SOUTHWICK – The Save North Pond campaign will continue through the summer. On Thursday, the Franklin Land Trust officially signed and reached an agreement with the land owner, Denise LeClair-Robbins, to extend the deadline to raise a total of $5 million in order to preserve North Pond.
Previously, the deadline was June 30, 2018, but due to the agreement between the land owner and Franklin Land Trust, the new deadline is June 30, 2019. The two parties were able to come to a signed agreement just days before the deadline.
“Thankfully we have been granted more time to reach our financial goal,” said Rich Hubbard, the Executive Director of the land-preservation organization.
The extension allows the Franklin Land Trust to have more time to preserve the remaining acres that are needed. With a total of 148 acres of North Pond sought for preservation, 83 acres has already been given to the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife in order to expand the Southwick Wildlife Management Area, which is on North Pond. The Franklin Land Trust will now have more time to preserve the other 65 acres that will go to the town of Southwick.
Besides acquiring the 148 acres, the $5 million needs to be raised by December 31. Currently, through many fundraisers, grants, and donations from supporters of North Pond, about $3.5 million has been raised. The Franklin Land Trust still needs to raise an additional $1.5 million.
The Franklin Land Trust has been awarded several grants to help raise the money, including two-combined grants totaling $1.4 million from the Massachusetts Departments of Energy and Environmental Affairs as well as Fish and Wildlife.
“Without a doubt, this is our last chance to save this critical land, for both wildlife and the Southwick community to enjoy for hiking, access to the lake, and to preserve that beautiful, pristine shoreline,” said Hubbard. “We need local donors to step up and help conserve this land forever.”
According to Hubbard, the landowner of the 148 of North Pond has informed the Franklin Land Trust that the land will be sold for it’s “highest and best use”. If not preserved, one popular option has been the chance of developing building lots on the property.
In July 2014, supporters of North Pond informed the Westfield News that the land was in jeopardy of being developed. LeClair-Robbins had an initial appraisal, followed by several more, each of them came in around $5 million.