The Harrisville Conservation Commission met for its regular meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at Town Offices, 705 Chesham Road.

 Members present: Harry Wolhandler, Winston Sims, Les LaMois, Kathy Scott, Andrea Polizos

Members of the public: Jeremy Wilson of the Harris Center, Brett Thelen, Don Scott

The meeting opened at 7:00 pm.

Public Hearing – HCC Support of Harris CenterPurchase of Land Parcel along Eastview Rail Trail
Jeremy Wilson of the Harris Center presented a description and map of the parcel along the Eastview Rail Trail, emphasizing its conservation value to the Harris Center and the community. It is the last remaining unprotected parcel along the trail used for recreation and wildlife watching by area residents and visitors. The 17-acre wooded lot borders the rail trail for more than .3 mile of the 1.4 mile trail, a section just east of the north pond continuing toward the beaver ponds. The Harris Center seeks to ensure trail access and the character of this resource for generations to come.  At its last meeting, the HCC, upon hearing about the prospective purchase and the Harris Center’s request for support, considered a motion to support the purchase pending the discussion at the public hearing.

Brett Thelen spoke as a resident in favor of the initiative, noting the importance of conservation in general to the town, the value the rail trail brings to its many users, and the particular importance of the parcel to the Harris Center’s contiguous open space for wildlife and ecological processes.  Separately, Ms. Thelen wished to clarify information included in the town report, noting that land in current use is not equivalent to land in conservation, as current use is a temporary and volunteer status that can be changed by property owners at any time.  She hoped the HCC and the town would continue its conservation efforts with this in mind and not combine the calculation when citing the percentage of the town’s land in conservation as she believes this is misleading.

Andrea Polizos spoke to the value of the rail trail parcel as well and to the efforts of volunteers to maintain the rail trail for public benefit. Following additional discussion, Mr. Wilson offered to have the Harris Center map out land in conservation in Harrisville and provide it to the HCC. He also offered to send the Quabbin Reservoir to Cardigan Mountain maps to Mr. Wolhandler, maps of conservation lands in the Monadnock Highlands produced by a conservation partnership collaborative.

As there were no further comments or questions from the public, Mr. Wolhandler restated Andrea Polizos’s motion of the HCC’s March meeting as follows: That the Harrisville Conservation Commission contribute $5,000.00 from the Conservation Fund to support the Harris Center purchase of a parcel along the Eastview Rail Trail. Without further discussion, the HCC voted unanimously in favor, 5-0.

Amphibian Brigadier Training
HCC members were updated on the March training, conducted by Brett Thelen, of volunteers for the amphibian crossing. Thirty people attended, half of whom were from Harrisville. Ms. Thelen noted the amphibians’ importance in the forest ecosystem and their importance in the food web. The crossing is anticipated during a wet night when temperatures exceed 40 degrees. Ms. Thelen will contact volunteers by email and also maintains an update on the Harris Center website. Mr. Wolhandler will speak to the Police Chief about road safety.

Minutes of March 6, 2019
The HCC voted unanimously in favor to approve.

Earth Day Roadside Cleanup – Saturday 4/20/2019
Logistics were discussed, including that posters will go up around town. Maps and signup will be at Recycling Center, along with bags for pickup.

Rain Garden update
Harry Wolhandler and Don Scott described the proposed location next to the Harrisville Pond boat ramp for the rain garden being designed by Keene State students in conjunction with the HCC and Eric Swope. Mr. Scott noted the existing vegetation along the pond which will help minimize cost. Mr. Scott will speak to the Road Agent and the Select Board. Students will attend the next HCC meeting on May 1st.

Aquatic Invasive Prevention
Training by DES for the weed watchers program has been pushed back one week. It will not be Saturday, June 22 . Mr. Wolhandler will update the group on the date/time.

Updates from other boards
Kathy Scott noted that the PB is beginning its review of the Master Plan to identify areas to be updated. She encouraged Con Com members to review the Master Plan as well and to offer input on any areas related to conservation they believe need addressing.

Election of Officers
Harry Wolhandler moved to elect Andrea Polizos Vice Chairman of the HCC. Les LaMois seconded. All voted in favor.All other officers will remain as is. Kathy Scott then reviewed email practice in light of Right to Know laws, emphasizing the importance of limiting discussion and conversation to meetings only. She noted this is essential and makes for a better functioning board.

Nomination of Don Scott to the HCC
Harry Wolhandler moved to nominate Don Scott as a member of HCC, noting his continued contribution to HCC discussions and matters and his experience.  During discussion, Winston Sims expressed concern about Mr. Scott’s authorship of the new zoning ordinance provision related to impervious cover, believing this, and Mr. Scott’s landscape design business, could present the appearance of a conflict of interest for applications before the HCC.  Other members believe Mr. Scott would recuse himself if the situation warranted and spoke to his qualifications as a nominee. The HCC subsequently voted 3-0 in favor, with Kathy Scott recusing herself and Mr. Sims abstaining.

Other business
Reference materials – Mr. Wolhandler noted that the following resource materials are available in the HCC mail bin: NH Lakes and News; Guide to Upland Invasive Species; Wetlands Best Management Practice Techniques and the Handbook of NH Munic Assn of Conservation Commissions.

Watersheds– Winston Sims asked the group what they feel should be priorities related to watersheds and watershed management.  Following discussion and ideas ranging from looking at the state report on quality of lakes to options for education and awareness rather than imposing requirements on property owners, members asked to continue the discussion at a later date.

Meeting adjourned at 9:07 pm.