IV.  CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION ELEMENT

 

Table of Contents

 

 

I.            Introduction

A.    Regional Context

B.    Natural Nashua

C.    Conservation and Preservation Goals and Objectives

 

II.   Recommendations for Existing Parks and Conservation Areas

 

III. Natural Resource Inventory

A.    Existing Conservation Areas

1.         City Parkland with Significant Natural Habitat

2.         District Parks

3.     City-owned Conservation Land

4.     Other Protected Areas

B.    Remaining Natural Areas and Conservation Opportunities

1.         Nashua’s Remaining Natural Areas

2.         Priorities for Future Conservation Effort

3.         Future Urban Trails and Non-Motorized Connections

 

IV.  Water Resources Management and Protection Plan

A.  Water Resources Inventory

1.         Surface Water Resources

2.     Groundwater Resources

3.     Threats to Surface and Groundwater Quality

B.    Management and Protection Plan

1.    Watershed Approach

2.    Existing and Recommended Regulatory Methods

 

V.    Summary

 

 


TABLES AND CHARTS

Number              Title

Table IV – 1        City Parks with Significant Natural Areas and Smaller Parcels of Public Open Space

Table IV – 2        Rivers and Streams within Nashua

Table IV – 3        Lakes and Ponds within Nashua

 

MAPS

Number              Title

Map IV – 1         Topographic Map of Nashua

Map IV – 2         Soil Constraints to Development

Map IV – 3         Southwest Quadrant Land Acquisition

Map IV – 4         Public Open Space and Natural Areas

Map IV – 5         Current and Potential Future Conservation Land

Map IV – 6         Nashua Trails Plan

Map IV – 7         Water Resources

Map IV – 8         Soils Indicative of Wetlands

Map IV – 9         Floodplain Map

Map IV – 10       C.S.O. Project Area

 

 

 

 

II.         Introduction

 

            When most people think of Nashua, they probably don’t think of “wild, open spaces.” As such, Nashua differs from many municipalities in New Hampshire that have extensive forests, lakes, and mountains.  While Nashua is certainly a city, where the area of human habitat exceeds the area of wildlife habitat, there are still many natural and scenic areas worthy of protection and conservation.  This element of the Master Plan will examine the natural aspects of Nashua, the location and characteristics of the City’s natural areas, and the diversity of wildlife habitats.  It will also make recommendations on which areas to preserve, and which planning techniques to employ, in order to ensure that Nashua retains at least a modicum of what helps to make New Hampshire so special; its great open spaces and diversity of life. 

 

            It is intended that this Conservation and Preservation Element of the Nashua 2000 Master Plan be in conformity with the draft American Planning Association (APA) Policy Guide on Sustainability.  The draft policy guide defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 

            In its Executive Summary, the adopted APA policy states that:

 

A variety of symptoms lead us to the conclusion that current development patterns are not sustainable.  Global signs include global warming and climate variation, widespread soil degradation, deforestation, species extinction, and increasing disparities between rich and poor.  A number of local problems are apparent as well, including central city disinvestment, loss of rich agricultural land, suburban sprawl, depletion of groundwater resources, and ever-increasing traffic congestion.” 

 

To take an active role in redirecting the trend toward unsustainability, the APA and its chapters can support and develop planning policies that:

 

·        Help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, underground metals, and minerals.

·        Help reduce dependence on chemicals and other man-made substances that can accumulate in the biosphere.

·        Help reduce dependence on activities that encroach upon nature.

·        Meet the hierarchy of human needs fairly and efficiently.

 

With these four planning policies as a guiding framework, local, regional, and state decision-makers can devise planning policies and action plans appropriate to their particular circumstances and communities.” (emphasis added)


            In Nashua, several indications of unsustainable development are suburban sprawl, loss of open space and forests, and increasing traffic congestion. This Plan recognizes that Nashua is approaching build-out, and that the development patterns of the past cannot be changed.  However, the Plan can recommend policies and actions which will help to ensure a movement towards sustainability and less environmentally destructive and land consumptive development practices in the future. This Plan also recognizes that Nashua is the central city for its region, and as such is a primary employment and retail center.  A regional approach to sustainability would recognize this fact, and perhaps recommend that Nashua on the whole be considered an “infill” community at the regional level.

 

            Therefore, a movement towards sustainability in Nashua will entail a careful balancing of industrial, commercial, and residential growth with measures to protect the most important remaining wildlife habitat and open spaces.  Actions taken to move towards greater sustainability should actually enhance the City’s economic health.  The traffic congestion that currently plagues the City, for example, is perceived as a disincentive by many businesses that would otherwise choose to locate here.  Development patterns that permit alternative transportation and shorter commutes would help relieve traffic congestion, and could also help preserve open space and wildlife habitat in developing areas.

 

            In its transition to the 21st century, Nashua can take a stand in proclaiming the importance of moving towards local and global sustainability.  Such a stance recognizes the interconnectedness of local conditions and actions with the global environmental situation, which is clearly deteriorating.  The City can adopt policies that reflect this recognition of interconnectedness, policies that will help move the local economy and local land-use decisions in a sustainable direction.

 

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A.         Regional Context

 

            Nashua is located on the Massachusetts border at 42 degrees north latitude.  This latitude in the eastern United States enjoys a temperate climate, with four distinct seasons.  There are six months (May – October) during which deciduous trees bear leaves, and six “leaf-less” months.  South-central New Hampshire is located in the transitional forest zone, a broad area of central New England that forms a transition zone between the oak / hickory forests of southern New England and the mid-Atlantic states, and the northern hardwood forests of northern New York, northern New England, and southern Canada.  The most common forest tree in this transition zone is the white pine, a species of high economic value.  South-Central New Hampshire receives approximately 43 inches of precipitation per year.  Most of this precipitation is evenly distributed over the course of the year, though there can be dry periods in the mid-summer.  The area’s climate is ideal for the growth of trees, and as the natural climax vegetation in the area is mixed-hardwood/coniferous forest, any open fields left undeveloped and untended will eventually revert to this forest type.

 

 

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B.         Natural Nashua

 

            Regional context aside, what are Nashua’s distinctive natural features?   This discussion, intended as a general overview, will be organized by examining the following areas: topography, drainage basins / water resources, and soils.  Drainage basins and water resources will be discussed in greater detail in the Water Resources section of this element (Part III).  The discussion of specific natural areas and priorities for conservation within the City will be taken up in the Natural Resources Inventory section of this element (Part II).

 

1.      Topography

 

            Unlike much of the rest of New Hampshire, Nashua is relatively flat, with gently rolling hills making up most of its terrain.  The lowest elevation in the City is 90 feet, where the Merrimack River enters Massachusetts.  The City’s highest elevation is 426 feet on top of Gilboa Hill, which is now part of the Sky Meadow Planned Residential Development.  Other high points include Long Hill (422 feet) and the Four Hills (314 feet).  Map IV – 1 is a topographic map of Nashua. 

 

Map IV-1

Map IV-1 Topographic Map

 

 

 

 

 

2.      Drainage Basins / Water Resources

 

            The entire City of Nashua is located within the Merrimack River drainage basin, or watershed.  However, there are several sub-watersheds in Nashua that are part of the larger Merrimack River watershed.  The most significant of these is the Nashua River watershed, followed by the Pennichuck Brook watershed.  Map IV - 7 shows the location of these watersheds within the City limits. These watersheds will be discussed in greater detail in the Water Resources section of this element (Part III).

 

3.      Soils

 

            In the past, before public sewer and water were widely available, detailed soil analyses were necessary for most types of development, especially for homes using on-site septic systems.  Septic systems on excessively well-drained or poorly drained soils posed the potential for groundwater contamination.  Some soil types were found to be generally unsuitable for most foundations, while other soils presented other constraints to development.  Today, however, lands that were once marginal can be developed using state of the art building techniques.  Such development may be more expensive and require greater site planning than development on more suitable soils, but in most cases it is possible nonetheless. 

 

The two major exceptions are development within wetland soils and on very steep slopes.  State and local wetland regulations preclude most development on wetland soils in any case, while steep slopes are usually passed over by most developers due to the high cost of construction there.  However, as the better land is used up, more pressure is placed on marginal lands, including steep slopes, and for that reason municipalities should be prepared to address site and design issues for proposed development on marginal lands to prevent or minimize environmental and structural damage.

This element of the Master Plan will not go into a detailed examination and analysis of soil conditions in Nashua, because, as a largely urban / developed municipality, with public water and sewer available in most locations, soil-related building constraints are largely not an issue here as they are in rural New Hampshire.  However, there are several locations in Nashua, for the most part undeveloped, where soil constraints should at least be briefly examined.  Pages II-6 through II-10 of the 1985 Master Plan discuss soil types and issues in greater detail.

 

            The following areas were singled out in the 1985 Master Plan as areas of special concern. Please see Map IV - 2 for the location of these areas. 

 

Map IV-2

Map IV-2 Soil Constraints to Development

 

 

 

 

 

·        Tinker Road area:  The Tinker Road area is characterized by well-drained and excessively well-drained sandy soils. These soils have only slight to moderate limitations for most types of development. However, because these sandy soils are located along Pennichuck Brook, caution must be taken with more intensive development to minimize the potential pollution hazard posed by drainage into the Pennichuck water supply.  Even with most development in this area being on public sewer, non-point discharges of fertilizers and other residential chemicals can pose a danger to water quality.  It is thus especially important to maintain adequate buffer zones in these areas. 

 

·        Pennichuck Pond / Airport area:  The large area of northwest Nashua between the Hollis town line, the Nashua Airport, and the B&M railroad tracks is characterized by either excessively well-drained sandy soils or poorly drained wetland soils.  Wetlands crisscross the entire area, making much of the land area unbuildable.  The wetland soils have a year-round high water table and poor stability. 

 

      As is the case for the Tinker Road area, the excessively well-drained soils are located within the watershed of the Pennichuck water supply, and proper development and drainage techniques must be applied to prevent degradation of the water supply and associated wetlands.   The City of Nashua recently adopted a water supply protection ordinance, the provisions of which will be discussed in the Water Resources section of this element (Part III).

 

·        Southwest Corner:  The southwest corner of the City is characterized by a wide variety of soil types and conditions.  Wetland soils and areas with steep slopes crisscross this area, as they do in the northwest section of the City.  As this is the City’s “final frontier” for significant residential growth, development pressure will intensify as the City approaches build-out, with greater quantities of marginal land likely to be proposed for development.  The City should thus give extra scrutiny to development proposals throughout the southwest corner, and work to ensure that the most environmentally responsible development occur in this significant area

 

 

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C.   Conservation and Preservation Goals and Objectives

 

       Goal:  Protect the ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and scenic resources of Nashua from degradation, and enhance their ecological value whenever possible. 

 

 

1.      Objective:  Wildlife Habitat, Natural Ecosystems and Wetlands

 

       Protect the most significant wildlife habitats in the City, and link those areas, whenever possible, to provide wildlife corridors and contiguous areas of habitat.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Identify and preserve areas of wildlife habitat in the built-up areas of the City.

b.      Identify and map key wildlife habitats and corridors throughout the City, perhaps with the assistance of a State College or University, or the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

c.       Encourage the protection of contiguous areas of wildlife habitat to provide corridors for movement, perhaps through the creation of greenbelts.

d.      Encourage the protection of wildlife habitats through improved land use regulations, land acquisition, conservation restrictions and the setting aside of such land in Cluster Developments and Planned Residential Developments (PRDs).

e.       Examine the feasibility of creating river corridor greenways, to stretch along the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers, and Salmon Brook.  If such greenways should prove feasible, in whole or in part, develop an implementation plan to make it so.

f.        Examine the state of the City’s wetlands to determine if the updated wetland regulations (1990) are having their intended effect, and if they need some fine-tuning.

 

 

2.    Objective:  Open Space, Scenic Areas and Passive Recreation

 

         The City should strive to provide all residents of the City with adequate and accessible recreational space at a variety of levels, from citywide and district parks to neighborhood playgrounds.

