Open Space Priorities Plan Summary
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In its history, opportunities, and quality of life, Hanover, New Hampshire is a very special place. It has been shaped in the historical New England development pattern of small towns surrounded by farms and great expanses of forest. Its landscape is varied and beautiful, and its natural resource base is plentiful. Hanover's traditional land uses are undergoing fundamental and permanent change. Most of the cleared farmland is now abandoned and overgrown. Single and multi-house developments are springing up throughout the rural fields and woods. For most people, income is derived from their land only when it changes hands in the real estate market. The accelerating onrush of land use conversion indicates that there will never again be as many planning options as there are today.
Hanover's Planning Board is addressing evolving land use needs through revision of the town's Master Plan, of which open space is a part. Since 1974, a series of public surveys have shown increasing amounts of citizen support for greater municipal open space protection. In 1994, 90% identified "scenery" as a quality they most valued about Hanover, and 84% identified "access to outdoor recreation" and "uncrowded living spaces". In 1999, in a survey of rural residents, 90% agreed or strongly agreed that maintaining open space is important, and 81% felt that Hanover should do more to protect it. (See Appendix V.) In commenting on an early draft of this report, officials of Dartmouth College (the town's largest employer and landowner) affirmed their longstanding commitment to preserving Hanover as a community, and to the value of open space in the community.
While many public entities and private landowners have established varying degrees of open space protection on individual pieces of land in Hanover, there has never been an integrated, town-wide open space plan for the future. In 1999, residents at Town Meeting voted to consolidate several municipal funds into a single Conservation Fund for the purpose of open space protection. A condition of municipal acquisition of lands or easements with Conservation Fund moneys is that it be done within the parameters of an open space plan. Another benefit of the plan may be the encouragement of donations or placement of conservation easements on additional private property as landowners see their action as contributing to a comprehensive multi-purpose municipal system rather than solely as isolated, albeit heartfelt efforts.
A committee appointed by and working under the auspices of the Conservation Commission began deliberations in November 1999. It identified goals for the open space plan, criteria by which to evaluate important areas, actions by which to achieve the goals of the plan, and techniques by which those actions might be accomplished. Specific areas were designated for open space protection. It is the intention of the Conservation Commission that acquisition or protection of land for the purposes of implementing this plan be accomplished only in cooperation with willing landowners. The plan is ambitious in its multiple goals and impact on the landscape. Its implementation will require many years. It encourages use of all available techniques for land protection, including but by no means limited to expenditure of public funds. Establishment of conservation easements by individual landowners, and several other methods are available to accomplish the end result - a system of lands that permanently protects the natural resources, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, traditional landscapes and scenic treasures of Hanover.