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     Welcome to the on-line version of the 2009 Open Space and Recreation Plan.  Printed copies are available at the Town Hall and Library.  CDs of this publication can also be made available.  Email the West Newbury Open Space Committee for details.  

Printed copies are available at the Town Hall and Library...

Table of Contents

  Section 1:  »Plan Summary
  Section 2:  »Introduction
  Section 3:  »Community Settings
  Section 4:  »Environmental Inventory and Analysis
  Section 5:  »Inventory of Lands of Interest
  Section 6:  »Community Goals
  Section 7:  »Analysis of Needs
  Section 8:  »Goals & Objectives
  Section 9:  »Five Year Action Plan
Sections 10, 11 and Appendix A thru G of this Plan are not available in HTML format.  See additional documents in PDF format below:

»Read about the Painting and Artist

Additional Documents

 List of Maps

  Section 10:  »Public comments    »Regional Context Map
  Section 11:  »References    »1729 Map of West Parish
  Appendix A: »Meeting Minutes    »Existing Infrastructure Map
  Appendix B: »Open Space Survey and Results    »Town Zoning Map
  Appendix C: »Priority Parcels List    »Change in Development Map
  Appendix D: »List of Town Expenditures for Land    »Soils & Geologic Features Map
  Appendix E: »News Clippings    »Water Resources Map
  Appendix F: »Photo Credits    »Unique Features Map
     »Open Space Inventory Map
  Appendix G:  ADA Evaluation (not available here)    »Geographical Areas Map
This document is unavailable due to it's large size (52 pages).  See our printed copy for details.    »Action Plan Map


Section 1

Plan Summary

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     The 2009 Open Space and Recreation Plan focused the energies of the Open Space Committee and, with the cooperation of the citizens and other Town boards and other groups, the following were accomplished in the preceding five years, many of which were identified in the 2003 Five Year Action Plan:

Autumn in West Newbury


  •        By initiating a collaborative effort with the Moseley Trust, Essex County Greenbelt Association, and the Town, the Open Space Committee helped create what is now known as the Indian Hill Farm Reservation.  Our advocacy helped preserve part of the historically significant Indian Hill Farm property for public passive recreation and public enjoyment of hilltop views of the surrounding country side and reservoir from Indian Hill.

  •      The Open Space Committee advocated for and helped define the conservation restriction placed on a portion of the Berkenbush family’s Chestnut Hill Farm property.  This restriction allows public passage across fields and woodland to views of the Merrimac River and eagle habitat not otherwise accessible to the public

  •      Major strides were made in the mapping, management and maintenance of trails, culminating in the publication of maps of some of our trails on the Open Space Website and delivering handouts of the maps at Annual Town Meeting 2008.  The work is ongoing and we have been joined by individual volunteers, the West Newbury Driving and Riding Club, the Department of Public Works, Merrimac Valley Planning Commission and the Essex County Trail Association in our efforts.  GPS mapping and maintenance of trails is ongoing.

  •      The Open Space Committee, Finance Director, and members of many other committees finalized a management plan for Riverbend in 2008.  The Committee worked with the Mill Pond Committee and other stakeholders on a revision of the Management Plan for Pipestave Hill.

  •      In 2004 the Open Space Committee supported the inclusion of the Town in the Essex County Trails Association. 

  •      he Open Space Committee worked closely with the Planning Board to identify opportunities to preserve and expand trails throughout the Town wherever possible by creating or maintaining linkages.  A standard trail easement was drafted for use by the Planning Board and interested landowners. The Committee is committed to preserving, acquiring, and protecting a permanent Town-wide trail system.

  •      The Open Space Committee created interest in passage of the Community Preservation Act and rallied support for it through public forum and discussions with the Finance Director, Finance Committee, and Board of Selectmen. The Committee then worked to get it passed at Special Town Meeting Fall 2005.

  •      In 2004, with the help of talented members and volunteers, the Open Space Committee introduced the West Newbury Open Space Web site. The site has developed since that time and is now a professional looking site and a resource of high quality, linked to the Town website. The site will continue to evolve.

  •      The Open Space Committee revised the protocol for expenditures for the Land Preservation and Growth Management Bond fund (now depleted).

  •      The Open Space Committee advocated, along with the Workforce Housing Trust and the Community Housing Committee, for a cooperative alliance between the Open Space Committee and Affordable Housing stakeholders to provide diverse housing in West Newbury with a commitment to developments that preserve open space and trails.

  •      The 1996 Open Space and Recreation Plan recommended that West Newbury develop active, youth-oriented recreation facilities. Between that time and 2002, the Town committed $600,000 to the development of additional fields on Pipestave Hill and behind the Page School to meet active recreation needs. These fields are now complete and in use.

  •      In 2007, a group of parent volunteers working with independent contractors spent eight months refurbishing the Action Cove playground and bringing it up to code. Also in 2008, the Park and Recreation Department ran a five-week summer day camp for Town youth from kindergarten to sixth grade. The camp served 125 Town youth – an average of 70 in the camp daily – and charged a nominal fee ($125 for two weeks) since it was subsidized by a Moseley Foundation grant. The camp will be offered again in the summer of 2009 year at an increased weekly fee.

  •      Since 1998, the town has expended $1,027,400 for the purchase of   305.88 acres open space land or conservation restrictions; Riverbend, Pipestave Hill CR, Cherry Hill Viewshed, Berkenbush CR, and Indian Hill CR.  During the same span of time, the town has expended $6,125,000 to purchase 241.47 acres of land for municipal uses such as water, housing or other undeclared future municipal purposes; Craven, Mullen,  Dunn,  Cherry Hill – well site, Andreas property.  For more details, see Appendix D for List of Town Expenditures for Land.  

The 2009 Open Space and Recreation Plan builds upon the previous two plans completed in 1996 and 2003. While its goals reiterate and expand on the goals identified in these previous two plans, the goals have also been developed from input from a Town-wide Survey conducted in June 2008, from deliberations of the Committee during regular monthly meetings,  public forums, and input from other Town boards.  Looking ahead to the next five years, the major goals of the Open Space and Recreation Plan are:

1.    Preserve the Town’s rural character, charm, and sense of community by protecting the agricultural heritage of West Newbury, its scenic vistas, architectural gems, and housing diversity.

2.    Protect and manage key natural resources, including water protection, and wildlife corridors.

3.    Provide passive and active recreational activities for all townspeople, by developing and managing trail systems and other public amenities.

Section Nine of the Plan, the Five Year Action Plan, identifies specific actions that the Open Space Committee recommends be undertaken in order to accomplish these goals.  There is much more to do!



Section 2


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Click here to read about the Painting and Artist...

Chestnut Hill Farm

In Memoriam: Richard Berkenbush, Beatrice Downey Edward and Winifred Moseley

A. Statement of Purpose

West Newbury is a beautiful small town with an overriding characteristic of rural charm. In order to preserve this rural charm there has been much participation and support of private citizens, town government and non-profit organizations.  Through their efforts we have a significant amount of 1,874 acres of protected open space and a fairly extensive trail system.  The mandate of the 2009 OSRP is to continue to preserve what remains of the rural character of the Town by continuing to identify and preserve priority parcels, having a management plan in place to maintain the existing preserved parcels and to meet the challenges of further development pressures. The Plan seeks to continue to be a useful tool for the community towards achieving the goals identified through the 2009 OSRP planning process. 

The updated Open Space and Recreation Plan is designed to help continue the long-term, dynamic, and ongoing process by which the Town evaluates and addresses its open space and recreation needs in the coming years. 

.B. Planning Process and Public Participation

West Newbury’s Open Space and Recreation Plan (OS&RP) was developed and written by members of the West Newbury Open Space Committee throughout 2008 and early 2009.

Appointed by the West Newbury Board of Selectmen, the Open Space and Recreation Committee has nine members: seven voting members, and two associate members.  During most of the preparation of the 2009 OS&RP, several of the current members had served on the Committee since March 1996, when the original Open Space and Recreation Committee was appointed.

These original members were active participants in the creation of the Town’s 1996 Open Space and Recreation Plan and have brought continuity and an historical perspective to the revised Plan. Three new members, one previous member along with other members of the community, have brought fresh energy, new perspectives, and hard work to the current Plan revision.