 

         Recommendations: 

a.       The City, through zoning and/or land acquisition, should ensure that an adequate amount of open space is set aside for the enjoyment of citizens, as a relief from the built environment, and as wildlife habitat. 

b.      Protect and set-aside open space areas in each of the City’s quadrants, whenever possible, so as to provide relief from the built environment for all of Nashua’s citizens.

c.       The City should strive to protect the remaining active agriculture and forest lands in the City, and assist landowners in safeguarding the economic viability of ongoing agricultural and forestry operations. 

d.      Preserve views along scenic roadways and into identified scenic areas. 

e.       Define appropriate uses, users and owners of structures on public lands.

f.        Acquire additional open space areas.  Emphasis should be placed on linking already existing parks, conservation areas and common open land into a network of open spaces that could be incorporated into a greenway or similar open space network.

g.       Amend the Site Plan and Subdivision regulations to address the protection of existing vegetation (especially large trees) in development sites.  Clear-cutting or near clear-cutting of vegetation should be prohibited. 

h.       Encourage the use of the Cluster and PRD styles of subdivision development, to enable greater amounts of open space in subdivisions. 

i.         Amend the Cluster and PRD sections of the Nashua Zoning Ordinance to increase the amount of open space required to be set aside and decrease the amount of wetlands that can qualify towards the total open space area. 

j.        Provide more areas for recreation, exercise or enjoying the outdoors by developing trails close to residential areas.  More trails need to be developed in existing parks, along rivers, and in other natural and scenic areas.

k.      Consider the development of a Nashua land trust to facilitate land acquisitions and conservation activities.

l.         Consider designating the most rural and scenic roads in the City as official Scenic Roads per RSA 231:157. 

m.     Identify the most scenic areas in Nashua, and determine if the existing land-use regulatory structure is sufficient to protect their scenic attributes in the face of development.  If not, develop additional land-use tools to protect these scenic resources for the enjoyment of all Nashua residents.

n.       Aggressively seek out funding for trail development, trail maintenance, trail advocacy, and trail education.  Funding may come from several federal and state sources, or corporate, non-profit, and other sources.

o.      Develop or relocate utility lines underground whenever possible, for both new construction and roadway reconstruction, in order to preserve or enhance visual quality. 

p.      Provide adequate parking at the points of access to all parks and recreational areas.

q.      Improve and expand park facilities at the district, community, and neighborhood levels in relation to the distribution and composition of the population.

r.        Continue to improve and maintain existing City parks, such as Greeley Park, Mine Falls Park, and Yudicky Farm.

s.       Obtain additional parkland, if possible, along Nashua’s waterways. 

t.        Implement the Nashua Urban Trails Network and Nashua Trails Plan (1993).

u.       Develop criteria for the acquisition of additional parks and conservation areas, based on need, location, function, price and environmental features.

v.       Support and encourage landowners to participate in the State’s Current Use Program.

w.     Identify and make landowners aware of areas with high forestry or agricultural potential.

 

 


3.      Objective:  Downtown Riverfront

 

         The City should take all necessary actions to ensure that its downtown riverfront is a dynamic and accessible social, cultural, educational, recreational, and economic resource for the City.  A proactive approach would safeguard the riverfront as an inspiring and unifying element of downtown Nashua. 

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Develop and implement an innovative plan for the Water Street Promenade Park.

b.      Develop and promote a partnership with the property owners on the north bank of the Nashua River in order to secure conservation / recreation easements which will help to foster the use of this area for conservation, recreation and education.

c.       Develop an aggressive grant writing initiative for the recreational, social and educational development of Nashua’s downtown riverfront.  

d.      Develop a corporate adopt-a-riverfront program.

e.       Develop an educational program for Nashua’s riverfront so as to make community, education and civic organizations aware of the riverfront and to encourage them to program the riverfront in their planning and activities.

 

 

4.      Objective:  Historic Resources

 

         Preserve and protect the city’s historic resources; and review regulatory and other methods used to designate special districts and other potential historic properties

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Develop a mechanism to address the protection of historic landmarks and other historic structures and resources that lie outside of the Historic District.

b.      Examine the extent of the City’s historic district and determine if its boundaries need to be modified.

c.       Examine the historic district regulations to determine if they need to be modified or updated.

d.      Develop a comprehensive database of the City’s historic resources, and determine the physical state of any surviving structures.

e.       Develop appropriate signage for historic places and structures.

 

 


5.      Objective:  Active Recreation and Sports

 

         The City should strive to provide all residents of the City with adequate and accessible recreational space at a variety of levels, from citywide and district parks to neighborhood playgrounds.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Implement the recommendations of the 1999 Nashua Recreation Master Plan.

b.      Improve and expand park facilities at the district, community and neighborhood park levels in relation to the distribution and composition of the population.

c.       Identify and address any deficiencies that may exist in City-owned recreation facilities.

d.      Balance the use of the City’s recreational facilities among all the citizens of Nashua.

e.       Evaluate the role of organized adult sports in the future of the city’s recreational goals.

f.        Define appropriate uses, users and owners of structures on public lands.

g.       Continue to improve and maintain existing City-owned parks and recreation areas.

h.       Implement and update the Nashua Urban Trails Network and Nashua Trails Plan (1993).

i.         Require developers to set aside adequate amounts of accessible and usable recreational land within subdivisions and on large non-residential tracts, where advisable, through the subdivision and site plan approval processes.

j.        Improve access, where advisable and needed, to existing City-owned parks and recreation areas.

k.      Provide new and expanded programs at existing City parks and recreation areas that keep up with national recreation trends (i.e. rollerblading, mountain biking, fitness courses, etc…)

l.         Address overuse and degradation of City Parks such as Mine Falls Park and Greeley Park by developing and implementing a recreation Master Plan for each park. 

m.     Ensure that public swimming facilities are easily accessible to the entire population of the City, and build additional pools where needed.

n.       Consider developing additional park space and active recreational sites on the site of vacant buildings and lots in the downtown and urban center. 

 

 

6.      Objective:  Nashua River and Tributaries

 

         Maintain and, if possible, enhance the water quality of and public access to the Nashua River, so that the River becomes a prime asset in Nashua’s quality of life.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Consider adopting a local shoreline protection district to supplement the State’s Shoreline Protection Act.

b.      Consider developing a management plan for that portion of the Nashua River that flows within the City’s borders.

c.       Consider working cooperatively with the other cities and towns in the Nashua River watershed, perhaps by taking a more active role in the Nashua River Watershed Association.

d.      Address combined sewer overflows (CSOs) such that no untreated wastewater enters the River.

e.       Develop a Riverfront Park (located off of Water Street on the south bank and Franklin Street on the north bank) as a way of bringing citizens into contact with the River and highlighting its importance to the history and character of the City.

f.        Investigate and mitigate any adverse effects of groundwater quality on surface water quality.

 

 

7.      Objective:  Merrimack River and Tributaries

 

         Maintain and, if possible, enhance the water quality of and public access to the Merrimack River, so that the River becomes a prime asset in Nashua’s quality of life.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Take an active role in the Merrimack River Emergency Notification Network, in the event of a serious chemical spill or release into the River.

b.      Consider a local shoreline protection district to supplement the State’s Shoreline Protection Act.

c.       Develop a management plan for that portion of the Merrimack River that flows within the City’s borders.

d.      Work cooperatively with the other cities and towns in the Merrimack River watershed, perhaps by taking a more active role in the Merrimack River Watershed Council.

e.       Address combined sewer overflows (CSOs), such that no untreated wastewater enters the River.

f.        Consider developing a Salmon Brook greenway (greenbelt) as a way to safeguard this important tributary to the Merrimack River.  Provisions for public access, such as canoe landings and hiking trails, should be developed wherever possible and appropriate.  In already developed areas, easements and protection restrictions could be developed.

 

 


8.      Objective:  Lakes and Ponds

 

         Safeguard the water quality and wildlife habitat functions of Nashua’s lakes and ponds.  Provide public access and water recreation opportunities where appropriate.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Target Lovewells Pond as a high priority conservation area, due to its presently unspoiled nature.  Now that the City has acquired the land surrounding Lovewells Pond for conservation, it should develop a management plan for this land that aims to protect water quality and wildlife habitat, while providing public access to this unique water resource.

b.      Undertake an inventory of all permanent ponds in Nashua, noting their characteristics, and any threats to their shoreline and water quality.

c.       Undertake an inventory of vernal pools, and develop a management plan to safeguard them from any water quality or development threats.

 

 

9.      Objective:  Watershed Management

 

         Take the broad watershed management approach to water quality protection. 

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Identify all watershed and sub-watershed boundaries within the City limits and map them on the City’s GIS system. 

b.      Identify potential contamination sources (PCSs) within the watersheds.  Develop a watershed management plan for the major watersheds (i.e. Nashua River, Pennichuck Brook, Salmon Brook, Cold Brook, Merrimack River)

c.       Address combined sewer overflows (CSOs), such that no untreated wastewater enters the River.

 

 

10.    Objective:  Groundwater Protection

 

         Safeguard the quality and quantity of groundwater in the City, both as a source of drinking water and for other uses, such as fire protection.

 

         Recommendations:

a.       Identify and map all stratified drift aquifers within the City, noting which ones reach beyond the City’s boundaries (intermunicipal aquifers).

b.      Develop an aquifer / groundwater protection plan for the areas where private wells are used as a drinking water supply, and also for those areas (particularly in northwestern Nashua), that may be suitable for public water supply wells.  

c.       Investigate and mitigate any adverse effects of groundwater quality on surface water quality.

 

 

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III.     Recommendations for Existing Parks and Conservation Areas

 

Greeley Park:

  1. Where feasible, develop formal walking and biking trails to replace the informal trail network that currently exists along the Merrimack River.
  2. Develop a floodplain forest interpretive trail in the vicinity of the Merrimack River.

 

Mine Falls Park:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive natural resource and wildlife inventory to document the ecosystems and plant and animal species found in the Park.  Such an inventory would provide baseline data on the Park’s natural features and biodiversity, which could be used as a “yardstick” in measuring potential adverse impacts of certain human activities in the Park.    
  2. Once the natural resource and wildlife inventory is completed, a management plan for the Park should be developed.  The management plan should seek to balance human use of the Park with its value as wildlife habitat.

 

Yudicky Farm and surroundings:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive natural resource and wildlife inventory to document the ecosystems and plant and animal species found in the Park.  Such an inventory would provide baseline data on the Park’s natural features and biodiversity, which could be used as a “yardstick” in measuring potential adverse impacts of certain human activities in the Park.    
  2. Once the natural resource and wildlife inventory is completed, a management plan for the Park should be developed.  The management plan should seek to balance human use of the Park with its value as wildlife habitat.
  3. The City should hire a forestry consultant to determine if thinning certain forest stands in Yudicky Farm, Southwest Park and surroundings would improve wildlife habitat, recreational use, and the appearance of those areas.  Yudicky Farm contains many young, dense white pine stands.  The value of these stands for wildlife habitat and recreation may be improved by selective thinning.
  4. The City should conduct a natural resource / wildlife inventory and develop a management plan for the newly acquired land surrounding Lovewell’s Pond.  Lovewell’s Pond is perhaps Nashua’s most unique natural area. If human use of this area is to increase, careful management is necessary.
  5. The City should explore the feasibility of an extensive trail system, which would connect the trails in Yudicky Farm to the recently acquired parcels in its vicinity.  If such a trail system appears feasible, the City should seek to implement it in the near future.

 

Roby Park:

  1. An informal network of trails currently exists within the forested area of Roby Park.  The City may want to ‘formalize” these trails through signage and trail improvements. 

 


Horrigan Park:

  1. The City should consider purchasing the small, residentially-zoned property to the immediate west of Horrigan Park, which would extend the Park and allow for a small parking area.  At present, official parking and access into the Park is lacking. 

 

Other conservation areas:

a.       The City, perhaps through its Conservation Commission, should undertake a survey of all of the small, City-owned conservation areas scattered throughout Nashua.  Many of these small conservation areas are relatively unknown and some may be suffering from misuse and degradation. 

b.      Once these properties have been surveyed, a regular monitoring schedule should be set up, to ensure that the value of these properties in providing wildlife habitat and green space is not compromised.

 

 

Local Conservation Priorities 

  1. The conservation priorities identified through the REPP process should be re-examined by a wide range of City boards, officials, and the public.  If, after such review, it is determined that the list of local conservation priorities needs modification or refinement, then the City should undertake such refinements before further work on the REPP is conducted.
  2. The City should solicit input from the owners of land currently identified as priorities through the REPP process.  If the list of priority parcels is modified from that appearing in this Plan, then those landowners should be contacted for their input as well.  If effective conservation arrangements are to be worked out, it is imperative that the City work closely with the owners of land identified as priorities for conservation.
  3. The City needs to refine the location of priority parcels along the Merrimack River (REPP priority # 4) before additional work can be undertaken on that particular project.

 

Regional Conservation Priorities located in Nashua

            The City should carefully consider the acquisition, or protection through conservation easements, of the properties identified as regional priorities through the REPP process.  The parcels along the Nashua River, in particular, deserve careful consideration. 

 

Other Areas to Consider for Protection

            The City should consider the acquisition, or protection through conservation easements, of the “other” areas mentioned in this Plan.   The protection of these areas would provide additional green space and wildlife habitat in developing areas of the City.

 


Urban Trails

  1. In addition to the trail network centered on Yudicky Farm, the City should consider an urban trail connection from Mine Falls Park (which would link up to the “Nashua Heritage Rail Trail”) to the Massachusetts line south of Groton Road.  This trail would connect to the Ayer/Pepperell rail trail being developed in Massachusetts.
  2. The City should consider building pedestrian / bicycle bridge(s) over the Nashua River in the general area shown on Map IV - 5.  Such bridge(s) would greatly enhance bicycle and pedestrian options and public safety.  Broad Street (Route 130) is much safer for pedestrians and bicyclists after its recent widening, and a bridge(s) over the River would allow for a loop trail system on both sides of the River.  Elements of this loop trail would include the Downtown Connector, the trails in Mine Falls Park, the bike / pedestrian trail along the Broad Street Parkway, and on-street trails using West Hollis Street (west of Mine Falls Park) and Broad Street.  Also, a pedestrian bridge is needed that crosses the river at the Hydro Dam, located behind the Public Works garage.  This will link together the two high schools and their sports fields.

