Gilford contributing to purchase of 327 acres on shoulder of Piper Mountain

GILFORD — Selectmen voted to approve a permanent conservation easement on a 327-acre tract of land in the Belknap Mountain Range last night after a recommendation from the Conservation Commission. The land will be owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

The Gage/Menighin/Cullinane parcel, which will cost the trust about $210,000, is currently owned privately and, according to Conservation Commission member Everett McLaughlin is just about its assessed value.

One-hundred and ten-thousand dollars will be the contribution of Gilford to the purchase, leaving a balance of about $240,000 in the fund for future land purchases.

The balance of the purchase price will come from a fund-raising campaign being conducted by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and the Belknap Range Conservation Coalition.

"This is an important acquisition," McLaughlin said. "We've been chasing this land for 10 years."

The tract is just west of the summit of Piper Mountain and is very close to Whiteface. It is part of the westerly view shed and just south of the Belknap Mountain State Forest. With the purchase, the Piper Mountain summit will be surrounded by conservation lands.

McLaughlin told selectmen an ecological survey research shows that the land is remote and pristine, hosts a variety of natural wildlife, and has a high likelihood of containing rare plants.

Moulton Brook — said it a tributary to Manning Lake in Gilmanton — runs through the parcel said McLaughlinwh noted its primary use would be the conservation of the watershed and recreation. The tract is also home to parts of four key Belknap Trails.

The latest addition is one of four parcels that comprise the larger project of conserving Belknap Mountain and its hiking trails. The other three are Roberts parcel that is adjacent to the Mt. Major Trailhead in Alton; the Jenson parcel that is west of the Mount Major summit in Alton; and the Hertel parcel that holds East Quarry Mountain in Alton.

In a separate action, selectmen also accepted the donation of 8.5 acres of land from the Carye Family Trusts that is adjacent to Lily Pond that will be put into permanent conservation.

Conservation Commission Chair Carol Hall said the parcel is partially wetlands and is a key buffer between the Walmart shopping center and Lily Pond.

She said the trustees of the Carye Trusts "stepped forward" and gave the land to the town for conservation.

Over the years, the Carye family has been "more than generous" to the town of Gilford said commission member Doug Hill, an attorney who helped facilitate the donation.

Selectmen said they were more than happy to accept the gift.