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May 20. 2014 8:26PM

Former Francestown couple donates 149 acres for conservation


Piscataquog Land Conservancy vice President Paul Doscher, PLC Executive Director Paula Bellemore, landowners Diane and John Schott, Francestown Land Trust board President Chris Rogers and FLT board members Ben Haubrich and Paula Hunter celebrate the completion of the Brennan Falls Reserve easement. (Abigail Arnold/Courtesy)


A Francestown hiking area is being protected with a 149-acre conservation easement. The Diane and John R. Schott Brennan Falls Reserve will be named after former residents who donated the land. (Pat Nelson/Courtesy)

FRANCESTOWN — A popular Francestown hiking area is receiving new protection thanks to a 149-acre conservation easement.

“It’s actually a large tract of land close to Brennan Brook,” said Paula Hunter, a member of the board of directors of the Francestown Land Trust. “It’s very pristine, undeveloped land.”

Francestown Land Trust holds over 2,000 acres of conservation lands, but this property is special because of the water shed located there, its diverse wildlife, and the land’s proximity to the center of town, Hunter said.

Folks from the region have been hiking on the property for years, Hunter said, but no formal trail maintenance was in place. The trust plans some parking area and trail improvements, including better trail markings and some small footbridges.

“It’s really important for us as we do preserve the properties to find ways for the public to access them,” Hunter said.

Former residents John and Diane Schott donated the land, which will be named the Diane and John R. Schott Brennan Falls Reserve, after the cascades there. John Schott wrote the history of Francestown and the couple remains devoted to the town.

“They’ve been very generous participants in Francestown even after they left the area,” Hunter said.

The easement was obtained in partnership with the Piscataquog Land Conservancy. It became possible through a $120,000 grant awarded to the Piscataquog Land Conservancy by the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) and about $225,000 raised through other grants, private donations, and money received through the Davis Conservation Fund, Fields Ponds Foundation and the McIninch Foundation.

“The Brennan Falls Reserve project represents the best of conservation in New Hampshire,” said Paula Bellemore, executive director of the Piscataquog Land Conservancy. “Our long-standing partnership with the Francestown Land Trust, which has contributed to the preservation of critical water resources, wildlife habitat and recreational access on thousands of acres across our region, has again allowed us to preserve one of the most significant natural resource areas in our region.”

Many wildlife species live on the land, Bellemore said, including certain birds species that will only make their home in large, unfragmented lots.

More importantly, it contains one of three headwater streams that feed into the Piscataquog River and eventually into the Merrimack River.

The U.S. Forestry Service named the Merrimack Watershed as the most threatened in the U.S., Bellemore said.

Much of the PLC’s work is about protecting forest, water and wildlife, Bellemore said. In this case a large piece of Francestown history will also be preserved.

The land was originally settled in the 1700’s and later abandoned after unsuccessful attempts at farming and homesteading.

Hikers may still come across walls, cellar holes and other remnants in the area known locally as the “lost village.”

“There’s a lot of Francestown history caught up in the hill,” Bellemore said.

Now in the control of the land trusts, the property can’t be developed and restrictions have been placed on its use.

jhanson@newstote.com


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