 

Water Resource Protection Recommendations 

  1. In order to protect groundwater used as a drinking water source, the City should reconsider the minimum lot size of lots relying on individual septic systems.  Recent studies have shown that in most situations a larger area is needed to adequately protect groundwater from contamination.
  2. Train local inspectors to inspect for and enforce Best Management Practices (BMPs).

c.       The City should strongly consider adopting a soil erosion and sediment control ordinance, which would comprehensively address many of the non-point sources of water quality degradation discussed in the Water Resources Protection Plan.

d.      The City needs to take active steps to increase treatment and recharge as redevelopment takes place in the watershed. 

e.       The City needs to continue improvements to the storm water system along Route 101A, so that the storm water is treated before it is discharged.

 

 

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IV.     Natural Resource Inventory

 

A.         Existing Conservation Areas

 

            This section will examine natural areas and passive recreational opportunities found within existing City parkland and other protected areas.  Existing parks and conservation areas form the backbone upon which further land acquisition and protection efforts should be based.  It is also important to have a clear understanding of the natural values and ecological functions found within, and performed by, existing protected areas.  Some of these values and functions include wildlife habitat, watershed and water quality protection, erosion control, and passive recreational opportunities.

 

1.            City Parkland with Significant Natural Areas

 

There are several City parks that contain significant acreage of natural habitat.  The active recreation (sports fields, informal playing fields, etc.) function of these parks is discussed in the Nashua Recreation Master Plan (1999).  The largest City parks have significant acreage devoted to both active and passive recreation.  Passive recreation includes walking, hiking, jogging, biking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, nature study, and other similar activities.  For the most part, these activities depend on the presence of large natural areas within a community. 

 

Nashua is fortunate in having several large parks that afford these opportunities.  The Nashua Recreation Master Plan classifies City park lands into several categories based on their size and function.  The largest parks, termed “City Parks”, are typically greater than 100 acres, are designed to serve both active and passive recreational uses, and contain the largest area of natural habitat.  “District Parks”, which are typically from 10 – 50 acres in size, are geared more towards active recreation and sports fields, though some may contain natural areas suitable for passive recreation.  In addition to these larger parks, the City has purchased smaller parcels exclusively for their wildlife habitat and natural values.  These smaller areas are most “effective” as wildlife habitat and natural areas when they are contiguous to larger parks or bodies of water. 

The following paragraphs will examine these City-owned lands from a wildlife habitat and passive recreational perspective.

 

The Nashua Recreation Master Plan defines a City Park as an area “intended to serve the populace of an entire city, addressing a broad range of recreational demands created by users of all ages, whether as individuals or in organized groups.  Such parks should be at least 100 acres in size, large enough to incorporate facilities common to other smaller categories of parks, while adding to those facilities the benefits of open space and areas for passive recreational pursuits such as hiking and bicycling, picnicking, boating, and fishing.”  There are three City Parks in Nashua: Greeley Park, Mine Falls Park, and Yudicky Farm.

 


a.      Greeley Park

 

            Greeley Park, at 210 acres, is the second-largest park in the City’s system, after Mine Falls Park.  Greeley Park has often been referred to as the “crown jewel” of Nashua’s park system, for its well-manicured lawns, its city park-like appearance of many large shade trees, playgrounds, and sports fields.  Greeley Park is a popular location for family picnicking and summer activities.  It is the primary location for Nashua’s “Summer Fun” program of artistic and cultural activities.

 

            What is perhaps less well known to many Nashua citizens is that Greeley Park also contains significant areas of natural habitat and areas for passive recreation.  While the formal, “park” section of Greeley Park is centered on Concord Street (Route 3), the natural areas of the park are found at its eastern and western extremities. The westernmost section of the park is located off of Manchester Street.  A bicycle / pedestrian trail connects this section of the park to the “formal” park area off of Concord Street.  This trail traverses an area of mixed pine-hardwood forest that is good wildlife habitat.  The other natural section of the park is found to the east of the playing fields on the eastern side of Concord Street.  Below these fields is an area of transitional scrub vegetation that is good habitat for several bird species and small mammals.  The Boston and Maine Railroad line traverses this area from south to north, and a more mature forested area is found to the east of the railroad tracks to the bank of the Merrimack River itself.  Several informal bicycle and pedestrian trails have been created in this area, which could serve as the backbone of a more formal trail network, should one be desired.  The mature forest in this area is also good wildlife habitat, and several bird species requiring larger forest tracts, such as vireos, warblers, and thrushes, are likely nesters here.

 

A floodplain forest consisting of red maples, silver maples, cottonwoods, hickories, and other species found along rivers is well established in the immediate vicinity of the River.  As this forest type is fairly rare in southern New Hampshire, it may be worthwhile for the City to develop an interpretive nature trail to educate the public on the value of these unique forests and their value in stabilizing riverbanks.

 

b.      Mine Falls Park

 

            At 325 acres, Mine Falls Park is the largest park in the City’s park system.  Mine Falls Park is located close to the geographic center of the City, and is bisected by the F.E. Everett Turnpike, with the Nashua River forming its northern edge, and the Millpond and canal forming its southern edge.  The area of the park north of Whipple Street was formerly an area of City sewage lagoons.  In 1979, the sewage lagoons were filled, and redeveloped into playing fields.  This area north of Whipple Street is the only section of the park devoted to active recreation and sports fields.  There are presently six rectangular fields (soccer, football, lacrosse) and a softball field in this area. The remainder of Mine Falls Park is in a natural state and available for walking, bicycling, fishing, picnicking, nature study, and other “passive” recreational pursuits.

 

            Mine Falls Park contains several miles of walking and biking trails, which generally follow the course of the Nashua River and the canal.  These trails provide access to a variety of natural habitats, including pine woods, hemlock groves, young deciduous growth, floodplain forest and marshland. The eastern end of the Park features a large marsh in a cove of the Nashua River, providing excellent habitat for many wetland species.  Both the Nashua Rail Trail and the Broad Street Parkway will provide a bicycle / pedestrian trail link into the Park, which will connect Mine Falls Park to the wider, developing Nashua trail network.

 

            While Mine Falls Park provides valuable wildlife habitat for many species, it is starting to suffer the effects of overuse, which, if not addressed, could threaten the viability of wildlife habitat.  The recent popularity of mountain biking has exacerbated the erosion present on many Park trails, and many new, informal trails have been developed in recent years.  The proliferation of trails in a relatively small area may serve to fragment existing habitats, and lead to a loss of species over time.  A comprehensive inventory of plant and animal species found in the Park should be undertaken in the near future to document the Park’s biodiversity.  Such a study would permit a more accurate assessment of the effects of human activity in the Park, and may suggest ways in which adverse impacts could be minimized.  The next logical step after a resource inventory would be development of a management plan for the Park, balancing human use of the Park with its wildlife habitat value.

 

The location of Mine Falls Park in the center of Nashua serves as relief from the built environment, an important function that the Park should be able to provide.   Its central location will ensure that it remains popular, and as such it may be unrealistic to maintain large areas of the Park in a pristine, “wild” state.  Nonetheless, with careful planning and management, it should be possible for Mine Falls Park to function both as a popular recreation destination and as a home to wildlife.

 

c.      Yudicky Farm

 

            Yudicky Farm, located in the City’s southwest corner, is the third largest City Park, at 120 acres.  As is true for the two other City parks, Yudicky Farm has both active and passive recreational areas.  Several sports fields are found immediately adjacent to Groton Road.  The remainder of the Park consists of pine and mixed pine / hardwood forests and wetlands.  Much of the woodland is relatively young, reflecting the agricultural use of the land in the early and middle decades of the century.  The pine woodland is very dense in many locations, and thinning it would enhance its appearance and perhaps its value as wildlife habitat, as well. 

 

            The forests of Yudicky Farm provide good habitat for a variety of neo-tropical bird species (those which nest in North America but winter in the tropics).  These species serve as good ecological indicators of forest health by virtue of their requirement for large, healthy forest tracts with minimal human interference.  On a June day in 1999, several neo-tropical species were heard singing within the Park’s forests, including wood thrush, veery thrush, scarlet tanager, red-eye vireo, and ovenbird.  Since the spring migration was completed by then, these species were most likely nesting in the Park.  It is recommended that a breeding bird survey be conducted as part of a comprehensive natural resource and wildlife inventory for the Park.  The disappearance of these and other sensitive species from the Park would serve as a warning that its health is being adversely affected, perhaps allowing actions to be taken to prevent further loss of species.   

 

            Based on the results of a survey conducted for the Nashua Recreation Master Plan, Yudicky Farm turns out to be one of the least known or used City parks.  Out of all survey respondents, only 1% said they use the park often, 7% said they use the park sometimes, and 92% said they never use the park.  The relatively remote location of Yudicky Farm, compared to, say, Mine Falls Park, no doubt plays some role in its obscurity.  As the southwest corner builds out, however, it will become a more popular recreation destination.  The Urban Trail Alliance recently improved existing trails and developed new trails in the park under a National Recreational Trails Act grant.  These trails are for non-motorized use only.  Though Yudicky Farm is remote, it has proven to be a popular destination for motorized dirt bike and ATV users, which has resulted in trail erosion and damage to small streams.  The city has since instituted a policy of no motorized use at Yudicky Farm that should help eliminate any further erosion.

 

            As mentioned above, it is recommended that a comprehensive natural resource and wildlife inventory of Yudicky Farm be undertaken in the near future, which will serve to document the Park’s plant and animal species before the Park becomes “discovered” and subject to heavier use.  Once the natural resource inventory is done, a management plan for the Park should be prepared.  The management plan would seek to balance all uses of the Park, while ensuring that its value as wildlife habitat and green space in a developing part of the City is preserved, and enhanced if possible. 

 

            The City recently acquired 292 acres of land for recreation and conservation in the southwest quadrant (see Map IV - 3).  The land was once part of the 1980’s “Halls Corner” development.  Through this land acquisition, City ownership in the area increased from 180 acres (includes the Main Dunstable School property) to 471.5 acres.  The recent creation of the new Southwest Park that includes and surrounds Yudicky Farm to the north along Gilson Road will include a total of approximately 245 acres.  Some of the additional property in the Southwest Park will be developed for active recreation and sports fields.  The remaining park area will be preserved for passive activities and natural resource protection.  While approximately 30 acres of the City land north of Yudicky Farm is slated for sports field development.  Passive recreational use / conservation is planed on the remainder of the land.  In addition, the City obtained conservation land between Ridge Road and Buck Meadow Road, and in the vicinity of Lovewell’s Pond.  This will provide a large upland buffer around Lovewell's Pond, safeguarding its water quality and value as wildlife habitat. Lovewell’s Pond is a classic example of property that should be considered for a conservation easement.

 

Map IV-3

Map IV-3 Southwest Quadrant Land Acquisition

 

 

 

 

 

            As can be seen from Map IV - 3, this land acquisition will form a large contiguous “loop” of City-owned land in the Southwest Quadrant.  Large contiguous areas are much more valuable as wildlife habitat compared to small, scattered parcels.  In addition, the loop of protected land is conducive to the creation of a regional trail network in the southwest quadrant.  The trails being improved and developed at Yudicky Farm can serve as the core of a trail network that could be expanded to traverse all City properties in this area.  It is recommended that the feasibility of such a trail network be explored in the near future, in conjunction with development of the enlarged Yudicky Park.

 

 

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2.      District Parks

 

            As defined in the Nashua Recreation Master Plan, District Parks are smaller than City Parks, and serve a smaller population base.  Their primary function is to provide sports fields and playgrounds for a section of a city or town.  Most of Nashua’s District Parks serve these functions, but only one of these, Roby Park, contains significant acreage of natural habitat and is thus of interest to this Natural Resources Inventory.

 

a.      Roby Park

 

            Roby Park is located in the southeastern corner of the City, adjacent to the Sky Meadow Planned Residential Development (PRD).  At 57 acres, Roby Park is the largest of the “District” parks as classified by the Nashua Recreation Master Plan.  Access into Roby Park is from Spit Brook Road, west of Exit 1 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.  Roby Park has one youth baseball field, one softball field, and playground equipment as its active recreation facilities.  In winter, the hill on its western slope serves as a sledding hill, and the low ground below the parking area is flooded to provide an ice skating rink.   

 

            The majority of Roby Park’s area is forested, and a good deal of diversity is found within its approximately 50 forested acres.  In the upland areas, white pine and mixed hardwood forests are found, whereas in the lowland areas, red maple dominated swamps are found.  There are also stands of Eastern Hemlock on the slopes of the central ravine.  As for Mine Falls Park and Yudicky Farm, it is recommended that a comprehensive natural resource and wildlife inventory be conducted for Roby Park. 

 

            An extensive trail network already exists at Roby Park.  This trail network is informal and not blazed or marked as of yet.  It may be worthwhile for the City, perhaps through the Urban Trails Alliance, to formalize these trails, as is currently being done at Yudicky Farm.

 

 

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3.      City-owned conservation land

 

            There are several additional, relatively small, properties scattered throughout the City that have been acquired by or donated to the City for conservation purposes.  These are listed in Table IV - 1.  These smaller properties range in size from .31 acres (Laton Street), to 15.6 acres (Horrigan Park).  Though small, these properties provide valuable habitat for species that don’t require large forest tracts. When located along streams and rivers, these properties provide habitat for aquatic species such as amphibians, ducks and other waterbirds, and small mammals.  As can be seen from Map IV - 4, many of these properties are located along Salmon Brook, providing urgently needed habitat along this stream that has experienced extensive residential encroachment over the last few decades.