Table 2-1:  2009 West Newbury Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee Members and Participants

Open Space Committee:                                                                                         

Felicity Beech                                                               Jean Lambert                                                   

Don Bourquard                                                            Anne Madden                        

Dawne Fusco                                                               Mike Mokrzycki

Jennifer Germain (chair)                                               Patricia Reeser

Barry Lacroix                                                               Janet Thibeau                                                  

Steve Greason

Parks and Recreation Commission Liaison:                                                      

Greg Pope

Other Participants:                                                                                                   

Lawrence Murphy, Esq, Town Clerk

Judy Mizner (Conservation Commission)                      

Kris Pyle (Asst. to Board of Selectman)                       

Gary Bill (Dept. of Public Works)                                

Tracy Blais (Finance Director)                         

Jean Nelson (Planning Board Administrator)                 

Michael Gootee (Water Department)                           

Scott Wolke and the Board of Water Commissioners

Kathleen McWilliams (Bus. Manager, Pentucket Regional High School)                                                                       

Special Thanks to:                                                                                                    

Don Fowler (West Newbury Food Mart)                        

Patricia Mansfield (Cover Artist)                                     Sue Derricko and Sheila Johnson (Zip Type)

Leigh Stoecker                                                                Steven Grinley (Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift)

Essex County Greenbelt Association                             Bonney’s Hallmark, Newburyport

West Newbury Riding and Driving Club                          GAR Library

Merrimac Valley Planning Commission                            West Newbury News

Dan Zoeller (Postmaster WN)                                         Newburyport Daily News           


In order to update this plan the OSC met at least monthly during most of the spring of 2007 through 2008 and into 2009. All of our meetings were posted public meetings with public participation encouraged.

Open Space and Recreation Survey

In order to update the previous plan we again needed the input from the entire West Newbury community. We devised a new survey partially based on the previous Open Space and Recreation Plan Community Survey with input from the Parks and Recreation liason. Upon approval from the full OSC the survey was mailed June 10, 2008 to all 1650 households and P O Boxes. Both the West Newbury News and the Newburyport Daily News ran an article notifying the residents to the fact that they would be receiving the survey and the importance of participating in it.

June 27, 2008 was the deadline for the completion of the survey. 333 surveys were returned by mail to the Open Space Committee or delivered to collection boxes at the GAR Library, 1910 Office Building or to the West Newbury Food Mart.

Survey results were tabulated by Mike Mokrzyeki. Narrative responses were categorized by Mike Mokrzyeki and received by members of the committee. A summary of the survey was compiled by Jean Lambert and Jennifer Germain and handed out at the fall Town Meeting, October 20, 2008. The results were also published in a press release in both the West Newbury News and The Newburyport Daily News. (See Appendix B for survey and survey summary document.)

Updating Sections 3, 4 and 5

Starting in 2008, the Committee was also reviewing, researching and updating the extensive background material found in sections 3,4, and 5 of the Plan. This phase was allocated to various committee members. It involved a lot of hard work and consultation with many Town Departments including among others, the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Board of Water Commissioners and the Finance Department. As the information was updated it was discussed at each meeting. It was also posted in the minutes for all who were interested to see.

Planned Development Working Meetings

Taking our lead from the survey and with all the updated input the Open Space Committee worked hard to revise the Plan. Throughout the almost two years, many of the meetings’ discussions were about how to go forward with the Town’s current open space and recreation priorities. Any data that needed to be revised including maps and statistics was completed. The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission was consulted and most helpful in redesigning the various maps.



Section 3

Community Setting

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Autumn on Middle Street

A. Regional Context


West Newbury is located approximately 35 miles north of Boston in the Merrimack Valley region.  Encompassing an area of roughly 14 square miles, it is bordered on the north and west by the Merrimack River, on the east by Newburyport, and on the south by Newbury and Groveland.  The Town falls primarily within the Merrimack River watershed, but the southeastern portion of Town lies within the Parker River watershed.  The Town is just inland of the coastal zone, and is characterized by a rolling landscape of hills, open fields, and woods interlaced by freshwater wetlands.


Regional Context Map

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»Download this Map-PDF
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 13 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


Community Character

West Newbury is, for the most part, a semi-rural residential community that once boasted many working farms.  Today, as old agricultural fields are sold to developers, the Town is becoming increasingly suburbanized.  Since the early 1990s, West Newbury lost a great deal of open space -- particularly along the Merrimack River and off of Route113 (Main Street) -- to new housing developments. In fact the northwestern quadrant of the town was classified as “urban” as a result of the 2000 census. (MVPC Transport Map).


There are no industries in West Newbury, and there are relatively few commercial establishments.  Aside from individuals who farm their own lands, work at small local businesses, or telecommute, most residents commute to work in other nearby towns, or to more distant jobs via nearby freeways (Routes I-95 and I-495), commuter rail lines, and bus lines.  These commuter options provide easy access to Boston and the Route 128 and Route 495 corridors, making West Newbury an attractive location for commuters.


Like West Newbury, several of its smaller neighboring communities (Newbury, Groveland, and Merrimac) have experienced unprecedented growth, which has had a major impact on schools and Town services.  The communities are grappling with this issue in a variety of ways, including current Open Space Planning efforts, Master Plan efforts, and growth management bylaws.

Shared Resources

The Pentucket School System:  West Newbury joined with the nearby Towns of Groveland and Merrimac to form the Pentucket Regional Middle and High Schools in the late 1950's.  In the mid 1990's, the Towns expanded this partnership to include the elementary school system as well.  The Pentucket Regional School System is a generally successful partnership between the three communities.  The school system's total student enrollment has decreased from a high of almost 3,400 in 2001 to 3,224 in 2007 and is projected to decrease by a further 17% over the next ten years.

Note:  Page Elementary School ranks as one of the top schools in the state.  The school’s 6th grade ranked number 1 in Reading out of 565 schools and 4th out of 565 schools in 6th grade Math, 10th in 5th grade science out of 912 schools and 22nd out of 1002 schools in 3rd grade Reading.  Source: Pentucket Business Office.

Water Supply:  In 1936 West Newbury established a municipal drinking water supply upon which about two thirds of the Town depends.  Currently, West Newbury has only a shallow well field that supplies insufficient water year-round.  Therefore the water supply is supplemented by purchasing water from the City of Newburyport at retail rates. Ironically, Newburyport’s water supply is primarily sourced from two reservoirs that were built along the Artichoke River watershed in West Newbury.  The adjoining communities of Groveland and the Byfield area of Newbury rely on municipal well-fields. West Newbury supplies water to the Pentucket High School and Groveland supplies water to the Pentucket Middle School.

Merrimack River:  The Merrimack River, which defines a seven-mile boundary on the north side of West Newbury, is the region's preeminent river.  West Newbury shares the river not only with adjacent Towns, but also with communities upriver (Haverhill, Lowell, Lawrence, etc.) and downriver (Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury). In the past, upstream industries and sewage treatment plants badly polluted the Merrimack, but within the last thirty years major efforts from communities along the river have led to dramatic improvements in its water quality. West Newbury Harbor Commission contributes to these efforts by providing a pump-out service to local boaters.

An outstanding scenic resource, the Merrimack is now clean enough for fishing, and provides opportunities for boating of all types; with canoeing, kayaking and sculling becoming more popular. Motorized pleasure craft do contribute to bank erosion, despite speed limits in many places.  Wildlife is now abundant and, after many decades, bald eagles returned to nest along the Merrimack in West Newbury in 2007.  In 2008 the State appointed a new design team for renovations to the Rocks Village Bridge. This spans the Merrimack River and is shared by West Newbury, Haverhill, and Merrimac.  The bridge upgrade is expected to include the addition of a pedestrian walkway and is not likely to be closed during construction.

Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area:  West Newbury shares the state-owned Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area (WMA) with neighboring Newbury, Groveland and Georgetown.  Approximately 350 acres of the WMA lie within West Newbury.  This land is comprised of wooded uplands, wetlands, and grasslands and provides an excellent mix of wildlife habitats. The Wildlife Management Area is used by hunters during the fall hunting season and by hikers, wildlife observers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross country skiers, and snowmobilers at other times of the year.  In recent years, extensive beaver activity has created large areas of wetlands and has interrupted trail access in this area except in deep winter when it is still passable. 

Curzon's Mill Bridge:  The Commonwealth, with the cooperation of West Newbury and Newburyport, restored the old Curzon's Mill Bridge over the Artichoke River for the use of foot, bike, and horse traffic.  This project connects the two communities along the Merrimack River.


B. History of the Community

Early Colonial History and  Establishment of West Newbury

West Newbury shares its early history with the neighboring communities of  Newbury, Newburyport, Byfield and Plum Island, all of which  were originally part of the Town of Newbury.

In 1635 about 100 Puritan emigrants from Wiltshire, England, led by Reverend Thomas Parker, settled on the north bank of the river subsequently named for their leader. Their first church or meeting house and homes were clustered in the area of today’s Lower Green. Agricultural lots of 4, 50 or 200 acres were allocated according to each settler’s financial contribution to the community.

The development of West Newbury began when the Newbury "Upper Commons" was allotted to freeholders for pasture and woodlots in 1642 . Twenty years later a highway was laid out between the Artichoke River and the Bradford line after which the remainder of the Upper Commons was divided  into 111 parcels, and assigned by lottery. These were laid out on either side of this road (now Main Street), with 64 on the north side and 46 on the south side. Each was approximately 27 acres in size and property owners were required to fence their boundaries. Many of the resulting stone walls are still evident throughout the town.

