Grazing a no-go

  • Stan Fry's request to use town land to graze his cattle has been denied. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Stan Fry's request to use town land to graze his cattle has been denied. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Stan Fry's request to use town land to graze his cattle has been denied. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, June 29, 2018 12:1PM

The Peterborough Conservation Commission has unanimously denied a local businessman’s request to use a town-owned field to graze his cattle.

On May 1, Stan Fry of Peterborough requested the town’s permission to use about 20 acres of town-owned land near Cheney Avenue and Old Street Road for the grazing of at least five and as many as 20 cattle.

The topic has been controversial throughout town, especially with abutting land-owners. Many voiced their concerns about a potential change of use for the land and lack of public access of the land if cows were to begin grazing there.

The land has been managed by the conservation commission since the easement was put into place, giving the commission authority to make the final decision on the proposal.

“The process was thoughtful and thorough,” said conservation commission co-chair Francie Von Mertens, in an interview Wednesday morning. “...The town is very pro agriculture. It was a question of impact.”

Draft minutes for the June 21 conservation commission meeting – when the decision was made – indicate that commission members were in support of agriculture on public land and thought Fry’s proposal was “noble,” but they didn’t think cattle grazing was the right use for the property.

It is also believed by commission members – based on a May 31 letter submitted to the commission by Richard and Judith Fernald – that those who originally donated the land to the town back in 1987 intended the property to remain unchanged so it could be used for recreational purposes for the town. Despite the fact that the conservation easement says the conserved land can be used for agricultural uses as well.

Abutters bought the field for $60,000 in 1986 to be conserved by the town in order to save it from possible development. The conservation easement that resulted names the town conservation commission as the managers of the field and includes agriculture, including animal husbandry, as allowable uses of the field.

Fry, in an email Wednesday afternoon, said he was “very surprised” that the conservation commission rejected his proposal, as he was working to provide the commission with a report from two soil and grazing experts that he had hired to evaluate the field.

“I wasn’t expecting any contention because I was operating under the impression that all the abutters would be pleased to see the quality improvement in the fields, and felt that the town could use it as a model for other land that they manage,” wrote Fry, who said he was not in the country during the commission’s meeting last Thursday.

Fry said he has enough grazing land for his herd at this time, adding that his proposal was about making the “land function better and to show how cattle grazing can improve our towns natural resources.”

Fry has not had an opportunity to consider the next steps for his proposal, if any, but said he is “concerned about how divisive this has been.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.