FALMOUTH — For the first time in 15 years, the Falmouth Land Trust has made a new acquisition.
FLT closed on the purchase of the Capall Creek Farm property, which is more commonly known as Hurricane Valley Farm, a 62-acre parcel off Gray Road in West Falmouth.
Executive Director Analiese Larson said FLT closed on the property in late June, at a cost of $700,000. The Town Council in February allocated $400,000 from the Parks Land Capital Fund to help FLT acquire the property.
That left FLT to raise $300,000 in a capital campaign that is ongoing, although Larson said the trust was still able to close “thanks to significant community support.” She said $100,000 is outstanding, including stewardship funds.
“(We) really feel the community is behind this acquisition,” Larson said.
Included in the purchase is a 12-stall barn with a large hayloft, a small ranch house that will be repaired and likely rented, and a three-side shed on the edge of the property. The parcel, which contains wetlands, open fields and farmland, abuts the Cumberland border, and the trust’s intent is to preserve the area as a working agricultural farm and open space.
Larson said acquiring farmland is “an entirely new endeavor” for FLT, and it was exciting to “embrace the agricultural history” of the town. Most of the other properties FLT has acquired in town are forested areas.
The last parcel FLT acquired was the Blackstrap Hill Preserve in 2000.
FLT President Jed Harris said he and the trust are “very excited” to have acquired the property. There was a tight window of opportunity to close the deal, he said, but “the community really stepped up and rallied behind the project.”
“We’re looking forward to bringing agriculture back to Falmouth,” Harris said, calling the parcel a “unique asset.”
The FLT formed an operational and management committee to inspect the house and barn, and commissioned a survey that found there were three species of nesting birds on the parcel: bobolinks, Savannah sparrows and Eastern meadowlark.
“It’s important for us to know what we have here for habitat,” Larson said.
The land is approved for a 17-lot home subdivision, but the FLT and the former owner, Kevin Smith, signed an agreement to permanently protect the former horse farm.
“Ultimately, I really wanted to see it remain farm land and remain open space,” Smith, who now lives in North Carolina on another horse farm, said in February.
Larson said she hopes FLT will be able to go before the Planning Board in August to vacate the subdivision approval.
While some stakeholders suggested different possibilities for the land, such as creating an orchard, a focus on public access remained central, she said, including organic gardens, public trails, service learning opportunities and more.
Larson added there will likely be year-round public access opportunities, including the possibility of cross-country skiing in the winter.
For now, an operational and management committee will prepare a request for proposals from tenant farmers. Larson was unsure when the RFP process would begin.
In the meantime, she said the trust will be preparing the land for public access, although trails and other amenities probably won’t be available until fall. A celebration is tentatively planned for sometime in September, when the trails and other publicly accessible parts of the parcel will be open.
“People want to get onto the land, but we still have to establish parking, a kiosk (for visitors), and trails,” Larson said. “… We don’t want people out there yet.”
Larson said connectivity will be a big part of trail making, but she also said it was important the trails not interfere with the farmland or soil, since the property will continue as a working farm. A soil analysis on the ground showed it would be very favorable for growing vegetables, she noted.
“The farmers who end up there have to be community oriented,” Larson said. “It takes a special kind of person (to do that).”
Falmouth Land Trust Executive Director Analiese Larson at newly acquired Hurricane Valley Farm. The trust closed on the purchase of the 62-acre property in late June.
Hurricane Valley Farm in Falmouth includes this house, which the Falmouth Land Trust plans to rent to help offset maintenance costs.
Hurricane Valley Farm contains open fields, farmlands and wetlands. The land, which is off of Gray Road and on the Falmouth-Cumberland border, is the first acquisition by the Falmouth Land Trust in 15 years.
The cost of the parcel was $700,000. The Town Council voted in February to provide $400,000 to the purchase, leaving the Falmouth Land Trust with $300,000 to raise through a capital campaign.