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Quarry conservation to be gifted to town

  • The Mason Quarry is in the process of being preserved as conservation land and turned over to the town as a gift by George Schwenk, the owner of Mason Quarry LLC.
  • The Mason Quarry is in the process of being preserved as conservation land and turned over to the town as a gift by George Schwenk, the owner of Mason Quarry LLC.

MASON — After a long process, the Mason Quarry will officially be preserved and gifted to the town by the end of the month, according to members of the Conservation Commission.

The Mason Quarry has been a part of the fabric of the town since it first operated in the 1850s. It’s been more than 100 years since the quarry has been in operation, but that hasn’t stopped residents from making use of the property, using its trails for hiking and snowmobiling, and taking a dip in the quarry’s swimming hole. Though the land is in current use, it’s always been privately owned. Now, the land is set to change hands, as Mason Quarry LLC, owned by George Schwenk of Mason, will be gifting the land to the town, complete with a conservation easement.

Liz Fletcher, a member of the Mason Conservation Commission, said in a phone interview Monday that the conservation easement has been drafted and approved by both town counsel and the Select Board. Now, all that remains is the signing of the agreement with Mason Quarry LLC, which is expected to take place before the end of next week, she said.

“[The Select Board] has no objections to the provisions of the easement, so it can all go forward. It’s very imminent. We are so happy,” Fletcher said of being in the final stages of finalizing the agreement. “It’s been a long haul.”

The quarry, just over 100 acres of land, is a well-used scenic spot in town, said Fletcher, as well as deep-rooted in the history of the town. In its heyday, the quarry employed 200 people, many of whom lived in the area immediately around the quarry, boosting the town’s population and commerce.

“There’s a lot of history there,” Fletcher said.

The Conservation Commission recently finished drafting a policy for the use of the conserved land at the quarry, said Fletcher, which will allow it to still be used by residents, while still protecting the land. The Commission will present the policy to the Select Board at an upcoming meeting for approval, said Fletcher.

The policy would allow the same uses the quarry is put to now, such as access to the swimming hole, snowmobiling and hiking, as well as picnicking, but it would be limited to Mason residents and accompanying guests to prevent over-use, she said. Use will be limited from dawn to dusk. ATVs will not be allowed, and neither will alcohol, and all trash will have to be removed by the visitor, she said.

The Mason Quarry is a particularly important piece of land to conserve, said Fletcher, because it abuts four other pieces of land the town already owns. With the conservation of the Mason Quarry, the town will also be moving forward with conservation easements on those other pieces, she said, which will result in more than 200 acres of contiguous conservation land. Currently, the town-owned lands are undergoing a botany study to identify any flora or fauna that may need protection. Already, a swamp of black gum trees, which are rare in New Hampshire, has been found, said Fletcher.

Next month, those who aren’t familiar with the quarry will get the chance to explore it during Mason’s Old Home Day on Sept. 22, when the Conservation Commission is planning to lead a hike through the property , said Fletcher.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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