FALMOUTH — The Falmouth Land Trust has expanded its holdings to include a large portion of the Morrill Farm near Babbidge Road on the west end of town and a key portion of the Tidewater Farm near Route 1 on the east side.
During a special meeting on Dec. 20, the Town Council signed off on using $500,000 in municipal funds to purchase the remaining undeveloped lots at Tidewater Farm and turn over 4 acres of the property to the land trust.
The closing on Tidewater Farm has been delayed, however, by what Town Manager Nathan Poore said Monday were issues around the conservation easement that was also part of the land deal.
Jennifer Grimm, executive director of the land trust, said the organization is “working diligently with the town on Tidewater,” but she couldn’t go into any details about fundraising or how the property will be used by the trust until all of the legal documents are signed.
However, in prior discussions with the council, the land trust has said it would be “a particularly attractive place” for a variety of programs on topics such as ecology, horticulture, natural resources and conservation.
In addition, the land trust said it hopes to one day build a new headquarters on the Tidewater property, which is now occupied by a historic farmhouse and barn. The buildings will be torn down as part of the agreement with the town.
Under that agreement, the land trust has also agreed to reimburse the town a total of $243,150 for its portion of the Tidewater Farm property. It must pay half of that no later than Dec. 20, 2020, and the remaining half by 2028.
In the meantime, the town will hold an interest-free mortgage on the property, although the land trust will take immediate possession, according to the documents approved by the council at its recent meeting.
As part of the Tidewater Farm purchase, the town will keep an 8-acre lot abutting the current wastewater treatment plant in anticipation of future expansion, as well as a 48-acre conservation easement now owned by the Tidewater Conservation Foundation.
The 27-acre Morrill Farm property was a gift to the land trust from owners Bruce and Suzanne Stillings, who have lived on the farm for the past 20 years.
On Monday, Suzanne Stillings called the acreage “a beautiful piece of property with lots of wildlife that we wanted to preserve.” She said the 27 acres given to the land trust consist mostly of fields, as well as some wooded lots.
She and her husband are retaining the farmhouse and surrounding land, but Stillings said, “it was our idea to give (the property) to the land trust and we are very happy to see it happen.”
In its most recent newsletter the land trust said, “the stunning 27-acre property will now be forever conserved, and open to the public, as the newest addition to FLT’s portfolio of protected lands.”
This week Grimm said the Stillings “have made an extremely generous and lasting gift to our community that will be significant for future generations.”
“Not only is the property extremely beautiful – with a rich history of agriculture here in Falmouth dating back to the early 1700s – it also has abundant habitat and wildlife.”
Grimm said the farm is situated within the Highland Lake watershed and the land trust “is honored to steward this property in perpetuity. We look forward to introducing the public to it in 2019”
This historic farmhouse and barn at Tidewater Farm must be torn down within 12 months after the town turns over the 4-acre lot to the Falmouth Land Trust. The trust has until December 2028 to repay the town more than $243,000 for the property.