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Local group working to conserve Cunningham Pond land

  • The Monadnock Conservancy and a citizens committee are working to raise $1.5 million to purchase a 104 acres of land on the south side of Cunningham Pond. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The Monadnock Conservancy and a citizens committee are working to raise $1.5 million to purchase a 104 acres of land on the south side of Cunningham Pond. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The Monadnock Conservancy and a citizens committee are working to raise $1.5 million to purchase a 104 acres of land on the south side of Cunningham Pond. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The Monadnock Conservancy and a citizens committee are working to raise $1.5 million to purchase a 104 acres of land on the south side of Cunningham Pond. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • A map of Cunningham Pond and its surrounding land. Photo credit: Monadnock Conservancy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, September 05, 2018 10:46AM

A citizens group has partnered with the Monadnock Conservancy in an effort to protect and conserve over 100 acres of land surrounding Cunningham Pond. 

In order to purchase the land – a 104-acre parcel that abuts the southern shoreline of the lake and extends east – a total of $1.5 million must be raised by the year’s end.

“This is a chance to really look forward in the future and have a chance to have everyone enjoy this area forever,” Cunningham Pond Road resident Jim Callihan said. 

It was two Decembers ago that Callihan and other residents around the lake noticed some surveying work being done around the lake.

Callihan and his cohorts would later form a campaign committee after learning the Peterson family had subdivided three parcels of land to the east of the town beach on the pond, which sold in 2017. 

“We were a bit startled,” Callihan said. “… the original group of citizens were concerned because it was right in their backyards, in their neighborhood. This pond has been fortunate enough to have the shoreline that wasn’t broken up by lots of small summer camps and houses, and even larger houses that might impact the quality of the water and the recreational experience.”

As it turns out, neither the pond nor the shoreline of Cunningham Pond is protected from development – outside of the town beach, which was donated by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas in 1996. 

“That subdivision really got people’s attention, that things are moving – it’s kind of now or never,” Monadnock Conservancy Executive Director Ryan Owens said.

The Monadnock Conservancy, a local land trust that stewards around 20,000 acres of land across the broader Monadnock Region, was brought in as a fiscal agent for the citizens group, offering the ability to collect tax-deductible donations and to help manage the property. The Monadnock Conservancy will own the property, should the funds be raised. 

“The opportunity for the Monadnock Conservancy was really a perfect one,” Owens said. “This is just the kind of property we would love to own and manage for the public good and public access.”

This is the largest campaign the Monadnock Conservancy has done for a single piece of land. 

“This is valuable land in its location, in its desirability, and in its developability,” Owens said. 

Owens said the land offers a number of amenities, including an unbroken shoreline from the view of the town beach, a large agricultural field, a number of walking trails, a long, undeveloped frontage on Route 101, and a number of existing wildlife habitats. 

“There’s really a little bit of everything,” Owens said. 

The goal for the Monadnock Conservancy is to keep the land largely as is, while opening up some of the trail network to the public for low impact pedestrian uses, in an effort to create a space where people could explore, hike, and picnic. 

Callihan said the Peterson family has been supportive of the effort to conserve the land, and have helped to make the fundraising campaign possible by lowering their asking price and giving them a chance to raise the funds. 

Funding the land purchase is currently underway, with the group closing in on about $200,000 since they began reaching out privately to donors since March. The project needs $1.325 million to purchase the land, while $75,000 is needed for campaign expenses and $100,000 is needed for initial improvements and a maintenance endowment.

“This project will be successful by people becoming passionate about the project and then sharing their passion with other people,” Owens said. 

The Monadnock Conservancy and the Cunningham Pond Preservation Alliance is inviting the public to a beach party on Sunday, Sept. 9,from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cunningham Pond town beach.

The event will offer tours of the property, information tables, activities for kids, and refreshments. 

“It’s really to get the word out and to get people excited,” Owens said. 

In addition to fundraising, Monadnock Conservancy is also attempting to secure grants. The largest grant, a New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) grant, would secure up to $250,000 of the total project cost. 

“This is so important – to let people know that the project exists and what the qualities are that make it special,” Callihan said. 

For instructions on how to donate visit savecunninghampond.org or call Owens at 603-357-0600, ext. 103.

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