By Dustin Luca
---- — In a community known for its dedication to open space, 2012 has been a year that notably helped the cause. More plans are coming in 2013.
The signature moment came in April, when Anthony and Gladys Sakowich donated a nine-acre space, the site of their longtime home. The Sakowich Reservation, at 26 Oriole Drive, is open for hikes year-round and a good place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter. It improves access to and provides lauded views of what is considered one of the town’s best sites, Baker’s Meadow.
With developable land in Andover disappearing, a prime spot such as the Sakowiches’ nine-acre parcel is becoming more scarce -- and having the land donated is unusual as well. The Sakowiches used the moment to say they hope it encourages more people to do the same.
Meanwhile, work continued throughout the year on town conservation land and other trails to improve trails and add picnic areas, camping grounds and wooden bridges. The first of what is meant to be an annual Trail Animals Running Club, Spring Thaw Six Hour run was held in town, as a fundraiser to continue improving existing town open space.
As the year ends, another top Andover site, the Ward Reservation grasslands, are being opened up. The expansion will improve the wildlife habitat and open up sweeping views south to the Boston skyline, as well as allow Ward Reservation staff to redirect its limited resources to trail management and battling invasive species. Next year, $2 million in conservation land buys are on tap for votes at Annual Town Meeting. The town seeks to acquire a seven-acre lot off of Campanelli Drive, currently owned by Phillips Academy, and a piece of the former Reichhold chemical company property on Lowell Junction Road.
“2013 is going to be a very interesting year,” Conservation Director Bob Douglas said. “We really have an opportunity to set aside some wonderful conservation land. These could be future popular destination sites.”
Fred Snell, a trustee of the Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS), said the land behind the Franciscan Center on River Road is also worth paying attention to.
“The Franciscan property out in west Andover is going to be a challenge in what we do with that” as elderly housing is considered for the area, Snell said. “We’re hoping a good portion of that riverfront land and the existing trail can be preserved.”