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Newbury group meets goal to buffer Green

By Taryn Plumb
Globe Correspondent / September 25, 2011

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NEWBURY - Thanks to a fund-raising effort, a swath of green that has served as an unchanging backdrop to the rustle and hum of centuries will remain undeveloped.

The Essex County Greenbelt Association and a group of residents have succeeded in their efforts to raise $500,000 to buy a roughly 4-acre piece of land adjacent to the historic Newbury Lower Green on Route 1A.

The parcel, owned by Sadru Hemani of Newburyport, was in danger of being subdivided and developed. Preservation advocates say that would have drastically altered the 375-year-old green, which represents the area’s first settlement.

According to Greenbelt officials, who worked closely with the community group Save the Lower Green over the past year-and-a-half, the $500,000 goal was reached early last week. “We’re absolutely thrilled,’’ said Ed Becker, Greenbelt’s executive director. “This is just a terrific community project. We had people support it from all over the region and beyond with hundreds of donations, large and small.’’

In fact, the campaign met its goal nearly two weeks ahead of its Sept. 30 deadline, outlined in an 18-month option agreement struck in 2010 with Hemani.

Support was wide, and involved many initiatives, including a pumpkin festival, art and tag sales, and a reception at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, as well as meetings, grant requests, and reach-outs to donors. The effort was boosted by Preservation Massachusetts, which named the green one of the state’s most endangered historic resources.

Hemani was supportive, offering the land at approximately half its value. He had subdivided eight of his 12 acres next to the green, and had preliminary approval for three house lots on the four acres to be preserved.

Becker said Greenbelt and the committee have informed Hemani that they have raised the funds and plan to exercise their option to purchase. The deal will likely close in the late fall, he said.

The goal is to maintain the “historic character and presence’’ of the green and meadow, Becker said, which represent the town’s beginnings more than 375 years ago after settlers paddled up the Parker River and built temporary structures on the land.