After the creation of the Open Space Committee in 1994, as a first step it proposed a fund, the Open Space, Recreation, and Water Supply Protection Fund, to be used for costs related to acquisitions of open lands. The fund was approved by both Town Meeting and the State legislature in the late 1990s. This was followed in the spring of 2000, by the authorization of a $10 million Open Space Bond at the Annual Town Meeting, designated for the protection of land for open space, water supply protection, and recreation. In 2011, the town approved an additional $5 million Bond Authorization for the purpose of open space acquisitions and related costs to develop properties for recreational uses.
Open Space Bond Steering Committee
After passage of the initial Bond Authorization in 2000, an Open Space Bond Steering Committee was appointed to make recommendations on how the program should be administered, which included hiring a Program Manager to oversee land acquisitions as a key function of the Open Space Program. As properties have been acquired and protected, an Open Space Steward was hired in 2003 to address stewardship needs of the Program. The stewardship needs of the Program have in the past been assisted by AmeriCorps/MassLIFT members, and are currently assisted by staff within the Parks and Cemeteries Department, as well as occasional volunteers and outside contractors as necessary. In addition to recommendations for staffing the Program, the work of the Steering Committee led to the Open Space Land Acquisition Policy and the Open Space Bond Parcel List, which has been revised through the years since the original list was created.
The Open Space Program staff includes the Program Manager, who oversees aspects of the program related to land acquisitions and works closely with the Open Space Committee establishing policies and priorities related to land protection. The Program Manager is responsible for collaborating with a number of relevant town boards and committees including the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Board of Selectman, Agricultural Commission, and others that have a stake in the protection of Ipswich's natural and recreational resources.In addition, the Program Manager works closely with local, regional, and state organizations working on land protection projects in Ipswich.
Also on staff is the Open Space Steward who addresses stewardship and land management needs of the town's protected open space. The Stewardship staff works closely with the Conservation Commission and other Town entities that have care, custody and control of open space lands, and is assisted by Parks and Cemeteries Division and Department of Public Works staff; and volunteers and outside organizations all involved in the use and management of open lands, particularly those with public access.
Land Protection To Date
Since the inception of the Open Space Bond Authorization the Town has protected 890 acres of land through acquiring fee ownership of properties, and/or through conservation restrictions placed on private property. The Town has spent $10,992,000 from the Bond, while securing an additional $10,936,600 in outside funding to permanently preserve these fourteen properties. There is currently $4,008,000 remaining in the Bond for future land protection projects.