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YARMOUTH — It is hoped the new Riverfront Woods Preserve will be a place “for low-impact, quiet, contemplative and scenic outdoor recreation and enjoyment” under an interim management plan now being developed.
Because much of the property is still under private ownership, public access is not yet allowed and no trails have been built, according to Karyn MacNeill, director of Yarmouth Community Services.
But MacNeill said the town is hoping that by the end of summer the property, known as the Dugas Parcel, will be under public ownership and the interim management plan will be in effect, allowing public access to the land for the first time.
With the help of the Royal River Conservation Trust, the town purchased the 24-acre property last year for $250,000. The land sits on the eastern shore of the Royal River and abuts the Hilda Barker Preserve and the Sligo Road Reserve, which are also both owned by the town.
Together the three parcels will make up the Riverfront Woods Preserve, which will eventually be accessed by a new trailhead parking lot at the end of a new town street to be called Riverfront Drive, to be located off East Elm Street near the intersection of North Road.
According to MacNeill, the interim management plan is designed to “carefully balance the town’s expressed interests in conservation, recreation, and community,” while also ensuring compliance with conservation easements held by the Royal River Conservation Trust and deed restrictions on the Hilda Barker Preserve.
In essence, she said, the interim plan will allow the town to set up some guiding principles for use of the Riverfront Woods property, while also giving it authority to actively manage the land, such as tree management, trail construction and other necessary upkeep.
Objectives for the new preserve, according to the interim management plan, include providing outdoor recreational and educational opportunities, protecting critical wildlife habitat and natural areas, maintaining the scenic and rural character of the property and protecting water quality in the Royal River watershed.
MacNeill said the Town Council will eventually vote on whether to adopt the interim management plan, which could be presented for review in the next month or so, but added there would be an opportunity for public comment and input before that happens.
Community Services held a public forum on what should be included in the plan Feb. 6. MacNeill said while not a lot of people turned out, “we (still) had a great conversation with abutting property owners, interested residents, and professionals in the field.”
A copy of the draft plan is available online at yarmouthcommunityservices.org.
The plan states that the Riverfront Woods Preserve is “located within the Royal River watershed and protection of this watershed is of vital importance to the overall health of the (river’s) ecosystem … including potentially significant vernal pools, undeveloped tributary streams, and mature riparian forests. “
“The Riverfront Woods Preserve is (also) an important undeveloped scenic and natural buffer that enhances the experience of recreational users of the Royal River,” the interim plan says.
The preserve is home to a variety of wildlife and “distinct flora … creating a surprisingly remote experience for paddling in the summer and … snowshoeing and skiing in the winter,” the Royal River Conservation Trust website states.
Once the plan is adopted, MacNeill said the “Riverfront Woods Preserve will be a beautiful and vital resource for our town.”
An aerial view of the Riverfront Woods Preserve on the far shore of the Royal River in Yarmouth. The property is not yet open to the public, but the town is working on an interim management plan for the land.