Conservation Trust Seeks Three Key Portaminicut Lots

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Conservation

This tree-shaded uphill drive hints at the sights to be preserved if the Orleans Conservation Trust can purchase three lots on Portaminicut Road in South Orleans.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS They're calling it “one of the costliest purchases in the organization's nearly 50-year history,” but the Orleans Conservation Trust is making the case for buying 4.65 acres over three lots on Portaminicut Road in South Orleans.

The property “could forge a vital link between existing conservation lands both south and north of the road,” OCT stated in a press release. Donors are being sought to help with the $825,000 price tag, and there's a January deadline to meet.

“We were able to negotiate a purchase agreement for three lots at Number 66 when a sale for development fell through,” OCT Director Stephen O'Grady wrote in the release. “But we couldn't obtain an extended closing—so we only have until the end of 2019 to raise funds before the closing.”

O'Grady listed the benefits of the purchase, including filling in missing links to create a preserve of nearly 100 contiguous acres, creation of parking at a trailhead that would offer access to a town trail past an Atlantic white cedar swamp, and the potential for a future link to another 20 acres promised as a gift to OCT.

“Development of the three parcels would add to the area's septic load and further erode its rural character,” according to OCT. The $825,000 acquisition cost, to which the Trust has already dedicated some funds, includes money to remove a house to create the trailhead.

“We did consider the current condition and potential future use of the home, even in its current location,” O'Grady wrote in an email reply to a question about options for the building. “OCT is obligated to close at the end of the year, but if fundraising is not successful, we'd likely take a loan to do so and would need an exit strategy, including possibly selling the developed lot. However, the home has some issues that likely make tear down the most logical and economical option. We recognize the need for affordable housing in our community too!”

OCT's open space campaigns often focus on neighborhood fundraising, the Trust's land acquisition committee chair, Charlie Carlson, noted in the release: “People who live near conserved land already understand the many benefits homeowners derive from that property, and they're eager to see more acres remain undeveloped—especially in South Orleans, which has more open space than most areas of town.”

While the OCT concentrates on securing the Portaminicut properties, there's another ongoing preservation effort in town. The Friends of Pleasant Bay is “just over halfway to our $5.4 million goal” to complete the purchase of Sipson Island, according to Friends president Mon Cochran. “While we are making solid progress, January is looming, with over $2 million yet to raise. We really need folks committed to conserving the island to step up with significant support very soon.” Cochran, who will be running tours to the island Aug. 22 and 26, can be contacted at mmc6@cornell.edu or 607-351-8681.

Raising funds to conserve land is an arduous yet collegial exercise in Orleans. “I am aware of the OCT effort,” Cochran said, “and I hope it is successful.”

To learn more about and/or contribute to the Orleans Conservation Trust's campaign to preserve the Portaminicut Road lots, go to orelansconservationtrust.org or call 508-255-0183.