 

Map IV-4

Map IV-4 Public Open Space and Natural Areas

 

 

 

 


            Horrigan Park is located along the Nashua River, near the City’s western border with Hollis.  This property is situated on a small peninsula, entirely within the 100-year floodplain, and is relatively unknown to most Nashua residents.  The property can be accessed off of Skyline Drive.  An informal trail network is found along the periphery of the property.  There is an undeveloped residentially zoned property to the immediate west of the Park, which would be worthwhile to purchase in order to increase the extent of protected land along the Nashua River. 

 

Table IV – 1

CITY PARKS WITH SIGNIFICANT NATURAL AREAS

AND SMALLER PARCELS OF PUBLIC OPEN SPACE

MAP KEY

NAME / LOCATION

QUADRANT

ACRES

C - 1

Greeley Park

NE

210

C - 2

Mine Falls Park

SW / CC

316

C - 3

Yudicky Farm

SW

245

D - 6

Roby Park

SE / SW

57

O - 1

Allds Street

SE

0.47

O - 2

Degasis Park

CC/ SE

7.5

O - 3

Greenock Lane

SW

3.8

O - 4

Horrigan Park

SW

15.6

O  - 5

Howe Wildlife Sanctuary

NW

2.18

O - 6

Joyce Park

CC / SE

11.82

O - 7

Laton Street

NE

0.31

O - 8

Proctor Park

SW

10

O - 9

Rolling Acres

SW

6.84

O - 10

Roy Street

SE

23.7

 

 

TOTAL ACRES:

910.22

Note:  These areas are keyed to Map IV-4.

 


 

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4.         Other Protected Areas

 

            In addition to the large and small City-owned park and conservation properties mentioned above, there are several other areas in both City and private ownership that provide open space and wildlife habitat functions.  Several school properties contain small wooded areas that serve as habitat for small mammals and resident (year-round) birds, and as “rest stops” for migratory birds.  The Nashua Wastewater Treatment Facility property contains a wooded area near the confluence of Salmon Brook and the Merrimack River.  This floodplain forest contains several small ponds that serve as feeding areas and winter habitat for several waterfowl species.  A small section of the New Hampshire Heritage Trail was developed here in 1994.

 

The City’s cemeteries also provide an open space function.  Edgewood Cemetery, in particular, with its mature hardwoods, provides an oasis of green at the intersection of Amherst and Broad Streets.

 

            In west-central Nashua, the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club and the Nashua Fish Hatchery constitute a relatively large, contiguous area of open space.  The Nashua Country Club contains several wooded, natural areas that also provide wildlife habitat. 

 

            The above list should by no means be considered a 100% complete inventory of protected, natural areas in the City.  It is recommended, however, that any natural area that is part of a city or privately owned facility be safeguarded from intrusion and degradation if at all possible.  As the City builds out, these natural areas will come to serve an increasingly important function of providing green space and wildlife habitat in an urban environment.  For these reasons, they deserve careful stewardship and respect.

 

 

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B.     Remaining Natural Areas and Conservation Opportunities

 

            This section will discuss areas that are not yet protected, but which by virtue of their location, habitat value, and other factors, should be considered for protection efforts. 

 

1.            Nashua’s Remaining Natural Areas

 

Outside of protected land in City parks and conservation areas, there are still several large undeveloped areas in Nashua.  There are many smaller natural areas, often located between subdivisions, or situated at the rear of developed parcels.  These remaining green spaces can serve both as relief from the built environment, and, especially when contiguous or linked, as wildlife corridors and “stop-overs” for migrating birds.  This section will be concerned both with the larger open space areas, and with the most important smaller parcels deserving consideration for protection.  A large part of the discussion will focus on the Regional Environmental Planning Program, a State-initiated program through which Nashua has identified priorities for conservation efforts.

 

            Nashua’s largest remaining open space areas are found in its northwest and southwest quadrants.  In the northwest quadrant, the area between the B&M railroad line (west of Route

101-A), the Pennichuck Brook system, Farley Road, and the Boire Field Airport, forms one of Nashua’s largest remaining open space areas.  This area encompasses approximately 650 acres.

 

            There are several hundred acres of undeveloped land in the southwest quadrant, mostly south of Gilson Road and west of Buck Meadow Road.  The area between Conant Road, Buck Meadow Road, and Ridge Road is currently planned for a cluster-style development, with a “New England style” commercial Village Center as its centerpiece.  An integral part of the plan is protection of the Cold Brook corridor, a tributary of Salmon Brook.  As previously mentioned, the City recently acquired 292 acres of land in the southwest quadrant for recreation and conservation.  While this preserves land of significant natural value, it is hoped that this recent acquisition will not preclude the City from pursuing other parcels in the future.  As will be seen in the section below, there are several parcels in the southwest quadrant which are either contiguous to already protected land, or are of high ecological value.  The following section will discuss these priority areas for future conservation efforts.

 

 

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2.            Priorities for Future Conservation Efforts

 

a.      The Regional Environmental Planning Program (REPP)

 

The Regional Environmental Planning Program (REPP) was created by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) to develop a statewide inventory of resources in the following categories: water, land and forestry, historic and cultural, ecological, geological, and public recreational resources.  The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP), proposed to be established and funded through Senate Bill 401, will use the REPP inventories to set priorities for future conservation and preservation efforts.  The LCHIP is recommending that funding be made available for communities, non-profit agencies, and state agencies, through a competitive grant application process for the acquisition or protection

(such as through conservation easements) of priority resources.  Each of the state’s nine regional planning commissions received funding from NHDES for two years of environmental planning work.  The objective for the first year was the identification of natural and cultural resources in each community.   The objective for the second year was a refinement of priorities, with each community identifying their top five priority areas.  The regional planning commissions are responsible for coordinating the efforts of each of their communities, with the local Conservation Commissions serving as the coordinating agencies at the local level. 

 

For the first phase of work under the REPP, the regional planning commissions asked each community to rank each resource as high, medium, or low priority based on the following criteria:

 

High Priority: important high quality rare or unique resource; threatened by development,

disturbance, or potential contamination; critical need for immediate protection; may disappear or be severely impacted if not preserved with the next 5 years; provides an important link between existing conservation areas.

 

Medium Priority: resource with a moderate level of threat from development, disturbance or potential contamination; adds to an existing parcel / network or conservation lands; would enhance protection of an already protected resource; moderate need for protection within the next 10 years.

 

Low Priority:  no significant threat from development, disturbance or potential contamination; adds to an existing parcel / network of conservation land; long-term need for protection within the next 10 – 20 years.

 

The resources ranked were in seven categories: water resources; land and forestry resources; historic and cultural resources; ecological resources; geological and topographic resources; public facilities and services; and other.

 

For the second phase of work, the regional planning commissions asked each community to identify the top five parcels or areas for protection, based on the priority ranking system described above.  Each community was asked to provide detailed information for their top five, including information on ownership, size of the parcel(s), resource type, what makes it significant, imminence of threat, and local support for protecting the resource.  In addition to these local priorities, the regional planning commissions identified the top regional resources, those transcending municipal boundaries.  These will be examined following discussion of the local priorities.

 

As previously mentioned, the Conservation Commissions are the lead agencies at the local level for the REPP process.  The Nashua Conservation Commission held a series of meetings in the Spring of 1999 to develop their priority list, based on a comprehensive listing of known sites / resources in each of the 7 categories.  The main features of the top five local priorities are briefly discussed below, followed by a similar discussion of the regional priority resources found within Nashua.  The location of these sites is keyed and shown on Map IV - 5. 

 

Map IV-5

Map IV-5 Current and Potential Conservation Land

 

 

 

 


Local Priorities

 

      1)   The Pennichuck watershed land (R1) in northwestern Nashua was designated the number one conservation priority.  The area totals approximately 650 acres. The entire area is within the watershed of Pennichuck Brook, Nashua’s primary surface water supply.  The area is also extensively forested, with a network of wetlands crisscrossing the area.  The area is likely to be of high ecological value in that it is largest unbroken, contiguous area of forest and wetland habitat within Nashua City limits.

 

            This area west of the B&M railroad tracks and the Nashua Airport is zoned Park Industrial.  Until recently, lack of access and remoteness precluded any development in this area.  However, in 1997 approvals were granted to extend a road from Northwestern Boulevard across the railroad tracks to allow for the development of an office building.  This and subsequent office, research and development and manufacturing uses have consumed approximately 100 acres in this park industrial area.  The City is in the process of acquiring the remaining 300 acres of land in this area.  This purchase will enable the City to protect this remaining land for conservation, passive recreation and limited active recreation use.

 

      2)   Three parcels of land in agricultural use immediately west of Yudicky Farm (R2) were designated the # 2 conservation priority.  These parcels total 138 acres. This land west of Yudicky Farm is the largest contiguous area in Nashua’s southwest quadrant still in agricultural use.  It contributes to the still largely rural nature of Nashua’s southwest corner. These parcels are contiguous to City-owned land at Yudicky Farm and land recently acquired by the City to the north and east.

 

            The supply of land available for housing development in Nashua is dwindling rapidly, and the City’s recent acquisition of 292 acres of land north of Yudicky Farm and in the vicinity of Lovewell’s Pond further reduced the land available for future housing development, though it preserved valuable land for recreation and conservation.  This recently acquired land was once part of the 1980’s anticipated “Hall’s Corner” Planned Residential Development.  The setting aside of that land for recreation and conservation is likely to intensify development pressure on the few remaining large contiguous parcels in the City.  The three parcels of land west of Yudicky Farm are now the largest remaining developable parcels in the southwest quadrant, and at current rates of development are likely to be developed within 5 – 10 years if not otherwise protected.

 

      3)   The # 3 priority is land along the Merrimack River suitable for trails and/or a boat launch facility.  The exact location / parcels have yet to be determined, and as such this project requires further study. The Nashua Recreation Master Plan states:  “With boating, canoeing, and fishing indicated in the survey as of substantial interest to Nashua’s adults as well as children, more access to the City’s surface waters is desirable. … A boat ramp should be provided on the Merrimack River somewhere near the Massachusetts border which will also allow canoes to be taken out after coming downstream from Greeley Park.”  The survey also indicates that the number one recreational pursuit of Nashua residents is walking and hiking, and providing such trails along the Merrimack River will afford citizens access to the River and its scenic amenities.

 

      4)   The # 4 priority is the “Intervale” area (R4), located south of Intervale Street, on the north bank of the Nashua River.  This area totals approximately 35 acres.  The “Intervale” is located between the Nashua River and one of its coves, north of the eastern end of Mine Falls Park.  Virtually the entire area is within the 100-year floodplain of the Nashua River.  The intervale is one of the best examples of a floodplain forest remaining in Nashua.  Its lower, eastern end contains a wide diversity of vegetation and as such is ideal wildlife habitat for many species.  It is likely to be a prime resting and feeding area for songbirds during the spring and fall migrations.  This area of the Intervale is unlikely ever to be developed, as it is entirely within the 100-year floodplain and much of it is wetland.  However, the upper, western area, especially near the end of Intervale Street, could potentially be developed.  This western area serves as the primary means of access into the area, and if developed, land access to the Intervale would be very difficult to provide.  Several acres on this western end have recently been selectively logged.  Most of the trees taken out were white pine, and this western area does not exhibit the same degree of biodiversity found further to the east.  Logging of hardwoods to the east could have more serious ecological repercussions, as they serve as feeding and resting areas for a wide variety of migratory birds and other wildlife species.  

 

Funding for the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program is expected to continue for the long term.  It is recommended that the City continue to participate in the refinement of the REPP process, so that the City will be in a good position to act quickly.  It is also important that all landowners of priority properties be contacted and informed of the REPP process and the Land and Community Heritage Commission.  It is recommended that a natural resource inventory of the above properties be undertaken to determine their ecological value.

 

Regional Priorities

 

            While the local Conservation Commissions were charged with identifying local conservation priorities, the regional planning commissions were charged with identifying regional conservation priorities.  The Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) has identified three major regional priorities:  the Nashua River corridor, the Merrimack River corridor, and the Pennichuck Brook watershed.  For each, NRPC identified parcels to consider for protection, which may or may not overlap those chosen by the local Conservation Commissions.  A brief overview of each regional priority will be given below, with an emphasis on parcels not identified in the top five at the local level.

 

      1)   Nashua River Corridor

 

            The Nashua River flows northerly from its headwaters in central Massachusetts through Hollis and Nashua to its confluence with the Merrimack River.  Within Nashua, there are three areas besides the Intervale (REPP priority # 5) that have been identified for future conservation efforts.  Please see Map IV - 5 for the location of these properties.

            The first property (a) is a small parcel to the immediate west of Horrigan Park that could serve to provide additional public access to this little known conservation area. The second area (b) consists of 4 small properties totaling 7 acres adjacent to Heidi Lane off of West Hollis Street (Route 111).  These thin, irregularly shaped parcels all have access to the Nashua River, and are adjacent to a densely populated section of Nashua.  The third area (c) is a 22-acre parcel adjacent to the DPW site on Riverside Drive, to the west of the southern portion of Mine Falls Park, where the new rectangular stadium is being built.  This property would also be a good alternative location for a boat launch or boat house.  The current boat launch is located near the Nashua River hydroelectric dam, the access road for which cuts through the DPW property.  This property was recently acquired by the City for development of an athletic field/stadium and for improving access to Mine Falls Park.

