For the better part of the past year, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy has been working with the Brookline Conservation Commission and the Nissitissit River Land Trust to protect 78 acres of undeveloped land and half a mile of frontage on the Nissitissit River in Brookline. The land has been a priority of local conservationists for nearly fifty years, and the opportunity to protect the land has finally arrived. The Nissitissit project took a huge step forward on March 15th, when town voters overwhelmingly approved warrant articles funding the town’s purchase of the land, and authorizing a conservation easement to be held by PLC.
The Nissitissit River project comprises two adjacent parcels just east of Bohannon Bridge in the southeast corner of Brookline. Conserving the land will protect both banks of a 2,600-foot stretch of the river and the groundwater aquifer that lies beneath it, one of the last large agricultural fields in Brookline, as well as varied habitat, upland forest, and extensive wetlands. The property abuts or is close to existing conservation land in all four directions, making it a keystone to connecting the conservation lands of Brookline.
The Nissitissit River flows about eleven miles from its source in Potanipo Pond in Brookline through Brookline and Hollis to its confluence with the Nashua River in Pepperell, MA. The river has been the focus of conservation efforts since the early 1960’s when a state study (the Natural Preserves Forum) listed it as one of the top natural areas in the state worthy of protection. This was followed a few years later by a 1967 report by the then Office of Planning and Research that mapped a proposed preserve area including the parcels now being protected by the town and PLC. Groups such as Nissitissit River Land Trust, Beaver Brook Association, and the Brookline Conservation Commission were all formed during the middle of the 1960’s and each played an important role in protecting a substantial portion of the river.
Along with protecting land and river frontage, the Nissitissit project includes restoration work along a small section of the riverbank that has washed out and is putting adjoining trees at risk of being uprooted. The project also fits into an effort by the Brookline Conservation Commission to create a universally-accessible river park just upstream from the new lands being acquired, and to connect them with nearly a mile of existing rail trail that are being gifted to the town by the Nissitissit River Land Trust and Beaver Brook Association. These upstream lands would also be covered by a conservation easement held by PLC.
In addition to the Brookline funds approved at town meeting, the Nissitissit land purchase is being financially supported by the Nissitissit Land Trust, the state’s Aquatic Resources Mitigation Program (NH DES), the Merrimack Conservation Partnership, and New Hampshire Fish & Game. PLC’s role in the project has already been generously supported by the Preston Family Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation, and PLC will be seeking additional grant funding in the coming months. Efforts to develop the universally accessible park have been supported by the National Parks Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program.
PLC Executive Director Chris Wells says “PLC is proud to be part of this landmark project, and we salute the people of Brookline for their foresight and community spirit. The Brookline Conservation Commission did an incredible job putting the project together and getting the word out to town residents.”
Written by Drew Kellner, a member of Brookline's Conservation Commission