History of the Rice Nature Preserve
The Minnechaug Land Trust(MLT) conducted a signature petition during 2004 to put the Community Preservation Act(CPA) on the ballot in Wilbraham. The CPA was adopted with a 1-½ % surtax on property taxes, or about $35 per year at the time for the average taxpayer. CPA funds may be used for open space, recreational facilities, historical preservation, and housing. Locally raised CPA funds are matched by the State, with 100% as the matching rate to date.
MLT also worked with the Town to obtain a State Self-Help grant to provide part of the funding for the purchase of the Rice property that became the Rice Nature Preserve(RNP), and conducted private fundraising.
In early May, 2005, at Town Meeting, the vote was nearly unanimous to authorize the Selectmen to purchase the Rice property as Town Conservation land. The purchase of the 150-acre parcel took place prior to the end of May.
RNP is currently managed by MLT under a land management agreement with the Town Conservation Commission.
Finally, in November 2006 the Town of Wilbraham signed a purchase and sale agreement to put the lower 90 acres of the farm under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction, which means that the land is protected from development while continuing to be farmed by the Rice family. The total payment was somewhat less than $1 million, of which $189,000 will be funded by the Town of Wilbraham through the Community Preservation Act tax adopted at Town Meeting.