MMRG is under contract to purchase a 17-acre property that includes 5,000 feet of frontage along the Branch River between Routes 16 and 153 in the Town of Wakefield.  Acquiring this parcel for conservation purposes is a big step for MMRG, as it is our first outright purchase of preserved land. We are now raising funds to finalize the acquisition of this special property, which we have named the Branch River Conservation Area (BRCA).

Within the BRCA, the pristine waters of the Branch River flow along the banks of wooded uplands and high value wetlands that serve important water filtering and flood control functions. Undeveloped lands like these help control flooding because they don’t contribute to runoff typically generated by impervious surfaces, such as roofs and paved areas, and they can absorb or accommodate excess water from melting snow and rain, easing flood impacts.

The BRCA also overlies a high yield stratified drift aquifer, so conservation of the BRCA will enhance protection of the underlying aquifer and its existing and potential drinking water resources. As a tributary to the Salmon Falls River that ultimately feeds Great Bay, the Branch River is part of the Piscataqua/Salmon Falls Watershed, designated by the U.S. Forest Service as one of the nation’s most threatened watersheds due to development pressure, making it all the more urgent that we conserve the riverbank lands.

The parcel boasts notable biodiversity, providing a variety of wildlife habitats with its meandering river, emergent and shrub wetlands, and an uplands pine-oak forest. MMRG staff and volunteers have seen signs of deer, beaver, chipmunk, turtle, pileated woodpecker, as well as redwing blackbird habitat.  Given the pristine water habitats, it’s likely that visitors will identify even more wildlife species.  The parcel also provides important wildlife habitat connectivity between the downstream Union Meadows Wildlife Management Area, owned by NH Fish & Game, and private conserved lands, Wakefield Town lands, and upstream habitats along the Branch River and its tributaries.

The best public recreational opportunities of this property make use of the river for fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. Anglers have frequented this spot on the river and will continue to have access to toss in their lines.  Public access for canoes and kayaks is available from a pull-off along Route 153.  Canoers and kayakers who venture upstream will find an ideal picnic and exploring destination within the uplands forested knoll.

Map of BRCA by Strafford Cty Cons District labelled resized

Conserving the BRCA will preserve scenic vistas of its wetlands from White Mountain Highway (Route 16) and Wakefield Road (Route 153).  The eastern property boundary partially fronts on Route 153 and the remainder fronts on private or town-owned properties along that route.  The western boundary falls along the NHN railroad line.  An historic gravesite tended by a local resident lies near the southern property boundary and provides historic and cultural interest.

When the BRCA parcel came on the market showing a buildable lot, MMRG quickly acted to protect it from development. We negotiated a purchase price of $20,000, which is half of the asking price and tax-assessed value.  Now we are appealing to MMRG members, Wakefield residents, and others who are motivated to protect the Salmon Falls Watershed to help us to raise funds in order to conserve this land in perpetuity.  With an estimated overall project budget of $45,000, we are seeking grant funding for transaction costs (including survey, legal, title and closing costs) and anticipate using some of our restricted funds for the long-term stewardship of this land.

Please send your donation to MMRG, PO Box 191, Union, NH 03887, with a designation for the BRCA.  Or click here to donate now and select the BRCA fund under ‘Program’. Thank you for your help in accomplishing our first conservation land purchase to preserve this special property!