a gentleman farmer, pasturing several lambs in the summer months and in the winter, heating the cape with firewood from his forestland.

“I’ve been thinking about conservation for a long time,” Chamberlain said. “Now was the time it just made sense.”

In early November, the land trust got the appraisal figures and started “fundraising quietly,” Merrens said.

After sending out a mailing to the greater Hanover community and email and Facebook updates, the effort received substantial local support. More than 25 households and businesses responded with pledges and donations, including a $5,000 grant from the Hanover Conservancy.

To help complete the project, the UVLT is now collecting pledges for 2014 and 2015, as well as online donations and gifts of stock. It’s an investment, Merrens said, that will pay itself back in a variety of ways.

“The easement will protect headwaters and wetlands and two major brooks. You’ve got open space protection and historic use of fields and rich history of the farm. And you’ve got wildlife there. The land serves multiple benefits and that’s part of what is so special about it.”

Chamberlain, who is currently chairman of the Hanover Conservation Commission and previously served on the board of the Hanover Conservancy, discussed the possible lack of full funding calmly. Although he hasn’t yet discussed it with the Land Trust, he said he’ll donate the remaining difference if the support doesn’t come through.

“For me,” Chamberlain said, “the easement protects the property in the same way that I have protected it. It’s a twofer — protecting the history of this old, old farm and protecting the value of the land.”

Katie Jickling can be reached at katiejickling@gmail.com.

Related

Letter: Alswell Farm: A Family Story

Thursday, January 2, 2014

To the Editor: Your Dec. 27 article on the historic Alswell Farm in Hanover Center was of great interest to me and to my family, because we’d be very happy to see those conservation efforts fulfilled and the land protected through conservation. I’m writing to tell you also that the farm is of great personal interest to my family because …