Dartmouth Sells Farm That Will Be Part of Appalachian Trail

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2017 12:07:49 AM
Modified: 3/23/2017 12:00:56 PM

Etna — A $1.84 million land deal between Dartmouth College and The Trust for Public Land promises to protect an old farm estate that offers birding and hiking opportunities just 3 miles from Hanover’s Main Street.

On Tuesday, immediately after purchasing the 175-acre Hudson Farm from Dartmouth, the trust gave it away to the National Park Service so that it could be added to the Appalachian Trail.

Adair Mulligan, executive director of the Hanover Conservancy, said on Wednesday that the land’s proximity to the downtown area made it a prime target for development, which would have been a threat to the embattled bobolink and the Mink Brook watershed.

Now, Mulligan said, the land will continue to be used for recreational activities, including hunting.

“It’s a prime location,” she said. “All the neighbors use it for hiking and snowshoeing and skiing in the fields in the wintertime.”

A mixture of forests, wetlands and open fields, the property includes a trail system that links Greensboro Road, Trescott Road and Berrill Farm Lane to the Appalachian Trail.

The preservation of those grassy fields is particularly good news for bobolinks, songbirds that are in decline in the state and have lost about 2 percent of their numbers for a 10-year period ending in 2013, according to New Hampshire’s Wildlife Management Plan, which cited habitat loss as one of the driving factors. In Vermont, bobolink numbers have declined by about 75 percent over the past four decades, and they are listed as a medium priority bird species in Vermont’s wildlife management plan.

Outside of river valleys, grassy fields are in short supply in the Twin States, which makes sites like the Hudson Farm critical to the birds’ long-term survival.

“Big chunks of grassland over 10 acres of size, those are required habitats for bobolinks,” Mulligan said. “This property is one of the few in town that has that.”

Mulligan said the known history of the property begins with the Owens family, which farmed it for generations in the 1800s.

At some point in the first half of the 20th century, it was purchased by Archer and Louelle Hudson. Archer Hudson, who died in 1979, was an architect who was active in town affairs, including a stint on the World War II Memorial Committee around 1950. He designed the Lebanon Fire Station in 1955, and an addition to the Hanover High School, according to a short biography listed in a 2012 New Hampshire state report on significant public architectural resources. Hudson constructed a house on the site as a country retreat, and intentionally burned down the farm’s barn, leaving just the foundation.

“This place, while it has been known as the Hudson Farm, was never farmed by the Hudsons,” Mulligan said.

Dartmouth bought the property in 1963, rented the house out, and worked the land, according to Amy Olson, a Dartmouth spokeswoman.

“For years, the fields were hayed and the land was used by the College for research and teaching” subjects, including biology and terrestrial ecology, Olson said.

In 1995, Dartmouth gave the town of Hanover an easement for its recreational trails, and in 2009, Dartmouth College sold the Hudsons’ house and kept the rest of the land.

In 2016, with the sale to the Trust seeming increasingly likely, there were discussions in Hanover about whether to seek permission to allow bicycles to use a portion of the trail system provided for in its easement, but that idea, which was opposed by several neighbors, ultimately did not happen.

“Hudson Farm is a public treasure with beautiful fields and open views that we didn’t want to see lost to residential and commercial development,” said J.T. Horn, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land.

The purchase, which is the first addition to the Appalachian Trail in Hanover in 15 years, was funded by a mixture of private donations, and the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is generated through revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments, according to a news release announcing the sale.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

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