Derry Conservation Commission Sets Goals for 2014

The Derry Conservation Commission has set its course for 2014.

In a goal-setting meeting Monday, the Commission, under the direction of Chairman Margaret Ives, fleshed out the goals Ives discussed with the Town Council in last week’s meeting with the town’s boards and committees. The draft goals will be voted on in a future meeting.

Ives reminded the Commission that they are authorized under RSA 36:A for the “use and protection of natural resources and the protection of watershed resources” and that they are the only municipal body authorized to review applications submitted to the state Department of Environmental Services Wetlands Bureau.

The first goal, Ives said, is to continue to hear proposals for construction projects and make recommendations in light of the project’s impact on natural resources. “We are an advisory body only,” she emphasized.

The second goal is to continue involvement in stewardship of protected properties. With the assistance of the Land Stewards, the Commission maintains trails, signs and bridges. They have contracted with forester Charles Moreno to do a management plan at Weber Forest. With the help of Len Lord of the Rockingham County Conservation District, they will continue to attack invasive plants at Shepard Park.

Ives noted the Town Council is scheduled to vote soon on the Collette’s Mountain property, the latest addition to town-owned conservation land.

The third goal is to reopen discussion on an Open Space Development Ordinance. Ives said this has been attempted in the past.

“We worked on one 10 years ago, but it never made it to the Council,” Dionne said. “It would require a zoning change.”

Ives suggested looking at the original draft and obtaining comments from the current Planning Board.

An ordinance is crucial, Ives said, because Derry is seeing more development. “It is incumbent on us to protect our resources,” she said.

These resources include water, agricultural land, and wooded areas. Ives pointed out, “Seventeen to 19 percent of Derry residents still get their drinking water from their backyard. What you put in your yard may affect someone’s groundwater.”

That led into Goal Four, continuing protection of undeveloped parcels. Ives noted conservation land needs more “connectivity,” saying that a map of protected parcels “looks like a checkerboard.” The town needs economic development to keep the tax rates in check, Ives said, adding, “We are ‘children-rich’ in this town.

“We need to know when the drive for economic development will impact the parcels that should be protected,” she said.

The fifth goal includes updating the list of priority parcels, based on a rating that includes agricultural soils, water resources, recreation, wildlife habitat, and connectivity to already protected lands and recreation.

The sixth goal is continuing public education and communication, using a variety of media including Cable Channel 17, the Web site, Derryfest, brochures and maps and newspaper articles. The Commission will also educate the public on the importance of placing a conservation easement on their land, or donating the land outright for conservation purposes.

The seventh goal is to continue to improve internal organization, with the help of Conservation Secretary Ruth Robinson.

In its eighth goal, the Council will continue to sponsor the community gardens at Broadview Farm. “Last year we had 41 garden plots,” Ives said.