Newburyport became an important seaport and separated from agrarian Newbury in 1762.  West Newbury was not incorporated as a separate town until 1819.  It was at first named Parsons then renamed as West Newbury one year later.

The first church was built on Pipestave Hill in 1710. This hill was so named for the staves made from the hill’s oak trees - used to build large barrels or “pipes” for shipping goods to England. A pipe could hold over 200 gallons of rum, molasses or smoked salmon and sturgeon that was once plentiful in the Merrimac River.

In 1731 another church was built on Meeting House Hill. Neither of these structures survived but a third one built in 1759 still sits on the corner of Main Street and Way to the River although this has been converted to a residence within the last few years.

Nineteenth Century Growth

This was a period of burgeoning prosperity and significant growth for West Newbury.  A variety of manufacturing enterprises were established, including the horn comb industry started by Enoch Noyes in 1759. This became a major employer with 30 comb shops operating during the 1800s   The last Noyes comb was made in 1904 when horn was superseded by other materials and newer technology put the plant out of business

By 1875 there were seven factories making shoes including the Ruddock Shoe Factory employing 250 workers. Quality of the shoes was well known and prize winning shoes from West Newbury were exhibited at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893.

Carriage building, leather tanning, and brick making were also important industries. Enoch Bailey (of Bailey’s Lane) was known to have employed some 20 people in his carriage building shop close to the Training Field which was also established in this period.

During the Nineteenth Century the town developed a new character. Early improvements to services and infrastructure included a covered bridge at Rocks Village and a mail stage coach service between Haverhill and Newburyport. The Town Hall and a large new Congregational Church were built close to Main Street.  The second half of the century saw the beginning of a municipal water supply with two public wells dug at the Town Square and at the Training Field. In 1883 both the first firehouse and a sizeable wharf at the bottom of Whetstone Street were completed; the first ship to load its cargo there was a 150’ long, three-masted schooner with 100 tons of freight – horn scraps destined for Philadelphia. Another major project was the construction of rail line for horse cars from Haverhill to Newburyport that opened in 1886.  This was subsequently replaced by an electric trolley line in 1897 that ran until the 1930’s.

After the Civil War and by the 1870s the population grew to over 2000 residents and the composition of the townspeople became more diverse. The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s created an influx of Irish immigrants who were employed in both agriculture and manufacturing. Many West Newbury residents still have Irish family names. The Irish brought with them a Catholic culture and St. Ann’s Catholic Church was built in 1879 to preclude their need to cross the river to Merrimac for church services.

Changes in the 20th Century

The first half of this century saw a decline in population. In 1925 there were only 1337 residents in West Newbury. Loss of most of the manufacturing industries, a nation-wide economic depression and two world wars made their impact. Appropriately for the time, a home for orphans and homeless boys, the House of the Angel Guardian, was built on Pipestave Hill in 1927. (This later became the Cardinal Cushing Academy, a Catholic preparatory school, which in 1973 was purchased by the Town for use as an elementary school.)

Agriculture once again became the mainstay of the town’s economy. In 1919 there were 40 dairy herds in town (by 1969 there were only 4 and in 2009 there are none). Other significant agrarian businesses were Long Hill Orchard and Cherry Hill Nurseries. First planted with 3000 trees in 1915, Long Hill Orchard was expanded to some 170 acres by the 1930s. To deal with the large crop, seasonal pickers from Canada and later Jamaica were accommodated in a dormitory built on the farm. Under the Ladd’s the orchard produced a record crop of 45,000 bushels of apples in 1982 and was one of the ten largest producers in the state, shipping apples to Florida, Canada and England. The orchard has since been less well-maintained, with some subdivided for residential use.

Cherry Hill was first established as a nursery for fruit trees by George Thurlow in 1832. His son later expanded to propagating and growing ornamental plants and shade trees. By the early 1900s peonies became an important part of the Thurlow family’s business which exported them to Canada, Europe and China. Over 150 acres, much of it rented from other land owners, was still under cultivation in 1990.  However the nursery is now closed and, like much of West Newbury, the farm has been developed for residential purposes.

Additions to civic infrastructure during the first part of the century included All Saints Episcopal Church, the GAR library and in 1910 the Central School (now the Town Offices) built to replace the nine District Schools scattered through the town. The Regional Pentucket schools were built between 1958 and 1967.

The failed industrial enterprises, begun in the mid 1800's, left the Town's citizens to rely on the land for their livelihoods.  West Newbury remained primarily a farming community until after World War II.  The Town's agrarian tradition can be seen today in its dwindling hay fields, apple orchards, cultivated lands, Christmas tree farms, and greenhouses. However the most telling impact of the Twentieth Century was the massive increase in suburban homes built for commuters to other centers of employment once the motor car became the ubiquitous and primary means of transport. . The population more than doubled during the second half of this century to over 4000 residents in 2000 bringing a new diversity to the town.

Settlement Patterns

Settlement patterns dating from the 1600's and 1700's have defined West Newbury's present-day layout.  The following map of the "West Parish" (Figure 3-1) dates from 1729 and shows striking similarities to today's West Newbury.   With the exception of modern subdivisions, the town’s present road system was well established by the early 1700's.  As the map indicates, homes, businesses and community buildings were concentrated along Bradford Road (now Main Street/Route 113). By 1887 it was reported that one half the population lived on Main Street and the other half lived within a five minute walk.

While there has never been a single distinct town center, Elwell Square at the Maple Street intersection and the Training Field at the Bailey’s Lane intersection have long been the two focus points of commercial and civic activity.


1729 Map of West Parish

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»Download this Map-JPG
Map found on page 19 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


C. Population Characteristics

Population Growth 

The population of West Newbury grew by 260% from 1950 to 2000 (2000 Census), with consistent population increases averaging around 20% for each decade during this period.  This rate of increase was about twice that of the average for the Merrimack Valley region over the same period of time and much faster than that of Massachusetts (135%) or the United States as a whole (186%) for the half century.

The population of the Town was 3,421 in 1990, and grew to 4,149 by the 2000 census.  It is anticipated (by Merrimack Valley Planning Commission projections) that the Town will continue to grow at a rate of about 20% per decade. In June 2008 town population was 4,528.


West Newbury has many young families.  There were just over 1,000 children of school age according to the 2000 census. At that time the average household size (3.05 persons) was higher than that for the region as a whole (2.88 persons). Within the fifteen Merrimack Valley region communities, West Newbury had the second highest percentage of children under eighteen.


In 2000 West Newbury had the lowest percentage of people aged 65 and over in the Merrimack Valley Region.  However, the 2004 Community Development Plan cites “significant growth in the 45-65 year age group and in the older ages over 65 and especially for residents over 75 years old”. With one development of 56 unites for over 55 residents in process, the future proportion of seniors in the population will increase.

Racial Diversity

West Newbury is not an ethnically diverse community.  In 2000, over 98% of the population was Caucasian. 


West Newbury's median household income ($99,050 according to 2000 data) is the second highest in the Merrimack Valley region, and far exceeds the state average of $61,664.  Over 80% of households were dual-income families and 93% of homes are owner-occupied. As of 1999, 79% of West Newbury workers were classified as "white collar;" again, the second highest percentage for the region.

Environmental justice populations

As describe above, West Newbury does not have a diverse population in terms of race, income, immigrant populations or foreign languages spoken.  As a result, this Plan does not include the map related to environmental justice.


Many West Newbury residents work in the greater Boston area; others commute to Newburyport, Haverhill, Lawrence and Lowell.  The largest employers within the community are the Pentucket Regional School System, the Town of West Newbury, and the Children's Castle (a day-care facility).  There are no manufacturers in the Town, but there are a variety of small service-oriented businesses, some home-based businesses and an assortment of agriculturally based businesses.  Under current zoning regulations, it is unlikely that West Newbury will support a major manufacturing or commercial employer in the foreseeable future.  There are a variety of small service-oriented businesses and an assortment of agriculturally based businesses. 

A long-held priority of many of West Newbury’s committees and boards is to maintain a diverse population of young families, empty nesters, and retirees. Home to many families with high incomes and small children, West Newbury is in danger of pricing older, lifelong residents out of their own community, due to increasing land values and higher taxes.

Our open space goals must be compatible with the needs of all residents, ensuring active and passive recreation opportunities for young and old while keeping space open for future municipal needs such as schools, affordable housing, and water wells.

The Town will continue to address the rapid rate of residential growth through mechanisms to guide the conversion of open lands to residential areas.

The Town must continue to preserve "critical" open space, including areas of special scenic, recreational, environmental, and municipal value to the community. 


