The Nantucket Conservation Foundation unexpectedly but very fortuitously marked the beginning of its 50th anniversary year by completing a complex and lengthy negotiation to purchase the 207 acres Norwood Farm property for $19 million from the Jensen Family’s Norwood Farm Trust. The Nantucket Islands Land Bank Commission is partnering the Foundation on this important transaction.
This sprawling and iconic property, bordered to the west, south, and east by extensive conservation lands, represented the largest, unprotected, privately owned parcel on Nantucket. It was acknowledged many years ago as a top-priority conservation objective.
Fortunately, the land has been kept in an undeveloped condition since 1964 under the Jensen family’s stewardship.
The new conservation area lies at the doorstep of of Altar Rock, with road frontage on the Polpis Road and Almanac Pond Road. Norwood Farm contains examples of many of the unique habitats found on Nantucket: forested uplands, shrublands, grasslands and numerous wetlands. The adunbant freshwater wetlands and prime agricultural soils of this area played an important role in the lives of the Wampanoags and later English
settlement and the advancement of island farming, including some of the island’s earliest cranberry bogs.
The Foundation engaged the Nantucket Islands Land Bank Commission and worked with it to shape a mutually beneficial conservation solution. As a result, the Foundation has a separate agreement to sell 76 acres of the land being purchased to the Commission “at cost” for $7 million.
That transaction will occur as soon as the Foundation obtains the required Planning Board and Massachusetts Land Court approvals. The parcel being acquired by the Land Bank borders its existing 47-acre Almanac Pond Road property.
Beyond the extraordinary scientific and educational benefits offered by this acquisition, for many people the most important achievement may be the most basic: the preservation for all time of the legendary vistas in every direction from Altar Rock. For generations of islanders and visitors, the dramatic views from Altar Rock of thousands of undeveloped acres owned by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation epitomize the Nantucket experience.
Because of their biological importance and sensitivity, the 131 acres that will be held by the Foundation will be thoroughly inventoried and result in an agency-approved land management plan in cooperation with the Land Bank. The property’s proximity to the Nantucket Field Station makes it an excellent site on which to expand Foundation or University of Massachusetts scientists’ inquires into sustainable management of rare natural resources. This could provide an excellent opportunity for a variety of collaborations among on and off island organizations.