Shortly after acquiring property to protect watershed lands, the Town began its open space and farmland protection efforts with purchases along the Mill River in 1963. Since then, Amherst has amassed 1,965 acres of conservation land, and has been integral to the acquisition of Agricultural Preservation Restrictions on 1,842 acres of farmland on 32 properties and an additional 157 acres protected by Conservation Restrictions.
Amherst has gradually acquired conservation lands that will eventually constitute a system of fully protected blocks of wildlife habitat and green space, with correspondingly high scenic, recreational, and educational value.
Approximately 30 percent of Amherst’s surface area (total land area equals 17,765 acres) is permanently protected open space. The permanently protected lands range from Town-owned conservation land with public access to privately owned land with Conservation Restrictions to land owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts such as much of the Mount Holyoke Range. The permanently protected land is distributed throughout town so that it is only a short walk from the village centers or town center until one can enjoy the preserved open space or walk along the network of trails that connects many conservation areas in town.
Although Amherst has a long history of planning for both recreation and conservation lands, it is important to realize the distinction between preserved land and recreational open space. Preserved land is managed by the Conservation Department to maintain Amherst‘s natural resources, and may provide for passive recreation and outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing without being dedicated solely to playing fields or formal recreational facilities. Preserved land may include woodlands, pastures, trails or highly managed areas. Recreational open space is land set aside for either active recreation such as Ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, and baseball, or for passive recreation such as picnicking and bird watching. Active recreational open space is typically found on flat, well-drained soils where the turf is managed to maintain a level playing field.
The philosophy of open space and recreation planning and protection in Amherst has been established as follows:
|Protected Open Space||Commonwealth of Massachusetts|
|Agricultural Land||Town Parks and Recreation Areas|
|Forest Land||Town Commons|
|Town Conservation Lands||Partially Protected Open Space|
*For a definition of these protected lands please see the Open Space & Recreation Plan, Section 5.
Corridors for Wildlife Migration
The town has preserved the following corridors for wildlife migration, providing critical habitat connections among conservation areas and other protected land: