By Thor Jourgensen / The Daily Item | Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:00 am
Conservation restriction for Lynn Woods
Lynn Woods Ranger Dan Small talks about existing protections and why they are inadequate.
LYNN —Slapping a conservation restriction on Lynn Woods could permanently protect its 2,200 acres as a nature preserve and passive recreation area, a conservationist told 90 people gathered in City Hall Tuesday night.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy supports drawing up a legal document defining the restriction, said mayoral aide Mary Fountain. However, the restriction would also require City Council and state approval as well as signoffs from Saugus and Lynnfield officials and, possibly, the state Legislature's approval.
“Something like this can take a year,” said Essex County Greenbelt Association Assistant Director Vanessa Johnson-Hall.
Providing overarching legal protection for the woods is an idea that has surfaced periodically over the years to protect the forest area dominating the northwest one-fifth of Lynn from development or highway encroachment.
Woods Ranger Dan Small said he and Friends of Lynn Woods founder Steven Babbitt discussed the need for a woods conservation restriction beginning a year ago against the backdrop of the woods' growing popularity as a running and walking attraction.
“Its popularity is at a high-water mark, so we said, ‘Why not now?'” Small said.
Babbitt, who is also chairman of the city Board of Park Commissioners, said the woods has a century-and-a-half history of being protected as an open space area. It is owned by the city and the Water and Sewer Commission, which oversees drinking water reservoirs located in the woods.
Small said 992 acres in the woods are protected for open space use under a state-approved “Park Act” dating back to 1882. Preservation of the remaining woods acreage is less defined, Small said, especially when it comes to defining Lynn Woods as a park.
“You could bring in trucks full of sand and create a dune buggy track and call it a park,” he said.
Based in Essex, the Greenbelt Association since 1961 has purchased or helped place under conservation restriction 16,000 acres across the North Shore, including land in Newbury and Beverly.
If the council and mayor approve restriction language, the Greenbelt Association would file it with the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds.
“It's a permanent deed restriction. Greenbelt can help Lynn permanently protect Lynn Woods,” Johnson-Hall said.
Although the towns of Lynnfield and Saugus would be signatories to a woods conservation restriction, they could not necessarily block its creation, Johnson-Hall said. Provisions exist for the state to take the necessary steps to approve the restriction without town signoffs.
With part of Lynn Woods located in Lynnfield bordering commercially developed Route 1, Small called the town's approval of a restriction “more of a challenge.”
Johnson-Hall and city attorney James Lamanna said title and boundary questions associated with the woods need to be researched and answered to formulate a restriction. Lamanna said that research will center on the question, “What is Lynn Woods and what isn't.”
Colonial Avenue resident and long distance runner Michael Doyle said the woods needs to be protected from future efforts to secure additional land to ease the city's space crunch.
“This is our jewel,” he said. “Very few cities have something like it.”