 

      2)   Merrimack River Corridor

 

            The Merrimack River corridor is the most significant surface water resource in the NRPC region.  The shoreline of the River is remarkably undeveloped for an urban area, however development pressures along the River are increasing.  Ironically, the increased desirability of riverfront property can be attributed to the clean-up efforts of the last few decades.  As seen in the REPP discussion above, the City has identified increased River access and trails along the River as one of its top priorities.  The Beazer East site in northeastern Nashua is the # 2 REPP priority. 

 

     

3)   Pennichuck Brook Watershed

 

            Pennichuck Brook feeds a chain of ponds that supply drinking water to Nashua, Merrimack, Amherst, Milford, and Hollis under the management of Pennichuck Water Works.  The extensive watershed supplies the chain ponds with water through both surface flow (runoff) and base flow (groundwater infiltration). Nashua’s # 1 REPP priority is a large section of watershed land in northwest Nashua.  The Pennichuck Brook watershed, as well as the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers, will be discussed in greater detail in part III of this element, the Water Resources Management and Protection Plan.

 


b.         Other Areas Deserving Consideration for Protection

 

            There are several smaller parcels / areas that should be considered for protection, based either on their resource value, or on their value in connecting or extending existing protected land.  Parcels or areas previously discussed will not be mentioned again.  The location of these parcels is shown on Map IV – 5, with the letter designations given in parentheses below. 

 

            The first area, which may be suitable for a conservation easement, is on the shoreline of the Nashua River between Brenda Street and Xenia Street (d).  This area is southeast of Horrigan Park, on the southern side of the Nashua River, and its protection would add to the protected, natural shoreline for this stretch of River.  This parcel has its frontage on West Hollis Street, across from the St. Louis De Gonzague cemetery.  The entire parcel is about 12 acres.  It is recommended that a conservation easement be obtained along the Nashua River frontage.  The width of the protected area should be determined after careful study by a qualified expert.

 

            The second area (e) is found at the confluence of the Pennichuck Brook and the Merrimack River, just to the west of the B&M railroad tracks.  It is located within the proposed Circumferential Highway area that crosses the Merrimack River on its way to the F.E. Everett Turnpike.  This area may be suitable as a “mitigation site” for the Circumferential Highway.

 

            Another area of special concern is a vernal pool (or pools) identified by the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory program in the area east of Buck Meadow Road and just north of Ridge Road (f), another vernal pool has been identified in the Maplewood Subdivision. Vernal pools are generally upland areas that fill with water for a short period in the spring following snowmelt and early spring rains.  They serve as breeding habitat for a variety of amphibian species.  Many amphibian species are declining due to the loss of suitable habitat.  It is recommended that when development is proposed for this area, that the location of the vernal pools be identified and flagged, and that both the pools and a suitable buffer zone around them be designated as off-limits for development.  The vernal pools and buffer zone should be permanently protected, perhaps through a conservation easement.  

 

            Another fairly large, undeveloped parcel is located in the southwest quadrant immediately to the east of Salmon Brook where it crosses Ridge Road. This 25-acre parcel (g) is currently owned by the Boy Scouts of America and is used as a summer camp (Camp Doucette). Keeping this land in its present use would be desirable from an environmental and open space standpoint, as this area of Ridge Road provides a break in developed land between the PRD land to the east (Meadowview Estates) and the residential subdivisions to the west.  The entire western edge of this property is bordered by Salmon Brook, and keeping the land in a natural, forested state would help to protect both water quality and wildlife habitat in the lower Salmon Brook corridor. 

 

           


In the northwest quadrant, off of Coburn Avenue, is Sullivan Farm (h), the last remaining active orchard / farmstand in Nashua.  The entire property comprises 43.4 acres.  If this property is not protected, either through direct purchase or another mechanism, such as a conservation easement, it is likely to be developed, as it has few constraints and is in a developing part of the City.

 

            It is recommended that the City consider purchasing some of the above-mentioned “other” areas, especially those adjacent to existing parkland.  The purchase of such additional parcels would enlarge existing parks, and provide additional buffer areas from nearby residential and/or commercial development.

 

Scenic Area Preservation

 

            There are several scenic areas in Nashua, particularly in the southwest quadrant, deserving of protection.  As the southwest quadrant develops, some loss of rural character is unavoidable.  However, careful planning can help to preserve the scenic roadside views that most people associate with “rural character.”  The following list of scenic areas is by no means a comprehensive inventory, but is intended as a starting off point for a discussion of how best to preserve these areas.  The general location of these areas is shown on Map IV - 5.

 

      1)   The northern side of Ridge Road between Quinton Drive and Buck Meadow Road

            This area, particularly the open field with farm buildings at the intersection of Buck Meadow Road, has the quintessential “rural” look.  In the event that the large parcel(s) encompassed by Ridge Road, Buck Meadow Road, and Cold Brook is proposed for development, efforts should be taken to preserve the land along Ridge and Buck Meadow Roads, perhaps through a conservation easement.  The depth of the easement should be sufficient to screen most of the development from view, and preserve the open field and farm buildings along the road.

 

      2)   The northern side of Ridge Road between Yudicky Farm and Woodbury Drive

This area has been described in the section on the Regional Environmental Planning Program.  The site was identified by the Nashua Conservation Commission as their # 2 conservation priority.  In the event that this land cannot be preserved from development, it is recommended that at a minimum that the frontage of these parcels be preserved, to a sufficient depth to screen development from view. 

 

      3)   The land associated with and in the vicinity of Sullivan Farm on Coburn Avenue

This area has just been discussed above.  Again, in the event that this land cannot be preserved from development, efforts should be made to protect as much of the frontage area as possible.

 

 

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3.      Future Urban Trails and Non-Motorized Connections

 

          In 1993 / 1994, the City prepared the Nashua Urban Trails Network and the Nashua Trails Plan, which was adopted as a component of the Master Plan Update in 1996.   The Trails Plan documents existing and proposed on-street and off-street “urban trails,” which are shown on Map IV - 6.  The goals of the Nashua Urban Trails Network are:

 

·        The trails contribute to Nashua’s transportation network by stressing alternatives to the automobile.

·        The trails offer safety for the urban trail user.

·        The trails provide recreational opportunities for the urban trail user.

 

Map IV-6

Map IV-6 Nashua Trails Plan

 

 

 

 

On-street trails consist of sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks.  Off-street trails consist of the more typical type of trail: wooded paths, hiking trails, equestrian trails, and bike trails.  The Urban Trails Alliance (UTA), a sub-committee of the Aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure, is the principal organization in the City responsible for developing urban trails.  Since the adoption of the Trails Plan, the UTA has developed several off-road trails in Nashua, and has been an advocate of sidewalks, bike lanes and other on-street trails.  Details and recommendations of the Trails Plan will not be restated here, the reader is asked to refer to the original document.  One recommendation that will be made here is that the 1994 Trails Plan be revised to reflect current conditions in the City, and describe and map the trails that have been developed over the last several years.  This section of the Natural Resources element will identify possible trails and connections that could be further explored through an update of the Trails Plan.

 

The land recently acquired by the City, centered on Yudicky Farm, would be ideal for the creation of an off-road trails network.  The UTA is currently developing trails within Yudicky Farm, and new trails could be made to connect to Lovewell’s Pond, the land north of Yudicky Farm, the Main Dunstable School, and trails to be developed in the Flexible Use District subdivision to the east of Buck Meadow Road.  Another trail project that should be explored is a connection between Mine Falls Park and the Ayer / Pepperell Rail Trail, a Massachusetts trail which meets Nashua in the far southwest corner near the Nashua River. The City is in the process of purchasing the Nashua portion up to Groton Road.  Due to extensive development in the southwest quadrant over the last several decades, such a trail would probably require an extensive on-road component.  Nonetheless, it could serve as both a recreational trail and as a non-motorized transportation route, linking those living in the southwest quadrant to employment opportunities in downtown Nashua and the Millyard.

 

One of the major barriers to all forms of transportation in the City is the Nashua River, which bisects the entire City from west to east.   There are several locations west of the Turnpike where it may be possible to span the River with pedestrian / bicycle bridges.  The first bridge (1), adjacent to the Hollis town line, would connect the northern tip of Horrigan Park to land owned by the Hollis Crossing condominium complex.  The second bridge (2) would connect the City-owned Tilton Road boat ramp land to the presently undeveloped parcel west of Heidi Lane.  This property was previously discussed as one suitable for a conservation easement along the River.  A pedestrian bridge could go over the Mine Falls damn connecting the two high schools.  Though these two projects may seem inherently difficult, the City may want to pursue them as part of a congestion mitigation air quality (CMAC) grant or another program under the TEA-21 umbrella.  Development of these bridges and their trail connections would require negotiations with private landowners, but that should not deter the City going ahead, as many trails in the State and elsewhere are located on private land.  Given Nashua’s close to build-out situation at the turn of the century, most future trails of any length will require easements and other agreements with private landowners. 

 

 

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V.        Water Resources Management and Protection Plan

 

A.         Water Resources Inventory

 

The word Nashua means “land between the rivers” and, as the name indicates, Nashua is rich in water resources.  This section of the Conservation and Preservation Element will focus on the City’s water resources; its characteristics; potential threats to water quality; and what can be done to preserve, and when possible, enhance water quality and functional attributes.  This section of the Master Plan is intended to supplement, but not replace, comprehensive studies such as the Merrimack River Corridor Management Plan (1989); the Merrimack River Initiative Management Plan (1997); the 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed (1995); Watershed Connections (1997); and the Pennichuck Water Works Management Plan (1998).  Where appropriate, the most pertinent sections of these reports and Plans will be reproduced or referenced in this chapter.  The above-mentioned reports are on file at the Nashua Community Development and the Nashua Regional Planning Commission offices. 

 

1.            Surface Water Resources

 

Surface water resources include lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and wetlands.  This section of the Master Plan will briefly examine Nashua’s surface water resources, with an emphasis on water quality, threats to water quality, and what can be done to safeguard and enhance water quality.  In this endeavor, it has been discovered that a comprehensive approach, based on watersheds, is most appropriate.  Therefore, this discussion will start with a description of the major watersheds in Nashua, followed by a discussion of specific water resources within the main watersheds.  This section of the report will mainly consist of an inventory of the water resources, their recent history, and current water quality issues.  Section B., Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources, will report on ongoing and recommended action steps to protect water supply and water quality for each of the major water resources discussed.

 

a.            Watersheds

 

            A watershed can be simply defined as a geographic area consisting of all land that drains to a particular body of water.  Watersheds vary in size, shape, and complexity.  Watersheds can be delineated by identifying the highest topographic points in a given area, and then determining the direction in which water will flow from these high points.  All water bodies including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands have their respective watersheds.  Major rivers, such as the Merrimack River, are comprised of not only an overall watershed, but many sub-watersheds for each tributary that flows into the main river.  For example, the Nashua River, a tributary of the Merrimack River, has its own watershed which is but one of several sub-watersheds comprising the entire Merrimack River watershed. 

 

            A watershed approach to water supply and water quality protection makes the most sense because it attempts comprehensive management of all factors within the watershed that could impact the quality and quantity of water reaching the pertinent water body.  In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that land-uses within watersheds have a major impact on recipient water bodies.  A watershed approach to water supply and water quality protection will be discussed in greater depth in Part B of this section, Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources.  In Nashua, there are four major watersheds:

 

·        the Merrimack River watershed,

·        the Nashua River watershed,

·        the Pennichuck Brook watershed, and

·        the Salmon Brook watershed.

 

Each of these major watersheds contains minor sub-watersheds, both within and outside of Nashua, which contribute to the major watersheds, but this element of the Master Plan Update will concern itself only with the four watersheds mentioned above.  Significant tributary streams within Nashua that contribute to the above watersheds will be mentioned where pertinent.  Brief descriptions and facts about each watershed will be given below.  This section of the report will consist of an inventory of the water resources, their recent history, and current water quality issues.  Section B., Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources, will report on ongoing and recommended action steps to protect water supply and water quality for each of the major water resources.  The location of each of the watersheds discussed below can be seen on the Map IV - 7.

 

Map IV-7

Map IV-7 Water Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Merrimack River Watershed

 

The Merrimack River watershed extends from the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire southward to the northeastern corner of Massachusetts.  The Merrimack’s 5,010 square mile watershed is the fourth largest in New England, with 76% (3,810 square miles) in New Hampshire and the remainder in northeastern Massachusetts.  The Merrimack River itself is formed by the convergence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers in Franklin, New Hampshire.  From this convergence point, the Merrimack River follows a 115 mile route past the cities of Concord, Manchester, and Nashua, New Hampshire, and the Lowell / Lawrence area in Massachusetts to the ocean at Newburyport. 

 

According to the 1990 census, approximately 1,920,000 people live in the 203 municipalities within the watershed, a 28% increase over the 1980 population.  As with most large rivers, the Merrimack River has several major tributaries, each with its own watershed.  In Nashua, the major tributaries and sub-watersheds are the Nashua River, Pennichuck Brook and Salmon Brook, each of which will be discussed below.  The entire City of Nashua is thus within the greater Merrimack River watershed, though only a small part of the City is within the “main stem” watershed.  Of the City’s 19,770 acres, 3,034 are within the mainstem watershed, with the remainder being in the Nashua River, Pennichuck Brook, or Salmon Brook watersheds.  

