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Ausbon Sargent Close to Deal on Property for Conservation

Sunapee — A land preservation organization is close to obtaining a prime piece of property that will be protected from development with a conservation easement.

Wendell Marsh North is a 136-acre tract that abuts Wendell Marsh Waterfowl Management Area — owned and managed by the state Fish and Game — to the south and Ryder Corner Road to the north.

Jolyon Johnson bought the property in a foreclosure sale in January 2012 for the express purpose of designating it for conservation. Johnson said without a conservation easement, the land would be attractive to developers, and now even more so with the sewer line that will be constructed through the property from the treatment plant to homes around Perkins Pond.

“The biggest driving force is in protecting the land to avoid dense development,” said Johnson, who owns Wendell Veterinary Clinic in Sunapee. “I own it (the 136 acres) but I don’t want to own it.”

The parcel is at the north end of Wendell Marsh and sits in the middle of about 1,000 acres of undeveloped land, Johnson said.

“The reason I think it is important is that it is part of a natural wildlife corridor that extends points south and continues points north,” Johnson said. “The marsh is an important habitat for several species.”

Once the sale is complete, the parcel will be owned by the town of Sunapee and The Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust will have a permanent conservation easement on it, said Beth McGuinn, land protection specialist with Ausbon Sargent.

Johnson said the road frontage on Ryder Corner Road makes conserving the property critical because other parcels that can be developed are “landlocked.”

Ausbon Sargent estimates the total project cost of close to $300,000. That includes the purchase price along with other expenses including survey, legal, appraisal and stewardship. The town conservation commission has pledged $252,000 and another $16,000 is being sought in grants and donations. In its fundraising appeal, Ausbon Sargent said donations will be accepted through the end of the month.

“The recreation uses are pretty significant,” McGuinn said about the parcel. “A snowmobile trail runs through the property and it is also used for hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.”

McGuinn said the property has a “nice blend of habitat” including moose, bear and otter.

The conservation easement would also protect a brook that flows from Perkins Pond and reserve drinking water wells for municipal uses in Sunapee. At one point, the land was eyed for water bottling facility.

McGuinn praised Johnson for helping conserve the land.

“He is the epitome of a conservationist,” said McGuinn. “He is doing this for the land.”

McGuinn said the trust would welcome the opportunity to expand the area of the easement beyond Johnson’s property if any other property owners are interested in selling.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.