Dorset discusses forest purchase possibility

DORSET - At the town selectboard meeting Tuesday night, the Dorset Forest Expansion project was presented to the public. Rob Gaiotti, town manager, said there were about 40 people present for the meeting, almost reaching capacity at town hall.

Town officials gave a 20 minute presentation, focusing on where the project got its start, as well as explain the natural resources and the ecological, historical and recreational assets that justify the town trying to purchase the parcel of land, he said.

The town hopes to acquire a 200-acre parcel of land next to the current 40-acre town forest on Owl's Head.

Owl's Head is a dome-shaped rise to the north of The Dorset School and east of Route 30 south of the main village of Dorset. It can be reached via Owl's Head Hill Lane, a dirt road off of Route 30 a short distance north of Morse Road.

"There are a group of grants the town is hoping to get together, to take the burden of purchase off the town," Gaiotti said. "We hope to make this as efficient or cheap a purchase for the town."

The exact cost of the land is not yet determined. The town is having the value professionally appraised and will soon have a price, he said.

Gaiotti said a bulk of the attendees solicited questions about the property, voicing support for the project, asking about the cost of the parcel and funding, as well as more technical questions, about how the land will be managed.

One of the next steps in the acquisition of this parcel and the expansion of the town forest involves creating a management plan for the land. Gaiotti said this plan will include what forestry management practices will be put in place for the land, including timber and invasive species management.

Part of this process will be to hear public input about what activities and recreation town residents would like to see in the forest.

Gaiotti said while this presentation gave the town the ability to present their plan, many of the town residents already have great knowledge about the parcel.

"This [the presentation] was a chance for them [town residents] to learn about the basics of the project and solicit any kind of questions," he said. "A lot of folks...are familiar with the property. There is a nearly 100 year-old hiking trail up there. There's a lot of deep connection [to the land]."

In other business, the selectboard heard a request for more funds from the Manchester Rescue Squad. The selectboard made the decision to include the full amount requested as a line item in the general budget, Gaiotti said. The rescue squad asked for $35,500, an increase of $17,500 from its current level of $18,000. Part of the money will be used for future ambulance replacement.

"It is a capital fund for ambulance replacement and what they are hoping to do is ask for additional funds from their service towns to replace ambulances as needed, to be put away each year," he said.


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