Press Release: 2021-07-21
DCR Announces $1 Million Acquisition to Conserve Key Forestland in West Springfield and Holyoke
DCR Announces $1 Million Acquisition to Conserve Key Forestland in West Springfield and Holyoke:
DCR Partners with Mass Audubon to Permanently Protect 1,400-acres at Bear Hole Reservoir
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 7/20/2021
BOSTON — Building on efforts to conserve critical land across the Commonwealth, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) today announced the acquisition, totaling $1.05 million, for a Conservation Restriction on vital undeveloped forestland in West Springfield and Holyoke in partnership with Mass Audubon. To celebrate the conservation of this important land, DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery joined West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, representatives from Mass Audubon, and members of the local community at the Bear Hole Reservoir on Saturday, July 17, 2021.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts has seen a significant increase in residents visiting our state parks to seek fresh air, exercise, and respite in the wonderful natural resources we have here in the Commonwealth,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “By protecting this beautiful open space with our partners, the Baker-Polito Administration is conserving important forestland, expanding outdoor recreational opportunities for children and families, and protecting this critical habitat in perpetuity.”
“Conserving development-vulnerable land is an important part of our efforts to protect vital green spaces while expanding access to outdoor recreation opportunities,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “Bear Hole Reservoir is a special place for the people of West Springfield, and we look forward to future land protection projects with our conservation partners.”
After many years of coordinating with the Town and dedicated stakeholders on the project, DCR and Mass Audubon successfully acquired the land to protect approximately 1,400-acres of intact forestland in West Springfield and Holyoke through a Conservation Restriction (CR). The land, a former reservoir area, is home to a popular network of hiking trails, including the New England Trail, and natural resources including vernal pools, beaver ponds, and a heron rookery. DCR invested $700,000 and Mass Audubon invested $350,000 in the CR acquisition, which will permanently conserve this remarkable property and continue the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change, while allowing the Town of West Springfield to continue management of the area.
“Bear Hole has been a staple within our community for many years,” said Mayor William Reichelt (I-West Springfield). “Our goal has always been to protect and preserve this area for people to explore and enjoy. With this conservation restriction, this will ensure that the land, the wildlife, and the gem that is Bear Hole is protected in perpetuity. This is a huge asset for the residents of West Springfield along with the many users that spend time enjoying Bear Hole. I am proud of all the hard work that came with protecting Bear Hole and for finally achieving our goal. I cannot thank the Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation enough for all of their continued support through this entire process.”
Bear Hole Reservoir, previously used as a public water supply, went offline in 2011 when the Town chose to utilize a well system for public drinking water, making the environmentally rich landscape vulnerable to development, and potentially eliminating important and beloved outdoor recreation opportunity in the area. Located in an urban and suburban setting, the permanent protection of Bear Hole offers locals and visitors a forested oasis to enjoy and plays an important role in climate resiliency in the Commonwealth.
“I couldn’t be more excited that the Bear Hole landscape, 1,400 acres full of beautiful forest and diverse habitats in West Springfield, will remain intact due to the June 29th Conservation Restriction,” said Senator Adam Gomez (D- Springfield). “As not only the Senator for the Hampden District, but also a father of 3, it is important to me that my children and the other young people in the Hampden District have access to nature. Thank you to Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation for your efforts on this achievement.”
In June 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration re-filed its plan to immediately put to use part of Commonwealth’s direct federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support key priorities including housing and homeownership, economic development and local downtowns, job training and workforce development, health care, and infrastructure. As part of the Administration’s proposal to jump-start the Commonwealth’s economic recovery and support residents hardest-hit by COVID-19, such as lower-wage workers and communities of color, Governor Baker would direct $900 million to key energy and environmental initiatives, including $100 million for parks, recreation, and open spaces. These funds would support investments in public lands, as well as lands specifically conserved for public access including parks, lakes, rivers, trails, beaches, fishing piers, boat ramps, and other waterways. Funding would be dedicated to projects that expand, enhance, and modernize the Commonwealth’s park facilities to steward and conserve natural resources, and to improve the resilience of natural and working lands, plants, and wildlife in the Commonwealth.
As the Commonwealth’s conservation agency, it is DCR’s mission to partner with municipalities, land trusts and other environmental organizations to protect vital open spaces. In the last two calendar years, the agency invested approximately $8 million in the protection of over 3,200-acres of land, including the Bear Hole Reservoir. This investment leveraged approximately $5 million in partner contributions, grants and gifts which helped conserve these lands.