Working with landowner Mark Graves and with neighborhood conservationists, Franklin Land Trust has entered into an option agreement that provides for the purchase of either a conservation restriction or fee ownership of the Edge Hill Golf Course in Ashfield. The 147-acre property was managed as a dairy farm for many years by the Graves family, which in 1993 began operation of what eventually became an 18-hole golf course. The property consists of fields that run southward down from a bordering woodland of mixed hardwoods to the beginning flowage of the Bear River. The property is home to a host of wildlife species, including migratory birds, deer, and turtles who annually lay their eggs in the sandy areas of the golf course.
This is an iconic property in a scenic and sensitive area; it is adjacent both to conserved lands and to significant blocks that could be protected in the future. If it is not protected, it is very likely to be developed with the potential of 17 house lots. If it is developed the character of this area and its conservation potential will shift dramatically.
The surrounding wooded area along the Ashfield-Buckland border has long been recognized as a special place in an area that abounds in them. To date, the Bear Hill River region has seen 18 properties placed in permanent conservation protection, totaling a bit over 975 acres. The Edge Hill Golf Course is among several other nearby properties that, if protected, would add more than 361 acres to this figure, and bring the total protected land in the neighborhood to well over 1,300 acres in the neighborhood. Significant potential exists for additional conservation protection nearby in the Bear River Watershed.
If protected permanently through a Conservation Restriction (CR), Franklin Land Trust would work annually with the landowner to monitor compliance with the terms of the restriction. If fee simple protection becomes the chosen method, FLT could rent or lease the property for recreational or agricultural use, with the option of granting a CR to another conservation lessee. The barn structure could find multiple uses, including support space for the Trust’s popular D2R2 bicycle race.
The project has met with enthusiastic support thus far, with donations to date approaching the CR goal of $550,000. Fee ownership would take $660,000 for acquisition. FLT staff will be working with local and regional donors to complete this project as soon as possible, and to continue to advance the cause of conservation in this very special part of our state.