By James Niedzinski
---- — Land protection and conservation are often hot-button issues in the towns of both Manchester and Essex.
But the shared conservation trust that serves both communities turns 50 this year, celebrating its history of protecting and preserving property.
Manchester Essex Conservation Trust board member Mike McDonagh of Manchester said he has only been with the group for about a year, but he has loved every moment. While McDonagh is a member of the Trustees of Reservations, a state-wide land conservation group, he said being apart of the local group is equally important.
“We want to leave a legacy that is visible,” he said. “We are kind of hidden away in the woods.”
The MECT owns about 3,500 acres of protected land, most notably the Manchester Essex Woods.
Trust president Charlie Kellogg said the group has not only been deeded several parcels of land as gifts throughout the years, but it also makes property purchases.
Kellogg said about 150 acres were purchased roughly five years ago, spread out throughout 17 different parcels of land, one of the more bigger, recent acquisitions for the trust.
He said the trust has changed throughout the years, While its first incarnations were only geared toward preserving land for development, the trust has grown to recognize the fledgling wildlife in conservation lands and has made efforts to preserve the flora and fauna as well.
From snowshoeing and cross country skiing to a simple hike, the MECT has also made efforts to celebrate passive activities on conservation land.
McDonagh added much of the land is a natural watershed, feeding into nearby lakes and wells.
He added that trust members in the 1960s and 1970s successfully blocked power lines from coming onto conserved land.
As apart of the 50 year anniversary, residents from both towns gathered Saturday to walk from one town to the next through the Manchester Essex, meeting in the middle for some music by “Captain” Stan Collinson and Daisy Nell.
McDonagh said the close-the-home aspect of the organization drives home its importance.
“It’s close,” he said. “It’s local and local matters.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org