 

            There are two main documents that address watershed-wide issues for the Merrimack River.  The first, prepared in 1989 by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, is the Merrimack River Corridor Management Plan.  The second, prepared in 1997 by the Merrimack River Initiative, is called Watershed Connections.  Both of these reports are on file at the Community Development Division office in the Nashua City Hall, and at the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.  It is the recommendation of this Master Plan Update that the goals, objectives and recommended actions found in these reports, as they pertain to Nashua, be reviewed, and, if found pertinent, become the official policy of the City as far as watershed management issues are concerned.

 

Nashua River Watershed

 

The Nashua River watershed encompasses an area of 538 square miles in north-central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.  As of the 1990 Census, approximately 240,000 people lived within the watershed.  As mentioned above, the Nashua River is a major tributary of the Merrimack River.  At 7,598 acres, the Nashua River watershed has the largest area of any watershed within the Nashua city limits. The Nashua River originates in Lancaster, Massachusetts, and flows northward from there, against the grain of its watershed and in opposition to the flow of most of its major tributaries.  This causes the flow of the Nashua River to be slower than that of its tributaries, and this slower flow makes it more vulnerable to oxygen depletion from pollution. 

 

The Nashua River Watershed Association has produced a document titled 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed.  This 1995 document constitutes a watershed management plan, and includes “Recommended Actions for Nashua to Consider for Achieving the Goals of the 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed.”  These recommended actions will be listed and discussed in Part B of this section, Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources.

 

Pennichuck Brook Watershed

 

The Pennichuck Brook watershed is a relatively minor sub-watershed of the Merrimack River.  It encompasses an area of 17,984 acres, all of which is found in the greater Nashua region.  The majority of the watershed is located in Hollis, Nashua, and Merrimack.  Though it is a relatively small watershed, it is very important to Nashua, as the Pennichuck Brook system is the City’s primary source of drinking water.   

 

            The Pennichuck Brook watershed comprises 3,702 acres in Nashua, which is 20.6% of the total watershed area.  As can be seen from Map IV - 7, the Pennichuck watershed amounts to about 20% of the City’s area.  Pennichuck Water Work’s Watershed Management Plan (1998) documents how extensive residential, commercial, and industrial development in Nashua and elsewhere in the watershed has degraded the water quality of the Pennichuck Brook system, largely due to non-point source pollution (urban runoff) from impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots.  Impervious surfaces prevent the natural recharge of groundwater, and increase the amount of unfiltered stormwater reaching the ponds and brook.  This urban runoff carries pollutants and excess nutrients, usually in the form of phosphorous, to water bodies, which accelerates eutrophication.  Total imperviousness of the entire watershed is estimated at 15%, and studies indicate that water quality degradation begins to occur at approximately 10% imperviousness.  In Nashua, the Boire Field Brook subwatershed, which includes the Nashua Airport and much of the Route 101-A commercial corridor, is estimated to be 36% impervious. The land uses with the highest degree of impervious cover are industrial, commercial, and high density (less than ˝ acre lots) residential.  In Nashua, 11% of the land abutting the ponds and streams is zoned high density residential, 36% is zoned industrial, and 6% is zoned commercial.  In order to minimize future water quality degradation, it is vital that land use decisions in the watershed recognize the connection between land use and water quality. 

 

In order to address the degradation of water quality in the Pennichuck pond system, the City recently adopted a Water Supply Protection District.  The provisions of this ordinance, which address many of the problems listed above, will be discussed in Part B., Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources. The City needs to take active steps to increase treatment and recharge as redevelopment takes place in the watershed.  Furthermore, the City needs to continue improvements to the storm water system along Route 101A, so that the stormwater is treated before it is discharged.

 

Salmon Brook Watershed

Like the Pennichuck Brook watershed, the Salmon Brook watershed is a relatively small sub-watershed of the Merrimack River.  Salmon Brook flows from Massapog Pond in Dunstable, and enters Nashua to the west of Pinebrook Road.  It then flows northeasterly to its confluence with the Merrimack River near the Nashua Wastewater Treatment Facility.  The Salmon Brook watershed comprises 5,435 acres in Nashua, second in area only to the Nashua River watershed within the city limits. Within Nashua, the Salmon Brook watershed includes rural, suburban, and urban areas.  As will be seen in the discussion below on threats to water quality, both suburban and urban areas have a great potential of contributing runoff (non-point) type pollution to water bodies.  The fertilizers used on suburban lawns, and stormwater runoff from parking lots in urban areas, in particular, pose great threats to water quality.  As much of the development along Salmon Brook in Nashua occurred prior to the adoption of wetland regulations in the City, which require minimum setbacks from wetlands and waterbodies, suburban lawns and impervious areas encroach upon Salmon Brook for much of its length.  Cold Brook is a subwatershed of Salmon Brook, with Lovewell’s Pond as its headwaters.

 


b.      Rivers and Streams

 

            As mentioned in the watershed descriptions above, the major rivers and streams that flow within and through Nashua are the Merrimack River, the Nashua River, Pennichuck Brook, and Salmon Brook.  In addition, there are several smaller tributary streams to each of the above major rivers and streams found within the City.  Table IV - 2 lists some key facts concerning the major and most significant minor streams in Nashua. 

 

            The two most significant rivers, of course, are the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers.  As can be seen from the water resources map, the Nashua River bisects the City from west to east.  Nashua is one of the historic mill cities, and many mills were sited along the riverbanks in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The River was utilized for waterpower, and, unfortunately, for waste disposal was well.  Remains of the original canal system can still be seen in Mine Falls Park.  There are many excellent guides to the history of Nashua and its rivers, which the interested reader can consult.  The primary focus of this section of the Master Plan is on water quality issues.   In order to understand these, a brief historical overview may be helpful.

 

            According to the 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed: 

 

The low point for water quality in the Nashua River came in the mid-1960’s.  The River, weakened by drought, could not carry away all the waste dumped into it.  The ponds behind the River’s dams became festering lagoons where sewage worms thrived.  The river’s stinking waters barely flowed, discolored by paper mill dyes and choked with municipal sewage and mill waste.  The Nashua River was classified “U,” unfit to transport sewage, because it already was burdened with far more than it could carry away.” 

 

            Thankfully, today the situation is much improved, although the River still faces threats, and when it comes to water quality, there is no time for complacency.  Through local clean-up efforts, and, most especially the effects of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the River began a slow recovery.  The Clean Water Act prohibits the gross polluting of surface and ground waters through the introduction of point sources of pollution, defined as “any discernable, confined and discrete conveyance.”  This includes such pollution sources as pipes, ditches, channels, wells, animal feedlots, or containers from which pollutants can be discharged.  The Act requires all point source discharges to obtain a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  The Act specifically establishes an allowable level of pollution that can be contained in the facility’s discharge.  In addition to establishing the NPDES program, the Act also provided funding for grants to be used in constructing municipal wastewater treatment plants to treat sewage prior to discharge.  By greatly reducing the discharge of raw sewage, the Act has had a significant impact on water quality.  The Act does not address non-point pollution, however, which has replaced point source pollution as the greatest remaining threat to water quality.  Non-point sources of pollution are more difficult to identify, and, as the term implies, can have more than one point of origin. Sources of non-point pollution included runoff from agricultural land, septic system effluent, and runoff from roads, parking lots and other impervious areas.  The characteristics of non-point pollution will be discussed in greater detail in Section 3.

 

            The Nashua and Merrimack Rivers greatly benefited from the Act, as riverbank communities installed wastewater treatment plants and undertook other measures to improve water quality.  Today, both the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers generally meet Class B water standards in most stretches.

 

            In order to establish a set of standards for water quality, the EPA developed a water classification system.  There are three primary water classifications: A, B, and C. 

 

Class A is designated for use as a public water supply; Class B is designated for the protection and propagation of fish, other aquatic life, and wildlife, and for primary contact recreation (swimming) and secondary contact recreation (boating).  Class B is often termed “fishable and swimmable.”  Class C is designated as suitable for the protection and propagation of fish and wildlife, and for secondary contact recreation (boating). Class C waters are generally not recommended for swimming, however. 

 

TABLE IV – 2

RIVERS AND STREAMS WITHIN NASHUA

 

River or Stream

Water Quality

Classification

Length

within Nashua

Merrimack River

B

7.7

Nashua River

B

8.2

Salmon Brook

B

6.4

Pennichuck Brook

A / B

7.9

Spit Brook

B

1.1

Cold Brook

B

1.5

Hassel Brook

B

2

Hale Brook

B

1.8

Lyle Reed Brook

B

1.9

Notes:  Class A designates water bodies suitable for use as public drinking water supplies. Class B designates water bodies that are “fishable and swimmable.”  With treatment, Class B water bodies can also be used for water supply purposes

 

Sources: Merrimack River Corridor Management Plan, NRPC, 1988, 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed, Nashua River Watershed Association, 1995. 

 

 


c.      Lakes and Ponds

 

            In comparison to its wealth of rivers and streams, Nashua contains very few standing water bodies of any appreciable size.  There are no large natural lakes within Nashua, but the City does contain several small ponds, which are listed in Table IV – 3.  The table does not list the impoundments of the Pennichuck Brook system, which, for the purposes of this section, are considered part of Pennichuck Brook. 

 

            Of the remaining ponds, the most well known in Nashua are Round Pond and Lovewell’s Pond.  Though both are approximately the same size and shape, they differ significantly in character.  Round Pond, located off of Amherst Street in the City’s northwest quadrant, can best be described as an urban pond.  It is surrounded on three sides by development, and its vegetated buffer is relatively thin.  Lovewell’s Pond, on the other hand, is located in the rural southwest corner of Nashua, and its entire shoreline remains vegetated and undeveloped. Lovewell’s Pond recently benefited from the acquisition of conservation and recreation land in the southwest quadrant, which will preclude any development of the upland area east of the pond.  As an attractive, but yet undeveloped water body, Lovewell’s Pond is a surprising rarity in Nashua, and indeed in most of southern New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory mentions that there is a rare bog ecosystem at Lovewell’s Pond.  The floating bog mat covers 1-2 acres.  This type of plant community is said to be critically imperiled in the State due to extreme rarity or vulnerability.  

 

            Other well-known ponds in Nashua include Horse Pond, on the Horse Pond Fish and Game property, Sandy Pond off of Lake Street, and the Mill Pond in Mine Falls Park, which is an impoundment of the Nashua River canal. 

 

TABLE IV – 3

LAKES AND PONDS WITHIN NASHUA

 

Lake or Pond

Size

(acres)

Location in Nashua

(by quadrant)

Round Pond

13.4

NW

Lovewell’s Pond

11.9

SW

Horse Pond

5.3

NW

Sandy Pond

5.1

SE

Mill Pond (impoundment of

Nashua R. canal)

50

SW

 

 

 

 


d.         Wetlands

 

            Wetlands can be defined using several different characteristics.  The State of New Hampshire Wetlands Board defines wetlands as: “…those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal conditions do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil condition.”   This type of vegetation is termed “hydrophytic” vegetation.  Due to their saturated state, wetland soils are often termed either “very poorly drained” or “poorly drained” soils.  Many communities in New Hampshire base their wetland definitions on soil drainage classification alone, since in disturbed areas hydrophytic vegetation may have been removed or destroyed. 

 

            The City uses a threefold definition of wetlands in its wetlands regulations.  Article VIII., Section 16-572 of the Nashua Revised Ordinances defines wetlands as: “Wetlands are those areas which possess three essential characteristics: 1. Hydrophytic vegetation, 2. Hydric soils, and 3. Wetland hydrology. Wetlands generally include swamps, bogs, marshes, and areas saturated with water at or near the surface for extended periods during the year.   The City then goes on to classify three categories of wetlands: primary, critical, and other.  Each class of wetland has a different buffer zone around it within which land uses are severely restricted according to the provisions of the local wetland regulations.  These buffer zones and the main features of the wetlands ordinance will be described shortly. 

 

Primary wetlands are those areas designated as “prime wetlands” in accordance with RSA 483-A:7 (State Wetland Law).  It should be noted that several critical wetlands also fall under the primary wetland designation.  Examples include the Merrimack River, the Nashua River, Salmon Brook, and Pennichuck Brook.  When a wetland falls into several classifications, the regulations pertinent to the most restrictive apply.  Critical wetlands include the following waterbodies, watercourses, and their associated wetlands:

 

Nashua River, Nashua Canal, Merrimack River, Pennichuck Brook, Salmon Brook, Round Pond, Lovewell’s Pond, Bowers Pond, Harris Brook, Hales Brook, Horse Pond, Spectacle Brook, Trout Brook, Colerain Brook, Nashua cove, Coburn Pond, Supply Pond, Holts Pond, Hassell Brook, Old Maid’s Brook, Muddy Brook, Harris Brook, Cold Brook, Spit Brook, and Sandy Pond.

 

            “Other wetlands” are those areas not specifically defined as primary or critical wetlands, but which possess the characteristics described under the threefold wetland definition.

The most pertinent sections of the Nashua Revised Ordinances are reviewed below.   The location of the City’s primary wetlands is shown on the Map IV – 7, Water Resources.  Critical wetlands, other than those sharing primary wetland designation, are not shown on the map since many of them are small streams that will not show up at the scale provided.  Areas of very poorly drained and poorly drained soil are shown on Map IV – 8.  These soil types are often indicative of wetlands.