D. Growth and Development Patterns

Patterns and Trends

Concentration of homes along Main Street and the Merrimack River:

Main Street has always been most densely built and most of the large tracts of land along this road have now been developed.  During the last twenty years many new homes were built along the Merrimack River. Once considered the "undesirable" part of Town when the river was badly polluted, the riverside is now a highly sought-after place to live.   

New construction on Main Street and along the river has been permitted   with new lots created under the Form A statute and subdivision regulations, (Lots must meet minimum frontage requirements along existing roads), or as Definitive Subdivision plans.

Expansion to Outlying Areas:  Residential construction is now spread more widely throughout the Town. Recent developments have been small and built with either Form A plan endorsement or Definitive Subdivision approval.  Those built since the last plan include Indian Hill (4 lots 2003), Dole Place (5 lots 2006), Stewart St (4 lots 2006.)  Typically these new homes have been in excess of 3,000 square feet and in 2007 the estimated value of the average new home in West Newbury was $495,000.

Speed of Residential Development:  The graph that follows shows new house building has slowed since the peak in 1993 when Twig Rush, the Town's largest (40-home) subdivision was being built. The slow down since may reflect increased land costs, fewer easy to develop parcels, ongoing preservation efforts and the recent downturn in the economy. In 2008 the first approved over 55 development countered this trend. Of the thirteen building permits issued, twelve were for condominiums.

Source: Town of West Newbury, Annual Town Reports 2008

Current Projects:  In 2009 there is one major residential project under construction in West Newbury.  This is a condominium development of 56 town houses for over 55 residents at Ocean Meadow, 823 Main Street.  A subdivision of three lots  at Bailey’s Lane (Long Hill) is currently under construction.  

Future Projects:  A development at 365 Main Street was proposed, but the application has been withdrawn.  It proposed 52 units of over-55 housing.   Other approved developments are: 9 lots Dole Place; (currently expired)  6 lots 902 Main St (currently expired); A town initiated proposal for an intergenerational village, including 20 units of senior rental housing, planned for a town owned 35 acre parcel along Main Street,  recently failed to pass at Town Meeting (April 2009).


Existing Infrastructure Map

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»Download this Map-PDF
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 23 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


Infrastructure: Transportation System

Roads: West Newbury's location provides it with easy access to several major transportation routes including Interstates 95 and 495, US. Route 1, State Routes 1A, 97, 110, 113 and 133.  Route 113 (Main Street) bisects the community, and other major routes are within a short distance of the Town.  Interstate 95 runs north-south through the eastern end of Town and is accessible via Main Street (Route 113) and South Street.  Routes 1 (Newburyport Turnpike) and 1A parallel I-95 to the east, and run south past Route 128 to Boston, and north to New Hampshire.  Routes 110 (through Merrimac), 113 (through West Newbury) and 133 (through Georgetown) run east-west, providing easy access to Merrimac, Amesbury, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Newburyport, and other north shore communities.

The Bachelor Street/Indian Hill route has become a major commuter link to Newburyport and I-95 and has been upgraded to carry the increased traffic flow.  Ash Street, currently unpaved in one section, is used, when passable, by commuters to Route  I95 at the Byfield intersection. Bridge and Church Streets to the Rocks Village Bridge and Route I-495 are also heavily traveled link routes.

Aside from these routes the roads are typically winding, scenic country roads suited for hiking, biking, jogging and nature observation although increased traffic is beginning to compromise their recreational value.  Necessary road improvements have changed the narrow, camel-backed nature of West Newbury’s country lanes to roads that can be traveled at greater speeds. These improvements caused a great deal of discussion and controversy within the Town, which ultimately led to the passage of the Scenic Roads By-Law in 2002.  The Existing Infrastructure Map shows the Town's roads and water supply system.

Public Transportation:  No railroad enters West Newbury, but two MBTA rail lines are nearby.  One of the two lines passes through Haverhill en route to Portland, Maine from Boston; the other runs from Boston to Newburyport.  Both the Haverhill and Newburyport lines offer daily service to Boston and points in between.  Amtrak’s Downeaster express trains run between Boston and Portland, Maine with a stop at Haverhill. 

Express bus services operated by C&J Trailways and the Coach Company are available from Newburyport to several destinations in Boston, including Logan Airport.  Service is also available to Portsmouth and Durham, New Hampshire.  The Newburyport Park & Ride (which supports both C&J and Coach Company service) contains about 400 parking spaces and will be expanded by 150 spaces by the end of 2009.  There is other commuter service from Haverhill and Groveland. 

The Merrimac Valley Regional Transit Authority offers an on-call van service called ‘Ring and Ride’  for riders of all ages within West Newbury and nearby towns. 

Other Transportation:  Air travel to all parts of the world is available to West Newbury residents from Logan Airport in Boston, and from Manchester Airport in Manchester, NH.  In addition, nearby Lawrence has a municipal airport approved for commercial flights.  There is a commercial seaplane base at Methuen as well as a Coast Guard seaplane base at Salem, NH.  There are also a number of private fields in the county, including the historical Plum Island Airport in Newbury.

There are eleven coastal harbors in Essex County.  The harbor at Newburyport is used primarily by pleasure boats and small commercial craft.  The Merrimack River affords additional opportunities for pleasure boating.

Transportation services for elderly Town residents are available from the West Newbury Council on Aging.  The Council on Aging does not provide regularly scheduled transportation service to its members, but it does provide transportation for special group outings.  It also provides individual transportation by prior arrangement.

Infrastructure: Water Supply System

Background:  West Newbury purchased water from the Town of Groveland until 1979.  In October of that year, two of Groveland's wells were found to be contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE), and West Newbury began to purchase water from the City of Newburyport.  In December of 1990 West Newbury brought its own well field on line.

Source: West Newbury Water Department 2008

The Town Wellfield:  The West Newbury wellfield is located on the Town line with Newburyport, near the Artichoke Reservoir.  The Town's wellfield consists of nine shallow wells that are permitted to pump 200,000 gallons of water per day.  Under conditions that limit aquifer recharge, yield can go down to half that amount.  During periods of peak water usage, especially the summer, and while recharging the aquifer, the Town purchases water from Newburyport to augment its own supply.  Daily peak-season water purchases from Newburyport average 300,000 gallons.  Future supplements to West Newbury's water supply by Newburyport may be at risk as the city has started supplying water to Plum Island residents.  The Town commissioned a water master plan, which was completed in 2001 and also completed a separate hydraulic study in October of 2003 in order to evaluate more specifically the condition of the system and identify needed improvements.  The Study was updated in May 2008.

Water Service and Usage:  Roughly 63% of the Towns’ dwellings (912 homes) are served by Town water, the remainder by private wells.  The present Town water system covers the western section of the Town and also runs the length of Main Street (see Figure 3-3).  All new developments built within 1,000 feet of the water main must be connected to the water system. Between 1990 and 2008 daily water usage in West Newbury increased from an average of 174,490 gallons per day to 240,000 gallons per day.  During the summer months residents use approximately 100,000 gallons per day to irrigate their lawns. That is one third of the daily water supply. In 1999 the Town adopted a bylaw requiring rain sensors on irrigation systems to prevent unnecessary watering.  In 2003 the Town adopted the In-Ground Irrigation Bylaw.  As of August 29, 2003, irrigation systems cannot be connected to the municipal water system.  Systems installed before that date have been grandfathered.

Source: West Newbury Water Department 2008

Search for a New Well: The West Newbury Water Department is currently looking for and testing new well sites.  The Andreas well site off Indian Hill Street was purchased in January 2004 and the Dunn property off Chase Street was purchased in 2002.  Both are deep bedrock wells and were purchased for future well development.  In 2008 the Water Department drilled test wells on the town-owned Mullen property off Church Street, but the site proved unsuitable for a well field.

Infrastructure:  Sewer Service

Current sewer service:  West Newbury has no municipal sewerage system and has no plans to construct one.  All sewage is disposed of via on-site systems.  Septage (the material pumped from septic tanks) is transported by local haulers to the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District in North Andover.  Each residential or commercial building must have its own on-site subsurface sewage disposal system constructed in accordance with the Department of Environmental Protection's Title 5 Regulations and local regulations.  This requirement currently limits development to those areas where such sewage disposal systems may be located.

New allowable systems:  While that will continue to be true, the nature of allowable systems has changed.  One sort of change is the advent of “shared systems.” Known variously as “community systems” or “package plants”, they use existing, approved technology to provide a single waste treatment system to service multiple dwellings. In West Newbury, the Housing Authority already uses such a system, as does the condominium development at Ocean Meadow.

In 1995, the Title 5 regulations were revised to allow new alternative/innovative wastewater treatment and disposal technologies in Massachusetts. As of June 2001, DEP had approved nearly 50 different Innovative/Alternative technologies for use in Massachusetts, and DEP and local boards of health had approved more than 1,350 individual installations across the state. 


