Tag Archives: committee

What’s the Gov’mint Doing on our Land?

by Barbara Walvoord

We 13 resident members of the Lathrop Land Conservation Committee remove invasive plants, establish native wildflower gardens, map trails, and bring speakers about nature. We don’t necessarily picture ourselves reading pages of government regulations, filling out complex forms, appearing before a government commission, or guiding commission members on an inspection of our land.

But recently, that’s exactly what we’ve done–once for each town. That’s because wetlands benefit everyone–preventing storm damage, providing wildlife habitat, and renewing the aquifer. So the state’s Wetlands Protection Act requires that, before we alter our wetlands, we get permission from a town “conservation commission” whose members are citizen volunteers.

We appeared before the town commissions around 6 p.m. The members had come from their regular jobs, perhaps eating a candy bar in the car or stopping for a burger, and then giving their time for the public good. So the real question is not “What is the gov’mint doing on our land?” but “What are these citizens doing on our land?”

It was citizens, in fact, who began the conservation commissions in Massachusetts. In 1956, a small group of Ipswich residents organized to oppose a housing developer’s proposal to drain and fill a marsh. Relying on a law about industrial development, they argued successfully for the public acquisition and protection of the marsh to enhance the community’s values. The next year, the state legislature gave communities the option to establish conservation commissions that would advocate for the natural environment, prepare conservation plans, manage conservation lands, and, later, enforce environmental protection laws. By now, every community in Massachusetts has a conservation commission. A common association serves more than 700 of them with training, instructional handbooks, and conferences (www.maccweb.org/about_us.html).

Our conservation commissioners have considerable expertise–for example, at the Northampton meeting about our proposal, there was a lively and informed debate about methods we should use to document the results of our treatment of invasives. Real scientists stretch lines across a terrain and identify every plant along the line. Moderating their scientific precision, the biology teachers on the commission agreed we could use photographs.

The Easthampton Commission did a site visit to our land one Monday night in the rain. They slogged through the tall, wet grasses to see how our contractor had blue-flagged the “jurisdictional wetlands.” They asked about the methods we would use in different areas.

What was common to both town commissions was their enthusiastic support for our project–proposing to restore the native habitat rather than pave it, drain it, or build on it.

And their visit helped to spread the word about Lathrop. “I never knew this was back here,” said one. Well, we are back here, and we are also out there, interacting with the dedicated and knowledgeable citizens who give up supper with their families to be stewards of the land–as are we. The gov’mint is us.


Resident Survey Results: We Want to Be in Nature!

Thanks to those of you from Lathrop East who responded to the questionnaire from the Land Conservation Committee, distributed in early August. We received 26 responses, and many helpful comments, which will enable us to focus our planning on the needs of our residents.

The questionnaire was sent out in the hope that it might generate interest in our beautiful meadows and woodlands, especially among those who might not have been able to visit them recently. And so it did! Many respondents expressed a desire to be taken out to see the land. We think this now becomes a real possibility in some areas, what with the recent offering of the use of Lathrop’s electric car and golf cart. Stay tuned! Continue reading Resident Survey Results: We Want to Be in Nature!

Report to Residents July 30, 2014

Report of the Land Conservation Subcommittee of the Green Committee

July 30, 2014

by Barbara Walvoord, Chair

Committee Members: Adele Dowell, Jim Dowell, Alfred Eipper, Sharon Grace, Chuck Gillies, Lyn Howe, Eleanor Johnson, Gillian Morbey, Diedrick Snoek, and Barbara Walvoord

Since our last report, the committee has moved forward in each of its eight lines of work:

  1. Master plan, finances, infrastucture
  2. Agricultural fields
  3. Removal of invasives
  4. Bushwhacking, mowing
  5. Herbicides, pesticides
  6. Planting natives
  7. Trails
  8. Programming and information

Particularly, watch for these developments:

  • Tomorrow, July 31, the state Biologist and the state Soil Conservation Planner are coming to walk our fields and give us ideas about how best to support wildlife, especially grassland birds like bobolinks and meadowlarks, which are increasingly at risk. Support for grassland birds and other wildlife is one of three alternative uses for our fields that we are researching. The other two alternatives (not mutually exclusive) are organic/sustainable farming, and a possible 5-8-acre solar field on a piece of our land not visible from our homes. A representative from a solar cooperative called Community Solar is coming August 18 at 10 a.m. in the Inn for a very early exploratory discussion. Nothing may come of it, and no commitments will be made without a GREAT DEAL more investigation and discussion with the whole Lathrop community, board, etc.
  • Presentation in August or September by our naturalist consultant Laurie Sanders about the natural history, present status, and future of our land.
  • Development of a native wildflower garden in front of Cranberry House. We’ll be sharing the plan with all of you and inviting you to participate in (or come and watch) a planting day in the fall.
  • We are contacting contractors who can help us remove invasives in our fields, woods, and wetlands that are threatening our native plants and wildlife.
  • We need information from residents about their needs and desires for walking trails.

Minutes of the Land Conservation Subcommittee Meeting of July 25, 2014

Minutes of the Land Conservation Subcommittee Meeting of July 25, 2014

The committee met in the Inn on the east campus on July 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

Present: Adele Dowell, Jim Dowell, Chuck Gillies, Sharon Grace, Michael Harvey, Lyn Howe, Eleanor Johnson, Diedrick Snoek, Barbara Walvoord (chair), and Thom Wright. Gilliam Morbey was unable to attend, but we plan to hold a meeting on the north campus in August with her and other friends there, to discuss plans resulting from the visit there of Laurie Sanders.

The first hour was spent in open-ended discussion of Laurie Sanders’ visit, viewing photos of our land shared by Chuck Gillies, and exploring issues about our land. We discussed the extent to which we want to open our land to hikers and others outside our own residents. We generated ideas for programs, trails, and other ways to engage residents. We talked about the various parcels of our land and their management. We talked about how to raise funds and how to get residents engaged in invasives removal. We discussed the plans for a native plant garden at the Cranberry House.

During the final half hour, we discussed the task list and signed up people to make progress on the tasks. Attached is the revised task list, which incorporated the new sign-ups as well as points and suggestions made during our discussion.

Respectfully submitted,

Barbara Walvoord, Chair