 

Map IV-8

Map IV-8 Soils Indicative of Wetlands

 

 

 

 


The greatest buffer zone for any wetland in Nashua is 75 feet for a primary wetland.  Critical wetlands have a 40-foot buffer, and “other” wetlands have a 20-foot buffer.  As the wetland ordinance points out, disturbance of the buffer area and, in some cases, the wetlands themselves, is permitted provided the Zoning Board of Adjustment determines that the proposed use meets the six (6) criteria listed in Sec. 16-575 (c) of the Nashua Revised Ordinances.  The Zoning Administrator reviews all proposed uses with one hundred (100) feet of wetlands, according to part (d) of the review standards.  Yet given the importance of wetlands and the historic loss of significant wetlands, the question arises whether the Nashua Wetland Ordinance is meeting its intended purpose of protecting the City’s remaining wetland areas.  

 

For example, many other states require a 100-foot buffer zone around all significant wetlands (often defined as those over one acre in size and which are hydrologically connected to lakes, ponds, rivers and streams).  The 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed reproduces a table derived from the 1994 Riparian Buffer Zones Conference, which summarizes the benefits derived from buffer zones of varying widths, from 5 to 600 feet.  Each distance is evaluated on the basis of two criteria, its effectiveness at pollutant removal, and its value as wildlife habitat.  A buffer zone of 10 feet, for example, is said to remove approximately 60% of sediment and pollutants, but minimally protects stream habitat, is of poor wildlife habitat value, and is only useful for temporary activities of wildlife.  This distance is mentioned because many of Nashua’s smaller streams, including the urbanized areas of Salmon Brook, have buffers of this width or slightly wider.  However, development in these areas occurred prior to the City’s adoption of wetland regulations.  Nonetheless, this encroachment represents a lost opportunity, particularly in the case of Salmon Brook, for a greenway linking the rural southwest quadrant to the inner city. 

 

A buffer zone of 50 feet is considered to provide approximately 75% sediment and pollutant removal, while having minimal general wildlife habitat value.  A buffer zone of 75 feet (Nashua’s standard for primary wetlands), is considered to provide 80% sediment and pollutant removal, and provides fair to good general wildlife habitat value.  A buffer zone of 100 feet, by comparison, provides the same degree of pollutant treatment, but provides significant wildlife habitat value, as well. 

 

In light of this information, it is recommended that Nashua’s standard buffer zones of 20, 40 and 75 feet may need to be reevaluated to determine if they are adequate to prevent water pollution and protect wildlife habitat.  Such an assessment should utilize scientific methods, including water sampling and wildlife habitat assessment.  While some degree of formal protection is better than none, if it is possible to increase environmental protection of water resources while not infringing on property rights, such action deserves careful consideration.

 

 


e.      Floodplains

 

Floodplains are low-lying areas, usually adjacent to rivers and streams, which are periodically flooded.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated two main classes of floodplains: the 100-year and 500-year.  The 100-year floodplain, or “zone A,” is that area with a 1% chance of being flooded in any given year.  The 500-year floodplain, or “zone B,” is that area with a 0.05% chance of being flooded in any given year.  FEMA has delineated these areas on official maps for most communities in the United States.  Map IV - 9 shows the general location of the 100- and 500-year floodplains in Nashua.  This map is not intended to replace the use of official FEMA maps in determining the location of floodplains or in decision-making, but is intended for general information purposes only. 

 

As can be seen from the Map IV - 9, most of Nashua’s floodplains are located along the Merrimack River, the Nashua River, Salmon Brook and Pennichuck Brook.  Small areas of floodplain also follow the course of some of the major streams in the City, such as Hassell Brook and Cold Brook. 

 

Map IV-9

Map IV-9 Flood Plain Map

 

 

 

 

Nashua regulates development in floodplains through the application of a floodplain development overlay district.  Any development proposed in a floodplain requires a permit from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).  All development must meet strict guidelines to ensure that the proposed building site is reasonably safe from flooding, and that the base flood elevation downstream of the site is not increased as a result of development, should a flood occur.  In general, it must be shown that all new construction or substantial improvements of residential structures have the lowest floor (including the basement) elevated at or above the 100-year flood elevation.  Any non-residential structure that includes areas below the 100-year flood elevation must be floodproofed such that the structure is watertight with walls substantially impermeable to the passage of water.

 

In general, it is good policy to avoid development in floodplains whenever possible.  This is especially true for the 100-year floodplain, which is statistically more likely to be flooded in any given year than the 500-year floodplain.  In addition, homeowners who borrow money in order to purchase homes in floodplain areas are required to obtain flood insurance.  It is recommended that residential, commercial and industrial development be discouraged from locating in floodplain areas.  However, water-related recreational uses, such as boat ramps and riverside parks, can be compatible with floodplains if they are carefully sited and constructed. 

 

 

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2.      Groundwater Resources

 

            Stratified drift aquifers have been the focus of groundwater studies in the northeast because of their ability to store and transmit large volumes of water.  Stratified drift is a glacial deposit composed of sand and gravel that has been sorted and left behind by glacial meltwaters.  Mixed deposits, often called glacial till, also store water but not in the quantity available from stratified drift aquifers.  In 1987, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) completed a study of stratified drift aquifers in the Nashua Region.

 

            The study found that the most extensive stratified drift deposits occur in northern Nashua in the vicinity of Pennichuck Brook.  A particularly significant deposit occurs in northwest Nashua near the Hollis border.  The quantity of groundwater available in this area is sufficient for municipal water supply wells, should Nashua ever wish to supplement its surface water supplies with groundwater.  The groundwater resources available in this location are yet another reason to limit development of this area.

 

At present, Nashua relies on surface waters from Pennichuck Brook, supplemented in the summer months with water from the Merrimack River, for its drinking water supply.  However, in the future it may be deemed desirable and perhaps even necessary to supplement the surface water supply with wells.  Pennichuck Water Work’s Integrated Water Resource Plan (1998) mentions the construction of additional wells near Pennichuck Pond as one of the options for increasing water supply.  The Plan states: “The aquifer near Pennichuck Pond is extensive and well protected by company-owned property.  The potential for the development of a series of gravel-pack wells is excellent.”

 

            A small number of Nashua’s population in the southwest quadrant relies on individual wells for home water supply.  Most of these homes are also beyond the current service area of Pennichuck Water Works.  The minimum lot size for lots relying on wells is 40,000 sq. feet and lots with wells and septic systems is 60,000 sq. ft.  These lot sizes are considered minimal for residential wellhead protection under most soil-based lot size standards.  It is recommended that the City consider increasing these minimum lot size requirements in light of the more recent soil-based lot size standards.  Such reconsideration should involve an assessment of the soils found in the area, adjacent land uses, and other pertinent factors.  After such study, it may be deemed advisable to increase the minimum lot size for lots dependent on both septic systems and wells.

 

 

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3.         Threats to Surface and Groundwater Quality

 

a.            Introduction

 

            Rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds face a myriad of threats.  As previously mentioned, the two main categories of water pollution are point source and non-point source pollution.  Point sources of pollution are those that can be traced back to an identifiable source, such as a pipe, sewer outfall, etc.   Non-point sources of pollution are those that are more diffuse in origin, such as agricultural and urban runoff, septic system effluent, snow dumps, soil erosion, etc.  This section will briefly discuss some of the issues and recent trends for point source and non-point source pollution. Recommended actions that can be taken to address each will be listed in Section B Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources, Section IV.B.

 

b.            Point-Sources of Pollution

 

            In recent decades, great progress has been achieved toward reducing point source pollution, largely through mechanisms created by the Clean Water Act.  All point source discharges of pollution require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.  However, 100% of point source pollution has certainly not been eliminated, despite this requirement and other provisions of the Clean Water Act.  Perhaps the greatest improvement in water quality is attributable to the installation of wastewater treatment plant in cities with public sewer systems.  Prior to implementation of the Clean Water Act, most municipal sewage was dumped into rivers with little or no treatment.  Today, all wastewater treatment plants provide primary, and most provide secondary, levels of treatment. 

 

            Nashua’s wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) came on line in 1960.  From 1960 – 1989, Nashua’s WWTF provided primary treatment, which involves the removal of solids from the wastestream.  Starting in 1989, the plant was able to provide secondary treatment, which removes most organic pollutants (termed BODs for biochemical oxygen demand) from the waste stream (approximately 95% reduction).

 

            At present, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are the major point source water quality problem for most rivers.  CSOs are sewage overflows that occur when stormwater inflow, usually during and shortly after major storms, exceeds the capacity of the wastewater treatment system.  The overflows are discharged directly into rivers, without any treatment, and therefore contribute to increased nutrient loading, bacterial contamination, and the introduction of other toxins.  CSOs are a direct threat to human health and water quality.  Therefore, CSO abatement warrants consideration as a high priority for future water quality improvement activities. 

 

      The City of Nashua is currently undertaking a major CSO project, which will address the infiltration of stormwater into the City’s sewer system.  Map IV - 10 shows the areas of the City with combined wastewater and stormwater systems. 

 

Map IV-10

Map IV-10 C.S.O. Project Area

 

 

 

 


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has issued the City an order requiring that the separation program be completed within 20 years, by December 31, 2019.  The CSO project will replace the sewer lines in these areas, and provide for separate stormwater treatment or other measures. 

 

As part of the CSO project, the City’s Division of Public Works will be implementing a program to reduce inflow and infiltration throughout the City, not just in the CSO areas. In general, infiltration (flow from leaky pipes and manholes) and inflow (flow from streams and rivers) reduces the treatment capacity of the Wastewater Treatment Facility and limits the ability of WTF to manage CSO discharges.

 

In undertaking the CSO project, the City will coordinate construction work with other City projects to reduce costs and impacts on neighborhoods.  The City will also encourage other utilities such as Pennichuck Water Works and Energy North to replace their aging infrastructure at the same time the City is undertaking CSO construction work.  In this way, disruption to neighborhoods and traffic flow will be minimized.

 


c.      Non-Point Source Pollution

 

            Non-point source pollution can be briefly defined as pollution that is transported from a variety of sources, such as farms, golf courses, roadways, parking lots, septic systems, etc. by rain and melting snow over the land, or through the soil into a waterbody.  Non-point source pollution is both widespread and more difficult to address than point source pollution, due primarily to the diffuse nature of the pollution source.  Non-point source pollution is generally regarded as the most significant current water pollution threat.  Indeed, several studies document that two-thirds of all water pollution now comes from non-point sources.  Now that CSOs are being addressed, water pollution abatement efforts should now focus primarily on non-point sources. 

 

            Before we address measures that can be taken to address non-point source pollution, we must first examine the process by which non-point sources degrade water quality. Urbanization results in an increase in the impervious area, generally from buildings and pavement, resulting in an increase in the volume and velocity of run-off.  Stormwater run-off from urban areas may carry oil, gasoline, anti-freeze, road salt, contaminated dirt, and other chemicals.  In addition, new housing developments generally apply a substantial amount of fertilizers and pesticides to lawns and gardens. Run-off carrying non-point source pollution is, by definition, “dirty,” and brings bacteria and chemicals into water bodies, and excessive amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous which encourage weed growth.  The resulting excessive plant growth can choke waterways and make the water cloudy.  When water bodies become cloudy and more shallow, their summer water temperature rises, while dissolved oxygen levels fall, which can lead to fish kills.  This accelerated process by which water bodies become prematurely fertile is called eutrophication.  The repeated influx of contaminated stormwater can cause lasting eutrophication and deterioration of water bodies.  Pennichuck Water Works, in their Watershed Management Plan (1998), documents that this process is definitely underway in the Pennichuck pond and brook system, which is Nashua’s primary source of drinking water.

 

            Non-point source pollution and land-use are closely linked, as can be seen from the above list of pollutants.  Natural ground cover, which in the northeastern United States is forest, provides the greatest water purification and runoff treatment of any vegetative type.  If the water quality of Pennichuck Brook, the Merrimack River, the Nashua River, and other water bodies is to be preserved and enhanced, it is imperative that land-use practices that minimize the cutting and disturbance of vegetation be adhered to in future development and re-development in the respective watersheds.

 

 

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B.         Management and Protection Plan for Water Resources

 

1.      The Watershed Approach to Water Quality Protection

 

            The Merrimack River Initiative (MRI) Management Plan (March 1997) defines a watershed approach as “using a naturally delineated area -a watershed- as a unit of analysis and management.  The watershed approach makes intrinsic good sense in that what we do on the land impacts the quality and quantity of water and other natural resources in the watershed.”

The MRI Plan lists five major benefits of the watershed approach:

 

·        Targets limited resources to achieve the most environmental benefit.

·        Defines a unit in which to measure results.

·        Develops a sense of identification with the watershed and a stewardship ethic.

·        Shares responsibility for watershed protection and management among stakeholders.

·        Considers issues of sustainable growth.

 

It is recommended that the City adopt a watershed approach towards the protection of its water resources.  A good first step in this direction was the City’s recent (1998) adoption of a Water Supply Protection District for the Pennichuck Brook watershed.  The provisions of this district are covered in Section IV.B.2. 

