Downtown: Website to streamline Concord conservation planning

  • A map shows conserved space in Concord. Courtesy of the city of Concord

Monitor staff
Sunday, February 18, 2018

After months of work, Concord’s Planning Department is ready to show you a new side of the Capital City.

Starting this week, you’ll be able to see Concord the way the Conservation Commission does – as a series of blocks and grids, vistas of fluorescent greens and pinks. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then maybe the picture we’re painting isn’t clear enough.

But it will be soon.

The city has recently completed its Conservation and Open Space Update, a sprawling report that has compiled nearly every bit of data the Conservation Commission considers when it’s looking to acquire land for conservation. Interested residents can check it out on an interactive website scheduled to go live sometime this week, according to Assistant City Planner Beth Fenstermacher.

“What came to light is that the previous plan was a broad overview of the commission’s open space goals, and it pinpointed certain properties the commission might target, but then we would also get tons of calls from people who wanted to donate or sell their land to the city,” Fenstermacher said. “We wanted to establish new criteria and a working document we could reference when deciding to conserve properties that weren’t pinpointed.”

There’s a 100-page report on the update, but it’s the maps that really steal the show. Some, like a detailed layout of the city’s wildlife habitats (Did you know that 53 percent of Concord is classified as hemlock-hardwood-pine forest?), evoke a typical, computer-generated block art style.

Others, like the conservation land and recreation map, have a funky, almost graphic-novel feel to them. A map showing the city’s agricultural land gives you a warm, earthy watercolor vibe.

And if you wanted to compare two data sets at the same time, the website will let you do just that – it uses GIS technology to create layers a person using the website can click through. Some of the information in the report has been accessible to the city or the state for some time, Fenstermacher said, but it’s never been in one place.

With all the information at its fingertips, the Conservation Commission may be able to speed up the process of deciding which land is worth conserving, Fenstermacher said.

“We’ll be able to look at a property right away and say, ‘This meets this goal and this goal,’ ” she said. “Instead of hemming and hawing over it for seven meetings, the information will be right there.”

If seven meetings, with one meeting a month, sounds like a long time to make a decision, consider this: Conservation Commission Chairwoman Kristine Tardiff told the city council last Monday that acquiring the Haller property, a 116-acre parcel within the Penacook Lake watershed that the city bought last year, took 10 years from the city’s first point of contact with the family to the finalized sale to complete.

Fenstermacher said the link to the website will appear on the front page of the city’s website sometime by midweek.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)