Long-time Land Protection Advocate Conserves Critical Property on Lake Sunapee
Last month, a dream came true for Virginia Anthony Soule when the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests accepted her donation of a conservation easement. Soule is a 27-year member of the Forest Society and an avid conservationist in the Sunapee region. The 16-acre Rockwall Farm has been her family’s summer home on Lake Sunapee since 1929.
“The conservation of his lakeside farm will help protect the water quality of Lake Sunapee, the source of drinking water for the Town of Sunapee, as well as the view of the property from the lake,” said Forest Society President/Forester Jane Difley. “It has been a pleasure working with Virginia to help make her long-held dream a reality.”
The 16 acres slope from the hilltop down to the water and include 200 feet of shorefront. Mixed woodlands provide a buffer between the meadow and the shore, slowing the flow of water to the lake. Rainwater can run off lawns twice as fast as from forests, and water flowing over roads, lawns, and yards carries sediments, lawn fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants that contaminate waterways. The wooded buffer acts as a “living filter” to absorb these contaminants before they reach the water. It also helps reduce erosion by stabilizing the lake shore against fluctuating water levels, boat wakes and wind-driven waves, moving ice, and flooding.
Rockwall Farm has a long history. Faced with granite from a local quarry, the farmhouse was built in 1835 high on Burkehaven Hill overlooking Lake Sunapee. Soule’s parents, Floridians looking for a New England summer place, bought the farm in 1931 after renting it for two summers. The large vegetable garden they established was her mother’s pride and joy and served as a Victory Garden during World War II. The former garden is now maintained as a natural field, providing critical habitat that has become increasingly rare for Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, bluebirds, and other songbirds.
The Lake Sunapee Protective Association and the Town of Sunapee’s Conservation Commission each contributed $3,750.00 to help cover some of the project expenses. The Town of Sunapee will hold an executory interest in the easement. Although Lake Sunapee Protective Association has played an important role in the protection of other watershed properties, this is the first time that the Association has voted to contribute funding for a specific project.
Soule is grateful to all the groups involved for their efforts to ensure the protection of this land, especially the Forest Society. “I have been in love with the Forest Society for 30 years,” she said.