Impact on Town:  One effect of the greater use of shared systems and the adoption of Innovative Technology by DEP will be to allow the development for housing of parcels that have been previously thought un-developable.

Other Towns in the state have been forced to construct municipal sewerage systems to address water quality problems from failing septic systems.  The Town has no known problems with septic systems polluting ground or surface waters, and should remain diligent in preventing this from happening. 

Regulations relating to sewage treatment currently play a critical role in determining where development may occur within Town.  If the Town were ever forced to construct a municipal sewerage system in order to correct water quality problems, many lands that are not currently developable under Board of Health regulations would become buildable.  Relaxed Title 5 regulations, along with DEP approval of new innovative/alternative wastewater treatment technology, will also open previously undevelopable lands to development.

Infrastructure:  Recreation

Recreation facilities:



Town-Owned Playing Fields for Team Sports - Managed by the Parks & Rec. Committee

Cammett Park

3 baseball fields


Pipestave Hill


1 baseball field

4 soccer/ lacrosse fields

Page School

1 playground

2 pre-school playgrounds

2 softball fields

Pentucket Regional School District Fields  - Owned & managed by the regional school system

Pentucket High School

4 tennis courts

1 football field

1 baseball field

1 multipurpose (track, soccer)

1 multipurpose (field hockey, softball & youth teams)

Recreation participation:  In 2008, the number of children who participated in the town sports was

  • Baseball (t-ball, Little league, Babe Ruth), 225 players

  • Lacrosse, 175 players

  • Soccer, 300 players

In addition to these organized youth programs other members of the community use the tennis courts at Pentucket and some casual adult soccer teams play at Pipestave.   West Newbury Riding & Driving Club maintains and uses the two horse rings and cross-country jump course at Pipestave and run regular events there each year. 

While most of the outdoor sports mentioned above are well served, the Parks and Recreation Committee recognize the need for town-owned tennis courts and basketball courts for which there is a special demand in the summer months.   The Park and Recreation Commission is exploring the need for a community recreation facility, to include areas for basketball and fitness programs,  for  use by youth, adults and seniors. 

Long Term Development Patterns: Planning Measures

Zoning Bylaws:  West Newbury's Zoning Bylaw, first adopted in 1954, created five zoning districts; three of which are residential.  The Bylaw was most recently revised in 2009.

Table 3-1:  West Newbury Zoning Districts

District RA

Covers much of the southern half of Town and requires an 80,000 square-foot minimum lot with 200 feet of frontage.

District RB


Is concentrated in the northern part of Town and requires a 40,000 square-foot minimum lot with 200 feet of frontage.

District RC


Borders Main Street and requires a 20,000 square-foot minimum lot with 150 feet of frontage.

Business District


Located at the intersection of Main Street and Maple Street, this small district permits retail and service establishments, banks, offices, restaurants, and gasoline service stations.  There is no minimum lot size, but a 100-foot frontage is required.

Industrial District


Located east of Interstate 95, this district has no minimum lot size.  It is currently not occupied by industry, although manufacturing, storage, and wholesale distribution are permitted.  State ownership of much of the district and wet soil conditions have discouraged development in this district.

Professional offices, restaurants, and conversions to two housing units per residential structure are allowed in all districts if plans meet specific zoning requirements or if they receive a special permit from the Planning Board.  The Town also has an identified Flood Plain District, mandated by the State, within which no building or filling is allowed.


Zoning Map

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»Download this Map-PDF
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

2009 Map found on page 29 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


Open Space Preservation Development:  In 2001 the Town voted to replace the former Cluster Zoning bylaw with a new Open Space Preservation Development Special Permit (OSPD ) zoning bylaw, Section 6.B. (or “Green Neighborhood” zoning).  The bylaw requires that at least 60% of the parcel(s) are preserved as open space.  The homes in an Open Space Preservation Development are sited together in areas that offer views of and access to the preserved open space.  By implementing such a regulation, the Town seeks to preserve open space for all residents without limiting the property rights of the individual landowner.  As examples, Kimball Road Extension, Ocean Meadow, and Nichols/Dole Place (now expired), have been approved with an OSPD Special Permit

Community Development Plan 2004:  This plan informs the Planning Board’s work and includes recommendations to:

  • Encourage more service and retail businesses.
  • Improve the Town Center, create more parking and improve traffic control.
  • Decrease the consumption of land for housing units by increasing housing density (multi-family units and mixed use construction) especially in the business zone along Rte 113.
  • Meet housing needs for specific populations, over 55, seniors and lower income residents.

Inclusionary Housing Requirements:  In 2006 the town adopted an Inclusionary Housing Requirements Zoning Bylaw, Section 5.F.,   The bylaw requires that 10% of new housing of three or more dwelling units created in a project must be “affordable” under the specified criteria, which conform to the requirements of M.G.L. Chapter 40B.

Community Housing Initiative:  A Community Housing Committee was established to research and recommend options for increasing affordable, senior, and starter housing.  This committee brought a proposal for an intergenerational village, including 20 units of senior rental housing, for 35 acres of town owned land on Main Street (Mullen property)  to Town Meeting in April 2009.  The proposal was defeated. 

Funding for Community Preservation:  In 2007 the town voted to adopt the provisions of the Community Preservation Act. This levies a 3% real estate tax surcharge, matched by state funding to provide for open space, recreation facilities,  historic preservation, and affordable housing.  


3. Development Patterns: Impacts of Growth

Current challenges:  As the Town’s 2000 Comprehensive Plan points out, the Town’s natureis ‘semi-rural,’ or a country village with telltale signs of an emerging suburban form” and the transition to suburban is well underway. The effects of development include:

  • The Town's wellfield is insufficient to meet peak water demands, necessitating the purchase of supplemental water from Newburyport and a   need to identify new water supplies in the town.

  • Traffic continues to increase.

  • Town administrative, public safety, education, and other municipal expenditures continue to rise.

Build-Out:   As described more fully in the Comprehensive Plan, under fully built-out conditions, West Newbury will look very different than it does today.  There are many large parcels of private, unprotected, or temporarily protected land remaining within the community that could (and will, if left unprotected) eventually be converted to residential use. 

In the absence of efforts to preserve open land, the Town's 1999 Comprehensive Plan projected a nearly 100% increase in residential dwellings over the next 20 years.  Development of this scale will transition the town from "semi-rural" to suburban, and will put huge pressures on already stressed infrastructures such as schools and the water supply.

Growth management:  To manage growth, the Town has:

  • Completed a Community Development Plan 2004

  • Conducted a build-out analysis

  • Implemented new zoning regulations. 

  • Funded and spent the $5 mil. Land Preservation and Growth Management Bond

  • Completed a Water Master Plan with computer hydraulic model

  • Adopted provisions of the Community Preservation Act


  • Continued efforts to match the growth of residential development with the limits of our ability to fund needed services for such growth will test the ability and creativity of our Town's planners and Town leaders. By taking land out of the building equation, open space preservation will continue to be an important strategy to maintain this balance.

  • Left to market forces alone, current development tends toward large expensive homes, which are not affordable to many of those who work in the community. 

  • The challenge to the Town and to its residents is to encourage development that retains those characteristics that have brought people to our quiet, semi-rural community.  A related challenge, given the high value of land, is to encourage the development of a variety of housing options for a diverse population.


Change in Development Map from 2001 to 2008

»Download this Map-PDF
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 32 of the 2009 OS&R Plan



Section 4

Environmental Inventory and Analysis

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Eagle Nest on the River

A. Geology, Soils and Topography


The West Newbury terrain is gently rolling.  The landscape consists of a series of elongated drumlin hills, upland terraces, and broad valleys formed by a succession of glacial ice advances and retreats.  Elevation ranges from less than 50 feet above mean sea level (msl) along the Merrimack River to 260 feet above msl on Brake Hill.  Surface drainage is to the Merrimack River (along the Town's northern boundary) and, to a lesser extent, the Parker River basin (from the Town's southern corner).


Much of the Town is underlain by Merrimack Quartzite bedrock, a resistant formation of fine-grained slatey phyllite that extends in a wide belt along the Merrimack River from the western boundary of Essex County eastward to Newburyport and Salisbury.  Much of this bedrock resisted glacial scour, and now serves as the core of a plateau that stands somewhat above the terrain to the east and south.  Topping this plateau is a series of elongated drumlin hills (examples are Archelaus Hill and Long Hill) composed of thick deposits of very clayey, slowly-permeable till.  Away from the drumlins, in the lowland areas along stream courses and wetlands, the till is irregular and thin (in places less than several inches thick).  Outcroppings of bedrock are found only in the far-southern part of Town, and expansive deposits of sand and gravel are essentially absent.  The Clinton-Newbury fault line runs from northeast to southwest across the southeastern corner of West Newbury.


