Thank you for helping to conserve this 116-acre link in a chain of important conservation lands! Our campaign to support the costs and endowment for this effort is complete and the land is protected. Thank you to the friends and donors who helped make this possible!
The Merrimack River Watershed extends from the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers and encompasses over 5,000 square miles in 200 communities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Water drains through southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts where the river meets the sea in Newburyport, MA. More than 700,000 people in both states rely on the Merrimack as the source of their drinking water and its groundwater feeds private wells throughout — so the health of the watershed has a direct impact on the quality of the water we drink. It is an enormous land area — the fourth largest watershed in New England, and it is diverse, including remote wild lands on the one hand and historic manufacturing centers on the other.
Over the past decade, conservation, advocacy and educational groups have joined together to protect the Merrimack River watershed. (For more information on the Merrimack River Partnership, visit merrimackconservationpartnership.org.) As a result, a chain of conservation land is linking together — and the 116-acre Derevya Farms property is one of those important links.
Laura Bonk and Phil Trowbridge bought 116 acres in Allenstown in 1997. At the time, they were starting out as young scientists and outdoor enthusiasts and they knew that this undeveloped land on the northern boundary of Bear Brook State Park was a special spot.
“We bought the land, which we call Derevya Farms, before we had a home or jobs in New Hampshire,” recalls Phil. “It was a complete leap of faith.”
They realized that the land was an important linkage between the nearly 10,000-acre Bear Brook State Park and Fort Mountain, the Epsom Mountains, and other conserved lands to the north. And, they knew that it was only a matter of time before others discovered that this rural, peaceful spot adjacent to the park was only minutes to Concord, Manchester, and the Seacoast. It was a prime target for fragmentation into smaller lots and likely development.
As time went by, there was indeed more development surrounding Derevya Farms — but there was also a surge of conservation to the south. The property is at the northern edge of a matrix of conservation land that winds through Bear Brook State Park and the towns of Allenstown, Hooksett, Candia, Auburn, and Manchester, eventually connecting with conserved lands around Manchester Water Works and Massabesic Lake.
The Derevya Farms land includes frontage along Little Bear Brook, which drains into Bear Brook and the Suncook River—all tributaries in the Merrimack River Watershed. As a result, it ranks as a high priority for conservation in the Merrimack River Watershed Conservation Plan, which targets the protection of high-quality forested watershed lands to protect water quality throughout the region.
Over the years, Phil and Laura have enjoyed seeing moose, deer, and bobcat on the land—and they have also welcomed recreation.
“We always knew that Derevya Farms would be a travel corridor for wildlife in Bear Brook State Park. It has also become a travel corridor for people. We maintain trails and a Class VI road through the property, and use of these trails has been increasing. My neighbors know the woods and trails as well as I do. It’s gratifying to see that others care about and care for the land. I am proud to be conserving this open space for everyone to enjoy,” explains Phil.
Now, the Forest Society has worked with Laura and Phil to place a conservation easement on their 116 acres. They will maintain their ownership and will continue paying taxes, but the land will never be fragmented, and the easement will assure that public access continues.
Since the Bonk-Trowbridge family generously offered to donate the easement, the Forest Society raised funds for the stewardship and project costs. In recognition of its watershed significance, the project was awarded a grant of $8,000 by the Merrimack Conservation Partnership, and the balance of funding was provided through generous donations from individuals from across the state.
Reflecting on this special place, Phil relates, “For me, the defining species is the Whippoorwill. I have never seen this small, nondescript bird but I have heard its haunting call on summer nights for the past 25 years. Every time I hear it, I feel great because I know the habitat for this bird is still intact.” “For me,” Laura adds, “my favorite thing about the land are the trilliums. I love seeing the wildflowers.”
“Ever since we bought the land, we have been planning to conserve it. We have reached a stage in life where you need to focus on doing important things. This donation is one of those things.”
Thank you to those who joined Phil and Laura by making donations that helped to protect this key link in a chain of conserved lands! We are thrilled that Derevya Farms will remain a haven for wildlife and hikers into the future. Thank you!