Town of Unity Celebrates Gift of Conserved Memorial Forest

Laura Ryan feels strongly connected to an 83.5 acre parcel of land that has been in her family for more than 250 years because of the many memories and family stories this land holds. Due to her connection to the property, Laura Ryan, and her husband, Walter, generously granted a conservation easement to the Upper Valley Land Trust to preserve the land forever.Immediately following this donation, the Ryans transferred ownership of the property to the Town of Unity. Together, these gifts created “The Nathaniel & Ina Thurber Memorial Forest,” named in honor of Laura Ryan’s parents.The Memorial Forest will be managed sustainably by Unity’s Conservation Commission for low-impact recreation, agriculture and working forestland.The deed signing occurred at the Town Offices where Selectmen and others were on-hand to give warm thanks to the Ryans for this special gift to the community.

Asked why she chose to donate an easement to UVLT, Laura Ryan explained, “I grew up there; I didn’t want to chop it up anymore than it had been.”She also mentioned that she still enjoys the property, for example, “I try to get up there every few years to take my grandchildren kite flying.”

As is the case for much of New Hampshire’s landscape, The Nathaniel & Ina Thurber Memorial Forest was cleared, farmed, and now much has returned to forestland.Over the years, cattle, sheep and horses have grazed the land.Unity’s Conservation Commission plans to maintain some open fields in order to preserve scenic vistas, which stretch both north and south from the property.In the warmer months, these open fields offer picnicking opportunities, and the forested portion of the property is popular during hunting season. Historically, the forest was also used for maple sugaring, and a stone foundation of a historic sugar house is believed to be located on the conserved property.

The Conservation Commission will develop a Forest Management Plan prior to forestry activities, as required by the conservation easement.The Commission also plans to maintain the recreational trails that traverse the property for the public’s enjoyment.Former forester, and Chair of the Conservation Commission, Stan Rastallis said at the closing, “There’s a pretty good system of trails—it’s a matter of maintaining them.” He also said of helping with the project, “It’s been fun being in the woods again.”

Due to the generosity of the Ryans and the support of the Town and the Conservation Commission, UVLT will now ensure that this property will forever remain a part of Unity’s working landscape, and available for public enjoyment of its scenic values and recreational opportunities.This project is UVLT’s second in the town and the parcel is located within two miles of 350 acres of other public or town-conserved lands.