 

The MRI Plan lists several recommendations, found on pages 35 through 40 of their report, addressing issues of water quality, water quantity, data management, the watershed approach (focusing on interstate and inter-agency cooperation), education and outreach, and regulatory reform.  The main water quality goals pertinent to municipalities listed in the Plan are:

 

·        Decrease non-point source pollution throughout the watershed

·        Decrease the impacts of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) throughout the watershed

·        Protect existing high water quality waters and prevent further degradation of impacted waters

 

Nashua has taken a major step in addressing the first goal, through the recent adoption of City-wide storm water treatment standards.  However, as previously mentioned, the Pennichuck pond system is already suffering from the effects of excessive nutrient loading and other impacts of non-point source pollution. Given the built-up nature of much of the watershed in Nashua, improvement of water quality in the Pennichuck Brook system will require remediation measures and the institution of BMPs for existing built sites. 

 

 

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2.      Existing and Recommended Regulatory Methods for Protecting Water Quality

 

a.            Existing State Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Water Quality Protection

 

Perhaps the most pertinent state law affecting water resource protection is the Shoreland Protection Act, Chapter 483-B of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (hereafter referred to as “the Act”).  The Act aims to help preserve the shorelines of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams throughout the state.  The protected shoreland is the land located with 250 feet of the reference line of public waters, which for natural water bodies means the natural mean high water level.  Any activity that would alter land within the protected shoreland, including clearing of vegetation, and subdivision for residential and non-residential uses, must comply with the provisions of the Act.  According to the Act, new structures must be set back at least 50 feet from the reference (mean high water) line.  Municipalities are empowered to adopt standards that are stricter than the Act; the reasons for this are discussed below.

 

            The Act also states that, where existing, a natural wooded buffer of at least 150 feet be maintained from the reference line.  According to the Act, the purpose of the buffer is to:

 

protect the quality of public waters, by minimizing erosion, preventing siltation and turbidity, stabilizing soils, preventing excess nutrients and chemical pollution, maintaining natural water temperatures, maintaining a healthy tree canopy and understory, preserving fish and wildlife habitat, and respecting the overall natural condition of the protected shoreland.”

 

However, the Act provides for a fairly large loophole when it states that:

 

Trees, saplings, shrubs and ground covers which are removed to clear an opening for building construction, accessory structures, septic systems, roadways, pathways, and parking areas shall be excluded when computing the percentage limitations under subparagraph (a)(2)(A).”

 

            The subparagraph referenced places a limit on the amount of clearing that can be done within the natural wooded buffer, which is a maximum of 50% of the basal area over a 20-year period.  The minimum building setback of 50 feet from the high water line is still in effect when development is proposed.  This loophole effectively decreases the natural buffer zone by 100 feet whenever development is proposed in an area subject to the Act.  Though a 50-foot vegetated buffer is sufficient to provide some degree of water pollution attenuation, it is of less value from a wildlife habitat standpoint according to standards developed at the 1994 Riparian Buffer Zones Conference.  A 50-foot buffer is also less effective in screening development from riverside viewing.  The City of Nashua has adopted buffer zone standards that are stricter than that provided in the Act, with 75 foot buffers along major rivers and streams.

 


b.      Local Ordinance Provisions for Water Quality Protection

 

            There are several local ordinance provisions for water quality protection.  The City’s wetlands ordinance and floodplain development ordinance have previously been discussed.  However, there are other sections of Nashua’s Revised Ordinances that address issues related to water quality and management.

 

      1.   Water Supply Protection (Overlay) District

 

            In 1998, the City enacted a Water Supply Protection (Overlay) District.  The purpose of this overlay district is “to increase protection for the Pennichuck Brook Watershed above the supply pond dam, including Pennichuck Brook, its associated ponds, wetlands, and tributaries, said water being the primary source of the City’s drinking water supply.”  The overlay district covers all land determined to be within the Pennichuck Brook watershed, upgradient of the supply pond dam. The district establishes a conservation zone within the overall district that consists of all land areas within 300 feet of the annual high water mark of the major Pennichuck Brook impoundments, and within 150 feet of all surface waters connected to the impoundments.

 

The purpose for establishing the conservation zone is to create an undisturbed natural buffer to protect the drinking water supply.  Tree cutting and land clearing is prohibited in this conservation zone.  However, parking lots and sidewalks may encroach 75 feet into the zone, provided they follow specific stormwater management practices designed to capture and treat runoff created by a ten (10) year, 24-hour storm.  The district also places limits on the use of fertilizers and pesticides within 250 feet of the pertinent water bodies. 

 

      2.   Other Water Resource Related Provisions of Nashua’s Zoning Ordinance

 

Division 9, Filling Water or Waterway Areas, addresses requirements that must be met for the filling of any pond, lake, swamp, or other body of water, waterway, or drainage area.  This section of the ordinance has been effectively superseded by the more recent wetlands ordinance. Recent state and federal wetland laws prohibit the outright filling of ponds, lakes, and large wetland areas. 

 

c.      Water Resource Protection Recommendations

 

            Before discussing actions that the City can take to improve water quality that are not mentioned in the watershed level plans and reports, it may be useful to briefly examine the most pertinent recommendations of the Merrimack River Initiave (MRI) Management Plan (1997); the 1995 to 2020 Vision for the Nashua River Watershed, prepared by the Nashua River Watershed Association in 1995; and the Pennichuck Water Works Watershed Management Plan (1998).  The authors of these plans have done an excellent job of outlining actions that need to be taken to safeguard and improve water quality.  A summary listing of the most pertinent recommendations is provided below. 

 

The most pertinent recommendations of the Nashua River, Merrimack River, and Pennichuck Watershed Plans for Nashua are:

 

Generally:

 

·        Conserve open spaces for water quality, wildlife habitat, farms, forests and recreation.

·        Encourage careful land use with well-planned development.

·        Decrease non-point source pollution.

·        Encourage the re-use and redevelopment of existing buildings and built areas (infill) over development of virgin sites.

·        Adopt measures to encourage growth in environmentally compatible areas.

 

More specifically:

 

·        Train local inspectors to inspect for and enforce BMPs.

·        Educate user groups on the importance and utility of BMPs.

·        Protect shoreline buffers by amending the local wetland ordinance to increase building setbacks and buffers.

·        Provide funding for water resource land acquisition or easements.

·        Amend the cluster development ordinance to specify the natural and community resources that are important to protect, and increase the required proportion of open space (35% is usual – Nashua’s current requirement is 10%).

·        Minimize parking lot impacts by using permeable dividers, street buffer strips, and appropriate landscaping.

·        Reduce transportation impacts of new subdivisions by using narrower streets with grass swales.

·        Use on-site infiltration whenever possible.

·        Use clearing and grading plans that minimize site disturbance, require grading plans, erosion control plans and inspect progress during construction.

·        Minimize lawn sizes, encourage the use of native species for landscaping wherever possible and leave native vegetation in place as a buffer.

 

 

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VI.           Summary

 

            It is intended that this Conservation and Preservation Element of the Nashua Master Plan Update be in conformity with the adopted American Planning Association (APA) Policy Guide on Sustainability.  The draft policy guide defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 

            In its Executive Summary, the draft APA policy guide states that:

 

A variety of symptoms lead us to the conclusion that current development patterns are not sustainable.  Global signs include global warming and climate variation, widespread soil degradation, deforestation, species extinction, and increasing disparities between rich and poor.  A number of local problems are apparent as well, including central city disinvestment, loss of rich agricultural land, suburban sprawl, depletion of groundwater resources, and ever-increasing traffic congestion. 

 

To take an active role in redirecting the trend toward unsustainability, the APA and its chapters can support and develop planning policies that:

 

·        Help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, underground metals, and minerals.

·        Help reduce dependence on chemicals and other man-made substances that can accumulate in the biosphere.

·        Help reduce dependence on activities that encroach upon nature.

·        Meet the hierarchy of human needs fairly and efficiently.

 

“With these four planning policies as a guiding framework, local, regional, and state decision-makers can devise planning policies and action plans appropriate to their particular circumstances and communities.” (emphasis added)

 

            In Nashua, several indications of unsustainable development are suburban sprawl, loss of open space and forests, and increasing traffic congestion.  This Plan recognizes that Nashua is approaching build-out, and that the development patterns of the past cannot be changed.  This Master Plan recommends policies and actions which will help to ensure a movement towards sustainability and less destructive and land consumptive development practices in the future.  This Plan recognizes that Nashua is the central city for its region, and as such is a primary employment and retail center.  A regional approach to sustainability would recognize this fact.

 

Therefore, a movement towards sustainability in Nashua will entail a careful balancing of industrial, commercial, and residential growth with measures to protect the most important wildlife habitat, open spaces, and water bodies.  Actions taken to move towards greater sustainability should actually enhance the City’s economic health.  The traffic congestion that currently plagues the City, for example, is perceived as a disincentive by many businesses that would otherwise choose to locate here.  Development patterns that permit alternative transportation and shorter commutes would help to relieve traffic congestion, and could also help preserve open space and wildlife habitat in developing areas.  

 

Though Nashua is the central city of an urbanizing area on the Massachusetts border, it

has much to offer its residents in terms of outdoor recreation and access to natural areas.  The City’s largest parks; Greeley Park, Mine Falls Park, Yudicky Farm, Southwest Park, and Roby Park all contain large areas of forest, field, riverfront, and other natural habitat.  With the exception of Mine Falls Park, the natural areas in the above parks are relatively unknown to the general public.  There is a need to make these areas more accessible to City residents, and to manage the impacts that increased use inevitably brings. 

 

The rapid growth of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s resulted in the loss of several green space and recreation opportunities.  An example of a lost opportunity was for a greenway along the entire length of Salmon Brook, from the Massachusetts border to its confluence with the Merrimack River.  Now, at the turn of the century, most of Salmon Brook suffers from extensive residential encroachment, with very little in the way of a significant natural, vegetated buffer zone along most of its length.  Still, Nashua has the opportunity to “grow smart” from this moment, and there are still opportunities to safeguard and enhance the City’s remaining natural areas.  The City’s recent acquisition of 291 acres of land in the southwest quadrant for recreation and conservation is commendable, and will add to the City’s quality of life.  However, there are several other as yet unprotected natural areas deserving of attention, and it is hoped that the City will pursue the acquisition or otherwise protect some of these areas in the immediate years ahead.  At the current rate of development, opportunities to acquire additional land for conservation or recreation will soon be gone.

 

            The City will have an opportunity to protect all or part of several significant natural areas through the Regional Environmental Planning Program (REPP), to be administered by the Land and Community Heritage Commission.    The Conservation Commissions of each community in the State were asked to identify their top 5 conservation priorities.  In Nashua, these areas are: 

1) the Pennichuck watershed lands in the northwest corner; 2) the land in current-use to the immediate west of Yudicky Farm; 3) the land north of Greeley Park, currently undergoing environmental clean-up; 4) trails and recreation land along the Merrimack River; and 5) the Intervale floodplain forest along the Nashua River across from Mine Falls Park.  There are several smaller parcels along the Nashua River that should also be considered for possible future acquisition.  In some cases, these would add to the area of existing parks, and in others provide additional points of public access to the river.  The City of Nashua was successful in obtaining funding for the Pennichuck parcel.

 

            The City, largely through the efforts of the Heritage Trail Commission and the Urban Trails Alliance (UTA), has been developing a network of on-road and off-road trails over the last decade.  Guidance for the development of these urban trails comes from The Nashua Urban Trails Network and The Nashua Trails Plan, a component of the Nashua Master Plan.  Possible future trails to pursue include a loop trail on both the north and south sides of the Nashua River, connecting to Mine Falls Park, the as yet to be developed trails along the Broad Street Parkway, and the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail.

           

            The once heavily polluted Nashua and Merrimack Rivers are the cleanest they have been in decades.  This clean-up is largely due to the requirements of the Clean Water Act, which required communities to construct wastewater treatment plants, and industries to curtail most of their direct (point source) pollutant discharges.  The Environmental Protection Agency is now requiring that communities remove the stormwater component of the wastestream that ends up at wastewater treatment plants.  During significant storm events, wastewater treatment plants receive a greater quantity of combined sewage and runoff than they can handle, with the excess being released into rivers without treatment.  By eliminating such combined sewer overflows (CSOs), water quality in the Merrimack and Nashua Rivers should improve even more.  The greatest water quality threat facing our water resources today is non-point source pollution.  In comparison to point source pollution, non-point source pollution is both harder to pinpoint and more difficult to address.  A large component of non-point source pollution is runoff from streets, parking areas, lawns, and agricultural areas.  This runoff carries gasoline, oil, road salt, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers and various other chemicals into water bodies.  The result is often accelerated eutrophication and degradation of water quality.  Therefore, improvements to water quality in the future will largely derive from addressing non-point sources.

 

            Nashua has the opportunity to “grow smart” in the coming decades.  As the City approaches full build-out, opportunities to acquire additional open space and protect wildlife habitat will diminish.  The land use decisions made over the next two decades will largely determine the City’s character for most of the 21st century.  Let us not forget that Nashua’s high quality of life comes not only from a vibrant economy, but also from a healthy environment, one in which wildlife still has a home, and in which people have green spaces to recreate in.  As one participant in a Nashua River Watershed Association planning session remarked: “We may be the last generation that has the chance to save open space.  Implementation of this Master Plan will meet this challenge.

 

 

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