Editorial: Council should protect Broken Ground
Bounded roughly by Interstate 393, Curtisville, Oak Hill and Josiah Bartlett roads, the Broken Ground, at some 1,400 acres, is the largest undeveloped parcel in Concord. The city council should take a big step toward keeping it undeveloped by approving the conservation commission’s vote to pay $975,000 for 270 acres slated for development.
The land off Curtisville Road, which dead ends, offers the best point of access to the rest of the huge area in the southeast corner of the city. Protecting it makes it far more likely that the rest of the parcel will remain undeveloped.
Broken Ground is called that for a reason. It is a vast area of rocky ledges, bony ground, swamp and forest. It is home to a wealth of wildlife, including otters, deer, bobcat and bear. It is unsuited for development but ideal for outdoor recreation. Many trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing weave through the forest and, should the council approve, many more will be created, marked and opened for use.
The commission was wise to recommend paying for the entire purchase by issuing bonds rather than tapping a conservation fund that contains roughly $500,000. Interest rates are at historically low levels, making borrowing cheap. With little money flowing into the fund from the penalty owners pay when land is taken out of current use, it makes sense to keep the fund intact and available in case the city has to act quickly to protect a particularly valuable piece of open space.
The property was for sale for $2.4 million, so at $975,000 the purchase is a great deal for taxpayers, who will probably save money in the long run by protecting it from residential development, which rarely pays its way when the cost of city services and educating children is considered. In 2006, the city zoning board approved a plan to build 87 homes on the plot which will now, to the delight of neighbors, remain wild.
Broken Ground is unusual: Never in Concord’s long history has it been developed or used for agriculture. We urge the council to keep it that way.