The soils of West Newbury vary widely, often changing types within small areas.  They range from small, excessively-drained deposits of sand and loam on hill sides to extensive deposits of very poorly drained organic materials and till in wetland areas and on ridge tops.  The many soil types present in the Town have been grouped into 5 general soil associations that are identified in Table 4-1.  Descriptive information on the five general soil associations follows Table 4-1, and includes the land use constraints of each.  The soil types grouped by development limitations are mapped by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and are illustrated in Figure 4-1.

Impact on development

The Town continues to be divided into three residential districts with increased density (Zone C, 20,000 sf) being located near Main Street, which is serviced by Town water service.  The areas that require wells remain in two acre zoning (Zone A).   Thus, the “outlying” areas of Town are zoned as two acres minimum lots, whereas lots along Main Street and towards the Merrimac River are zoned at one-half and one-acre minimums.

Because the entire Town is reliant on private septic systems, lot sizes are also designed around the land’s ability to host them.  In general, the soils and topography south and east of the Main Street corridor are less capable of supporting higher density residential development than other sections of Town.  These “outlying” areas have steeper slopes, less permeable soils, and areas of ledge (in the southeastern corner of Town).

Table 4-1:  General Soils Associations and Distribution

General Soil Associations







WN Soils within Association












undulating;  50 to 150' above msl


Charlton (wd)- 40%, Sutton (mwd)-30%; remainder:  Canton (wd), Paxton (wd), Action (mwd), Leicester (pd), Whitman (vpd)






level to slightly



Scantic-30%, Biddeford-25%, Leicester-15%, remainder:  Muck (vpd), tidal marsh, Whately (vpd), Swanton (pd), Whareham (pd), Buxton (mwd), Charlton (wd)






irregular knolls rising 50-100' above surroundings


Hollis (wd)-45%, Charlton (wd)-25%, Sutton (mwc)-10%, remainder:  Muck (vpd), Biddeford (vpd), Whitman (vpd), Leicester (pd), Scantic (pd), Buxton (mwd)






scattered hills rising about 100' above surroundings


Woodbridge (mwd)-60%, Paxton (wd)-15%, remainder:  Hollis (wd), Charlton (wd), Sutton (mwd), Leicester (pd), Ridgebury (pd), Whitman (vpd)






undulating to hilly; elevations less than 50' above msl


Windsor (vwd)-25%, Scantic (pd)-10%,Hadley (wd)-10%, Elmwood (mwd)-10%, remainder-Merrimac (wd), Charlton (wd), Agawam (wd), Deerfield (mwd), Swanton (pd), Saco (vpd)


Excluded from survey (Ash Swamp, surface waters, Merrimack River)





























vwd = very well drained, wd = well drained, mwd = moderately well drained, pd = poorly drained, vpd = very poorly drained


Soil Types Grouped by Development Limitations

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Source: The Soil Survey of Essex County, MA; USDA Soil Conservation Service, 1981

Map found on page 36 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


B. Landscape Character 

West Newbury's unique rural character has attracted many newcomers.  Yet despite unprecedented growth in recent years, its long and rich agricultural history is still evident throughout the Town, with some remaining farms, orchards, and nurseries dotting the landscape.

Geologically speaking, West Newbury is blessed with a landscape of rolling hills, valleys, and abundant wetlands.  This rich diversity of land types supports all manner of wildlife and plant species.

Wending along Main Street (Route 113) and down its less traveled side streets, quiet country lanes, and riverside roads, West Newbury's landscape rises and dips to reveal large open fields still used for haying, expanses of woods, and scenic hilltop vistas.  As the Town grows, the expanses of open space, especially along the river and Main Street, have been greatly diminished.  But West Newbury has not yet lost completely it's "old New England" flavor.

So much of West Newbury's charm and character depends on the lively activities that occur in the Town's numerous "centers of activity," which stretch out along and just off of Main Street.  The Townspeople conduct their daily business and attend church services in Elwell Square, the small "commercial center" of Town.  They congregate at Cammett Park, to cheer on Little Leaguers and soccer players in the "sports center" of Town.  They come together to enjoy seasonal celebrations at the Training Field, where the Town's Historic District, its well-used library, and Old Town Hall form West Newbury's "historic civic center."

Further east down Main Street, just across from the elementary school, the community gathers each year for a Winter Carnival at Mill Pond Recreational Area, the Town's "passive recreation center."  In addition to these community activities, hikers, bicycle riders, cross-country skiers, horseback riders, birders, and others make frequent use of its trails and open fields all year long.

Just above Mill Pond on Pipestave Hill, the "equestrian center" of Town fields frequent horse shows and the start of the annual Myopia Hunt.

The equestrians share the hilltop with the West Newbury Youth League’s regulation-sized soccer field and baseball diamond — forming another “sports center” for older soccer players and Babe Ruth ball players.  In an effort to accommodate a growing number of young baseball, soccer, and lacrosse players, the Youth League sought and received funds in 2001 to add three new athletic fields at Pipestave Hill, along with two new softball fields behind the Page School.

A conservation restriction, proposed and approved in conjunction with the athletic field expansion, protects in perpetuity close to 200 acres of the remaining Mill Pond/Pipestave acreage from further municipal development of any kind.  This conservation restriction is held by Essex County Greenbelt Association.  The Management Plan that accompanies this conservation restriction was recently updated in early 2008. 

These recent changes on Pipestave Hill – the construction of new playing fields in conjunction with a conservation restriction – represent a year-long effort by the Pipestave Hill Land-Use Study Committee.   Setting aside old grievances and special interests, representatives of the Youth League, the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Open Space Committee, the Mill Pond Committee, the Conservation Commission, the Riding & Driving Club, the Highway Department, and other, at-large members of the community formed a unique collaboration to forge a land-use compromise for Pipestave Hill.  This compromise will serve the needs of all West Newbury residents for generations to come.

As West Newbury grows, all of its residents can appreciate the Town's foresight in acquiring this Conservation Restriction, as well as in purchasing Agricultural Preservation Restrictions on Orcland Farm, Merrill Farm, and Long Hill Orchard; in obtaining the Cardinal Cushing Academy lands for conversion into Page School and the Mill Pond Recreation Area; and in acquiring the 60+ acre Mingo Property for the Riverbend Conservation Area, the 100-acre Brake Hill property, and the Cherry Hill view shed.  In recent years, the town also purchased the 70 acre Dunn farm on Chase Street, which also is adjacent to  Pipestave Hill. This is targeted for future mixed municipal use for possible well sites, school site, housing site, and open space. More recently, the town also purchased the Mullen property across Main Street from the 1910 Building. This site is being evaluated for mixed use, affordable housing and open space.   A proposal for an intergenerational village including 20 units of senior rental housing on the 35 acre Mullen property failed at the spring town meeting in April of 2009. 

In December 2007 and January of 2008, the town finalized a cooperative project with Essex County Greenbelt to preserve 41 acres of the Indian Hill Farm.  Twenty one acres of the hill proper are owned by Greenbelt  with a conservation restriction held by the town.  Greenbelt will manage this property as the Indian Hill Farm Reservation.  Another adjacent 12 acres of meadow are privately held with a new conservation restriction held by Greenbelt.  Lastly, an 11 acre woodlot was given by the family trust to Greenbelt in fee.  This project was assisted by the state’s award of a Self Help grant of $285,000 for the project.  

Residents also benefit from the generous acts of individual landowners who have preserved their land through conservation restrictions, or by donating undeveloped parcels to the Town and to private conservation trusts.

As growth and development pressures increase, Town officials and residents continue to work together to protect the lovely landscape that defines the character of the Town.


Water Resources Map

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Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 39 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


C. Water Resources

The water resources of West Newbury include both surface water and groundwater.  Surface water resources consist of a diverse array of interconnected reservoirs, streams, ponds and wetland areas that serve important ecological functions, as well as provide drinking water and a variety of opportunities for recreationGroundwater resources supply the Town’s drinking water needs through a public water supply system and private drinking water wells.  Figure 4-2  shows the Town's surface waters, major wetlands, flood hazard areas, Town well field and proposed drinking water well locations, and the watershed for the Artichoke Reservoir system (Newburyport's water supply).

Surface waters

The Merrimack River: The Merrimack is the region's pre-eminent freshwater resource.  This river forms the Town's northern border and offers outstanding opportunities for boating, canoeing, fishing, wildlife observation, hunting, and scenic enjoyment.  The Town owns a public boat access near the Rocks Village Bridge, commonly used  for fishing by local residents.  The boat ramp has a lot of kayak use as well as fishing boats.

