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Landowner donates 12 acres for conservation

A Webster resident is
setting aside 12 acres for conservation, adding to preserved land in the nearby Mock Forest.

Geraldine Phelps’s land sits between Route 127 and Pearson Hill Road and abuts already conserved town and private land. Phelps will still own the 12 acres, but by donating a conservation easement to the Five Rivers Conservation Trust, she is ensuring the land will be preserved in its current state. Webster’s conservation commission donated $10,000 to help cover processing costs.

For a relatively small parcel, Phelps’s land contains many unusual natural features that helped it meet the criteria for conservation, said Jay Haines, executive director of Five Rivers. An ornithologist recently said the land acts as a “rest stop” for migrating swallows and offers other important resources for birds, he said. The land also has a productive forest, several large oak trees, a small pond and grasslands used by birds.

Phelps was not available for comment, but Haines said her family has a history of owning the land in and around the Mock Forest.

“This will be adjacent to the Mock Forest, which goes back in Ms. Phelps’s family heritage almost 200 years,” he said. “That’s why this piece of property, from a family history standpoint, is also important for her to see conserved.”

Five Rivers focused on the property because it abuts two other conserved properties, the Mock Forest and a small, privately owned parcel that runs between the forest’s edge and Phelps’s property. The property also sits along the Currier & Ives Scenic
Byway, which provides beautiful scenery as people drive into town.

“What’s being conserved is a scenic entrance into the village,” said Ken Sterns, a Five Rivers board member.

Phelps’s generosity may also help other landowners see the value of donating conservation easements, Haines said.

“What we find is once someone has done this, it encourages other people that now understand what putting a conservation easement on a piece of property will do in keeping the natural state of the property,” he said.

Sue Roman, the conservation commission member who led the project, said the town already owns several parcels of conserved land and the commission hopes to continue conserving more properties.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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