How We Preserve—and Fund—Open Space
Since 1986, The 300 Committee Land Trust has acted as the town’s agent for acquiring open space by identifying parcels for preservation, obtaining appraisals, negotiating with landowners, and campaigning to persuade town meeting members and voters to support the purchases. In our first ten years, The 300 Committee helped the town acquire 955 acres of conservation land using general funds approved by town meeting vote and the town-wide election.
- In our earliest effort, in the spring of 1986, town meeting members approved bonding for $8.3 million to acquire 401 acres of land. The vote, 175-18, easily passed the two-thirds majority required. A week later, voters at large showed emphatic support for land preservation by approving the funding four to one. Our subsequent efforts over the next decade helped the town secure dozens of additional parcels and added several hundred acres to Falmouth’s conservation lands. (Read about The 300 Committee’s early days in a retrospective written by Vicky Lowell, T3C board member who served as our first president and first administrator: 300 Plus 20.)
Passage of the Cape Cod Land Bank in 1998 provided a significant new opportunity: access to millions of dollars over 20 years to be used exclusively for open space, collected as a 3% surcharge on all property taxes. The Town of Falmouth appointed The 300 Committee to oversee land purchases using Land Bank funds. In six years, the town purchased 904 acres of land through this program, committing $38 million in future payments. (List of Town parcels purchased with Land Bank funds)
Increasingly, The 300 Committee had been raising private funds to purchase its own land and to support town purchases. Recognizing that the Land Bank’s resources were finite, in 2001 the land trust embarked on a major capital campaign, raising $8 million in gifts and donations of property over four years. $3 million in campaign funds helped the town purchase the 238-acre Falmouth Country Club. Another acquisition made possible by the capital campaign was The 300 Committee’s purchase of the 7-acre Toner parcel at the headwaters of the Coonamessett River. In addition, generous landowners donated open space parcels to The 300 Committee’s campaign: 12 acres in Long Pond Reservation, two wooded lots on busy Palmer Avenue, a waterfront acre on Rand’s Canal in North Falmouth, pond front acreage in Waquoit and a beachfront lot on Surf Drive. More recently, four acres of woods in North Falmouth and several acres on Woods Hole Road were donated to the land trust.
Today, the Community Preservation Act provides state matching funds to support land purchases for conservation and recreation, in addition to initiatives in historic preservation and affordable housing. The 300 Committee continues to raise private funds for land acquisition, and provides the staff expertise to identify, rank, appraise, negotiate and contract for the best lands for acquisition by the town. Recommendations are made to Falmouth Town Meeting, which must approve all purchases using municipal dollars. Our staff also works in support of the efforts of our many volunteers: from the board of directors to our dozens of land stewards and outdoor workers who help manage hundreds of acres of public open space in all parts of Falmouth.
More and more, 300 Committee staff and board members are working with landowners to protect private lands with conservation restrictions. We collaborate with the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts to prepare and tailor these legal documents that save private property from future development.
In addition, to leverage limited funds, The 300 Committee seeks partnering opportunities: with the state and federal government, with private foundations and with neighbors and other groups interested in saving land for conservation.
There are many ways to get involved with The 300 Committee and to support our work to preserve open space throughout Falmouth. We hope you will join us.