Our most important role is land stewardship, including identifying encroachment on conservation land and seeking remedy, including the use of legal action when necessary, which is vital for maintaining the principle of conservation restrictions.
The holder of the conservation restrictions assumes the responsibility for enforcing the terms of the restriction in perpetuity. Weston Forest and Trail holds many conservation restrictions and also plays a stewardship role for many town lands. This requires us to regularly monitor properties in conservation restriction in order to identify and document any violations of the terms of the conservation restriction by the landowner, abutters or others.
In 2006 we spent more than $75,000 to successfully defend a conservation restriction on land on which a homeowner had built a barn. This case was closely watched by conservation groups statewide, as it set an important precedent for the defensibility of conservation restrictions. However, it put a significant strain on Weston Forest and Trails resources.
We have also completed incorporating the data base of conservation restrictions into the town’s new Geographic Information System (GIS). As this system becomes used for the building permitting process, it will make intentional and unintentional encroachment on conservation land less likely.
In additional to the stewardship role for existing conservation land, WFTA also plays a role in identifying opportunities to preserve woodlands and open space, and to help shape any development in a way consistent with the town’s character. This includes:
Providing information and support for land owners seeking to preserve undeveloped land.
Fundraising for specific projects.
Advocacy within the town government.
Weston Forest and Trail plays this role not just for high profile properties that may have town-wide priorities, but also for smaller properties that may not be a priority for the town but may be important to the character of particular neighborhoods.
Over the past 50 years the Association has built about 100 miles of trails, and it funds the maintenance of these trails. An online trail map can be viewed here, and a paper map (more legible!) can be purchased at the Conservation Commission office in the Weston Town Hall for $10, along with Elmer Jones' guide Walks on Weston Conservation Land for $15.
Sometimes we're forced to take legal action:
In 2004 a large horse barn was illegally built on land protected by a conservation restriction held by the Weston Forest and Trail Association. After protracted negotiation failed and legal action was necessary, this photo shows it being moved onto unencumbered land.