Beverly to Spend $1.1 Million to Open Moraine Farm Land | News

BEVERLY — The city plans to spend $1.1 million in community preservation funds to open 11 acres of land on three separate parcels at Moraine Farm for public use.

The city’s Community Preservation Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the grant, which would be the biggest investment the city has made to date using community preservation money.

The deal, which still needs to be approved by city council, calls for the city to pay $1.1 million to the Reservations Trustees, the nonprofit organization that owns the land. In exchange, the trustees agreed to several benefits for Beverly residents, including the creation of a community garden, the extension of walking and running paths, the reopening of an entrance to the property on Conant Street, the providing 10 dedicated parking spaces for Beverly residents and holding at least two community events per year on the property.

“This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” said committee member Derek Beckwith.

The city’s $1.1 million will allow administrators to complete a larger project – the creation of a 145-acre preserve at Moraine Farm that would open much of the historic property to the public for the first time.

The trustees launched a capital campaign to raise $4.1 million to purchase 66 acres from Project Adventure, which the trustees would combine with the 79 acres they already own to unify the property and create one large preserve. Trustees said they have “reached capacity” with their donors and are therefore asking the City of Beverly to invest $1.1 million “to close out the fundraising campaign.”

With the $1.1 million, the city buys a “conservation restriction” on the three parcels, meaning they cannot be developed. The Trustees would retain ownership of the parcels, but allow public access and specific benefits for Beverly residents to be defined in the retention restriction. Administrators would not have been eligible for community preservation funds if they had directly requested assistance with the purchase of Project Adventure, officials said.

Mayor Mike Cahill said the three plots are the only land owned by Moraine Farm trustees that is not subject to a conservation restriction. He said the organization could have sold the plots to developers to help fund his purchase of the land from Project Adventure. By acquiring the conservation restriction, the city guarantees that the land will remain an open space and that residents will have access to it, he said.

Two of the plots frontage along Cabot Street in North Beverly near Beverly Airport, while the other is on Conant Street adjacent to Hannah Village. Cahill said a historic entrance to the property on Conant Street that has been closed for years will be opened, allowing people to walk from that end of the property to the city-owned Phillips Preserve property near Lake Wenham. .

“When you go out and walk through the property, you really see the value of the whole property,” Cahill said. “This whole network of trails is beautiful – beautiful.”

David Santomenna, associate director of land conservation for the trustees, said the agreement with Beverly will allow the trustees to reach an agreement to purchase the land from Project Adventure before the Dec. 31 deadline. He said the purchase would be the culmination of a decades-long effort by administrators to reunite the property and open it up for more public use.

“The entire property has truly been a private enclave forever,” he said.

Moraine Farm has been divided into parcels owned by different families and organizations since its conception by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1880. The 66 acres to be acquired by the trustees include frontage along Wenham Lake, the estate’s main house, a tea garden and a terrace.

Project Adventure will remain on site as a tenant of the Trustees and will continue to operate its education programs, including utilizing the outdoor adventure course on the property.

Editor Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Editor Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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