The Artichoke Reservoir System: The Artichoke Reservoir watershed covers about one third of the Town, and is shown in Figure 4-2. The Upper and Lower Artichoke system lies on the Town's eastern border with Newburyport.  This system is linked to the Indian Hill Reservoir, and serves as the public water supply for the City of Newburyport.  As West Newbury currently purchases a large portion of its drinking water from the City of Newburyport, this reservoir system also provides drinking water to residents of West Newbury on the public water system.

Mill Pond: Mill Pond is a scenic, 16 acre impoundment of the Indian River (a partially tidal river which connects Mill Pond to the Merrimack River).  Mill Pond lies just south and east of Main Street and is part of the Town-owned Mill Pond Recreation Area.  A cherished recreational resource, Mill Pond was drained in 2001, and 54 thousand cubic yards of sediment was dredged to maintain depth and prevent natural succession to wetland.

Little Crane Pond: This small open water body is created by a broadening of Beaver Brook near the Town's southern border.  Little Crane Pond is connected to Ash Swamp, a 600 acre wetland system of wooded, vegetated and open areas.  

Streams:  The Town's major perennial streams are the Indian River, Beaver Brook and the Artichoke River.  These three streams and others have  been afforded additional protection by the 1996 Rivers Protection Act (http://www.state.ma.us/dep/brp/ww/files/riveract.htm). The protections of the Rivers Act are now incorporated into the Wetlands Protection Act regulations  ( atr 310 CMR 10.58). There are numerous tributary streams and wetlands scattered throughout the Town.  Together these waters form a rich network of fish and wildlife habitat and afford numerous opportunities for water-based outdoor recreation. 

Flood Hazard Areas

Figure 4-2 shows the 100 year flood areas (from the 1979 Flood Insurance Rate Map) for the Town.  The flood zone along the Merrimack River is based on high waters from the flood of 1938.  


West Newbury's non-surface water wetlands can be divided into five major types, which are shown in Table 4-2.

Table 4-2:  Wetland Resource Types




Freshwater marshes

Examples occur throughout the Town, most notably within the state-owned Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area (Ash Swamp)


Tidal or estuarine marshes

Examples in Town include the low-lying areas bordering the Merrimack River, such as the outfall of the Indian River and the shoreline north of Way to the River Road and Emery Lane.  (According to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program, high quality natural communities of this kind are rare in the state.  These particular areas bordering the Merrimack are considered the finest example of the "Gulf of Maine Freshwater Tidal Marsh" within the Commonwealth.)


Shrub or wooded swamps

Examples occur throughout the Town


Wet meadows

Occur in select locations as part of the more expansive freshwater marshes and wooded swamps


Vernal pools

A number of as-yet non-certified vernal pools exist within the Town.  (Since 1996, one vernal pool has been certified, and further certification efforts are being pursued by the Conservation Commission.)


The Town has performed rough mapping of its wetlands.  Orthophoto maps, acquired from the Wetlands Conservancy Program in the late 1990s, provide additional general wetlands information, but do not constitute delineation of wetland resource areas and are no substitute for an on-site delineation.  The Conservation Commission would like to update the information from the Wetlands Conservancy Program every few years.

Aquifer Recharge Areas

Types of aquifers in West Newbury:  There are two types of aquifers which supply drinking water in West Newbury.  These are unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers and consolidated bedrock aquifers.  The unconsolidated materials lie on top of the bedrock in varying depths and have the ability to transmit groundwater.  The Town has sought out  both types of aquifers to provide drinking water for the public water supply system.

Unconsolidated sand and gravel aquifers:  Drinking water for the public water supply system is currently obtained from a shallow unconsolidated aquifer located adjacent to the Artichoke Reservoir on the eastern border of the Town.  This wellfield system consists of seven small tubular wells which may soon be replaced by three gravel packed wells. The  well field is capable  of producing an average of 200,000 gallons per day.  Numerous investigations in the past have been unsuccessful in identifying additional unconsolidated wells with adequate production rates for public drinking water supply.  This has led to investigations into the ability of the bedrock aquifers to provide drinking water sources. 

Bedrock aquifers:  In order to meet the projected demand for drinking water over the next 20 years, exploration of deep bedrock well locations has been a priority.  Numerous geologic studies and groundwater investigations have been completed in order to identify locations that would be capable of producing adequate volumes of drinking water.   After preliminary pumping tests and consideration of land purchase issues and site constraints, the Town has identified two sites for development as bedrock drinking water wells.  These are the Andreas site and the Dunn site.

The Andreas well site is located off Indian Hill Street between Garden and Middle Streets.  Extended pumping tests have been completed on the single 6-inch diameter well on site and indicate a safe yield of 145,000 gallons per day.  In December 2002, the DEP awarded a New Source Approval, but MA Water Management will not issue their permit until the Water Department intends to put this well site into production – therefore the project is currently on hold. 

The Dunn well site is located at the intersection of Chase and Middle Streets. A single 6-inch well exists and preliminary pump testing indicates a safe yield of 187,000 gallons per day.  Installation of an 8-inch well at this site is predicted to yield closer to 200,000+ gallons per day, though permitted safe yield may be lowered because of drawdown effects on surrounding wetlands.    Voters at Spring 2002 Town Meeting voted to purchase the entire 71-acre Dunn Property.  Contiguous to Pipestave Hill, the Dunn land will be used for combined water, recreation, agriculture, and future municipal use.

Current status of projects:   As of early 2008, the Water Department has postponed development of either the Dunn or Andreas sites because of the high projected costs to link these sites to the existing distribution system and to bring three-phase electrical power to the sites.  However, the Department has identified several sites along the Merrimack River that were previously unavailable and appear to contain promising unconsolidated aquifer well sites.  The Department will attempt to test and develop these sites before considering development of the bedrock sites.

Private wells in Town:  In addition to these public water supply wells, one third of the Town’s residents have private drinking water wells.  These are installed in both the consolidated and unconsolidated aquifers, depending on site-specific conditions.

Water Resource Protection

Protection of the Town’s water resources is afforded through Federal, State and Local regulations.  The permits, which are required for activities affecting water resources, trigger the  review by Town committees and boards, which are familiar with these regulations. 

Reservoir Protections:  For the reservoir system, land use restrictions are mandated by the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are organized into three zones, which are dependent on the distance from the reservoir.  They are designed to prevent contamination of the drinking water supply directly by discharge to the reservoir and indirectly by runoff or leaching from contaminated land.  While recreational use on the water is restricted, most recreational use around the reservoirs – such as hiking and horseback riding – is not.   The City of Newburyport has enacted a Surface Water Protection Bylaw, which further restricts land uses around the reservoir system.  Although not required by State regulations, West Newbury is considering the adoption of a Surface Water Protection Bylaw to help protect the reservoir system as a drinking water source.

Groundwater Protections:  Groundwater drinking water wells in West Newbury are also protected by State DEP regulations, as well Zoning Bylaw Section 10.0, Groundwater Protection Overlay District Bylaw.  The Water Department must control a land area with a 400 ft radius around each bedrock public drinking water well, and a 250 foot radius around a shallow well.   Land uses are restricted to those that will not impact the quality of the groundwater as specified by the regulations.  Passive recreational uses such as hiking, cross country skiing, bicycling and horseback riding are allowed within the protected area.

Inground Irrigation Bylaw:  The town passed an Inground Irrigation Bylaw in April of 2003.  This bylaw restricts the water source for inground irrigation systems for lawns to private wells. 

The Board of Water Commissioners continues efforts to expand West Newbury’s water resources, and to conserve water in summer months when the Town must purchase water at significant expense from the City of Newburyport.

Artichoke Reservoir watershed:  The Artichoke Reservoir watershed covers about one third of the Town.


D. Vegetation

West Newbury contains a diverse mixture of vegetation types, ranging from dense stands of hardwoods in the upland areas and on hill slopes to scattered assemblages of grasses and reeds in the low-lying areas and along stream courses.  In between is an assortment of mixed hardwood and softwood forests, abandoned farms, and active farms.  The active farms include open land for hay, pasture, apple orchards, nursery plants, and vegetables.

Forest Land

Characteristic native tree species include white pine, eastern-red cedar, Atlantic white-cedar, hemlock, white and red oaks, American beech, shagbark hickory, black locust, black cherry and sugar maple on the well-drained uplands; and red ("swamp") maple, various birches, cottonwood, alder and green ash in wetter or lowland areas.  American elm and American chestnut saplings are still found in scattered locations throughout the Town.  Introduced species (i.e., buckthorn and Norway maple) are naturalized, but are undesirable because they out-compete native species.

West Newbury has an abundance of mature shade trees along almost all the public roads and in our public spaces. These include grounds surrounding the Town Offices, the Public Safety Complex, Cammett Park and the Training Field in addition to the large tracts of protected land like those at Millpond, and Riverbend. 

