Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thetford Celebrates Protection of Zebedee Headwaters

On Wednesday, January 20, the Upper Valley Land Trust purchased the 27.3 acre property known as Zebedee Headwaters, on Houghton Hill Road, Thetford Hill. Under the ownership of UVLT, the parcel will be protected from future development. UVLT will continue to manage the land as it has been, for wildlife habitat, as well as for educational and recreational purposes. This purchase was made possible through the support of the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund and the Children’s Fund, both of which are administered through the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation – Upper Valley Region. Additional funds came from the Thetford Conservation Commission and through an outpouring of community support.

Some successful fundraising efforts were led by Thetford Elementary School students, including a Christmas Eve bake sale and outreach through the social networking website, Facebook. Connie Snyder of the Thetford Conservation Commission said of the bake sale, "It was beautiful to see the kids jumping up and down hailing down cars and to see the generosity of people who brought goods and bought goods - many did both."

Zebedee Headwaters is an ecological asset to the community and is enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. The Thetford Conservation Commission created a list of a variety of wildlife species that benefit from the property, including two birds listed as species of special concern in Vermont. While the parcel is renowned by bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts, the large wetland on this property also serves as a living outdoor classroom for local schoolchildren. Its proximity to both Thetford Elementary School and Thetford Academy makes it a critical resource for natural science educators. In recent years, the second grade curriculum at the elementary school has included wetland and forest studies conducted on the property. In addition, a Valley Quest adventure has also been written and published for the property. Though, the quest was “closed,” while the property was marketed for sale.

Prior to UVLT’s purchase of the property, the previous owners had received development permits and placed the parcel on the market for residential development. As approved, the proposed driveway, accessing the only buildable area in the back corner of the property, would have skirted the wetland edge and required two crossings. Such development would have fragmented important wildlife habitat and degraded the connectivity of the uplands to the wetland. It would also have diminished the recreational and educational values of the property.

Nearly half of the property consists of Class II state-significant wetland communities. The wetland filters the headwaters of Zebedee Brook, and is one of only two state-significant wetlands located along this direct tributary to the Connecticut River. Development of the parcel would have increased detrimental runoff and potentially diminished the wetlands’ ability to adequately provide water filtration services. This would have been especially problematic, as this property is located between two groundwater protection areas—one serves the Thetford Hill Village Water District and the other serves the two nearby schools.

This property is adjacent to State forest lands, near other UVLT-conserved land, and its conservation increases the contiguous protected acreage of these parcels to about 150 acres. UVLT’s recently acquired 97 acre Pegjack Forest, also on Houghton Hill Road, lies about 1 mile north of this conserved block.

UVLT will host a community celebration at the Thetford Hill Congregational Church on Saturday, January 30, from 1 - 4PM. Refreshments will be served. Attendees should bring outdoor clothing for a walk to the newly conserved property (weather permitting). This event is free and open to the public.