Some families have enrolled their properties in Chapter 61A for managed forestry lands, requiring a planned program to improve the quantity and quality of a continuous forest crop. Currently there are 11 parcels with a total of 146 acres under this Chapter.  This includes many of the towns Christmas tree farms, but also other woodlots managed for firewood and habitat. 

The Town Forest is managed as a part of the Mill Pond Conservation Area and is included in the approved Management Plan for that Area.

As is common here in New England, the wooly adelgid has infested some of the town’s hemlock trees. Anthracnose  affects many of the flowering dogwoods.  Beech stands are threatened by the fungus Nectria coccinea, a blight which is carried by scale insects that weakens the thin bark of beeches and ultimately the structure of the tree itself.

West Newbury is a small town with a small budget.  At this juncture, we have no professionally trained forestry staff.    The Department of Public Works does attend to trees that are structurally unsound along the town roadways, and in public spaces.  Recently three ailing sugar maples were removed from the Training Field, and two new young Red Sunset Maples and one American Elm were planted on the historic green.  Ten Red Sunset Maples were also planted at Pipestave Hill to define a line between the equestrian area and the new Highway Barn.  Three pin oaks were planted between the equestrian area and the soccer/ baseball field at Pipestave during the recent expansion of playing fields in that area. The Department of Public Works has been instrumental in working with the Open Space Committee to remove large downed trees which are obstructing trails on public land, such as at the River Bend Conservation Area.   West Newbury does not currently have a Tree Committee or other such advocacy committee for trees. 

The Scenic Roads Bylaw was passed in 1999.  This bylaw denotes all roads in West Newbury other than State Route 113 as scenic roads.  In the course of road improvements, the removal of any tree greater than 10 inches in diameter at 1 foot off the ground requires written permission of the Planning Board after a required public hearing.

General Inventory

Common West Newbury plant communities include upland forests (pine and hardwood), wooded swamps, shrub swamps, fresh water marshes, tidal marshes, wet meadows and grasslands.  A list of common shrubs and herbaceous plants is provided in Table 4-4.

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program’s BIOMAP is based on verified natural community and rare species data that correspond to actual locations on the ground.  The BIOMAP of West Newbury identifies significant “core habitat” and supporting “natural landscape” acreage throughout the Town.  In the future, this BIOMAP will be posted on the Open Space website.

Table 4-4:  Common West Newbury Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants

Shrubs:                                                                            Open wet meadow plants:

Viburnum recognitum           arrow-wood                        Galium sp.                              bedstraw

Viburnum lentago                 nannyberry                          Mentha sp.                              mint

Viburnum trilobum                cranberrybush                    Thalictrum sp.                        meadow rue

Cornus amonum                   silky dogwood                     Arisdema sp.                           jack in the pulpit

Cornus stolinifera                 red osier dogwood              Lilum superbum                     turks cap lily

Cornus foemina                     stiff dogwood                     Lythrum sp.                             loosestrife

Cornus alternifolia                pagoda tree                         Barbarea sp.                          winter cress

Lonicera sp                            honeysuckle                       Lychnis sp.                             ragged-robin

Magnolia virginiana               sweetbay                            Lobelia sp.                             blue lobelia

Clethera alnifolia                   pepperbush                         Spiranthes cernua                 nodding ladies tresses

Lindera benzoin                    spicebush                            Eriophorum viriginium           cotton grass

Ilex verticillata                      winterberry                          Scirpus cyperinus                  wool grass

                                                                                           Eutrochium purpureum          joe pye weed

Ferns:                                                                                Woodland wildflowers:

Osmunda regalis                  Royal fern                            Cornus canadensis                bunchberry

Osmunda cinnamomea        Cinnamon fern                     Veratrum viride                        false-hellebore

Thelyperis thelypteriodes     Marsh fern                          Sanguinaria canadensis          bloodroot

Osmunda daytoniana            Interupted fern                    Erythronium americanum        trout lily

Thelypteris simulata             New York fern                    Cypripedium sp.                      lady's slipper

Anthynum Filix-foemina        Lady fern            

Onoclea sensibilis               Sensitive fern     

The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has identified several plant species occurring in the Town which are state or federally classified as rare, endangered or threatened.  These are shown below in Table 4-5.  These data are the most recently available from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Website, Section on Natural Heritage, and date from 2008.    


In addition, the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has identified a special natural community within the Town, the "Gulf of Maine Freshwater Tidal Marsh," within which many of the species of concern occur.

Table 4-5:  Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plant Species




Last Year

Officially Observed

Seabeach Dock (Rumex pallidus)



Eaton's Beggar-Ticks (Bidens eatonii)



Estuary Pipewort (Eriocaulon parkeri)



Pendulus Bulrush (Scirpus fluviatilis)



Englemann’s Umbrella Sedge (Cyperus engelmannii)



Swamp Dock (Rumex verticillatus)



3C = Federal Candidate Status +  E = Endangered, T = Threatened, SC = Special Concern

Non native plants

Non native, otherwise known as exotic or invasive, species of plants have moved into West Newbury and much of New England primarily from  horticultural trade and practices.  Native insects can not or prefer not to  eat alien species of plants. These plants do not support local insect and bird species, and compete vigorously  in the landscape with native species which do support the  wide variety of native wildlife. There is a  growing understanding of the importance of native plants to the local landscape and the habitat that is supportive of a rich variety of insects, birds and other animals. 

Much of the town which was previously in agricultural use, either as pasture or under tillage, was kept clear of brush and trees. When left fallow, these fields, or remnants of them, even in the open space associated with developments, quickly revert to woodland in the typical succession from brush to mature trees. This process can take as little as ten years. However, the success of the non-native bittersweet and other invasives  has disrupted this typical pattern throughout the town. Bittersweet has the ability to strangle even mature trees, changing the nature of succession, and to form a barrier impenetrable to humans.

Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List

The importation of the most of these plants listed below was banned as of January 2006.  By January 2009, propagation, sale, trade, purchase, distribution and related activities of all of these listed plants is banned.

An asterix (*) notes plants which are commonly found to be invasive most of New England, including West Newbury.   (From the New England Wildflower Society Website- Invasive Plant Atlas) 

Table 4-6:  Prohibited Plants in Massachusetts

Acer platanoides

Norway maple *

Melaleuca quinquenervia


Acer pseudoplatanus

Sycamore maple

Melastoma malabathricum




Microstegium vimineum

Japanese stilt grass *; Nepalese browntop

Aegopodium podagraria

Bishop's goutweed; bishop's weed; goutweed *

Mikania cordata


Ageratina adenophora

crofton weed

Mikania micrantha


Ailanthus altissima

Tree of Heaven

Mimosa diplotricha


Alectra Thunb.


Mimosa invisa

giant sensitive plant

Alliaria petiolata

Garlic mustard *

Mimosa pigra L.

catclaw mimosa

Alternanthera sessilis

Sessile joyweed

Miscanthus sacchariflorus

Plume grass; Amur silvergrass

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

Porcelain-berry; Amur peppervine

Monochoria hastata


Anthriscus sylvestris

Wild chervil

Monochoria vaginalis

pickerel weed

Arthraxon hispidus

Hairy joint grass; jointhead; small carpetgrass

Myosotis scorpioides


Asphodelus fistulosus

onion weed

Myriophyllum aquaticum

Parrot-feather; water-feather; Brazilian water-milfoil *

Avena sterilis

animated oat

Myriophyllum heterophyllum

Variable water-milfoil; Two-leaved water-milfoil *

Azolla pinnata

mosquito fern

Myriophyllum spicatum

Eurasian or European water-milfoil; Spike water-milfoil *

Berberis thunbergii

Japanese Barberry *

Najas minor

Brittle water-nymph; lesser naiad

Berberis vulgaris

Common barberry; European barberry

Nassella trichotoma

serrated tussock

Cabomba caroliniana

Carolina Fanwort; fanwort

Nymphoides peltata

Yellow floating heart

Cardamine impatiens

Bushy rock-cress; narrowleaf bittercress

Opuntia aurantiaca

jointed prickly pear

Carex kobomugi

Japanese sedge; Asiatic sand sedge

Orobanche L.


Carthamus oxyacantha Bieb.

wild safflower

Oryza longistaminata

red rice

Caulerpa taxifolia


Oryza punctata

red rice

Celastrus orbiculatus

Oriental bittersweet; Asian or Asiatic bittersweet *

Oryza rufipogon Griffiths

red rice

Centaurea biebersteinii

Spotted knapweed

Ottelia alismoides


Chrysopogon aciculatus


Paspalum scrobiculatum


Commelina benghalensis

Benghal dayflower

Pennisetum clandestinum


Crupina vulgaris

common crupina

Pennisetum macrourum Trin.

African feathergrass



Pennisetum pedicellatum Trin.


Cynanchum louiseae

Black Swallow-wort; *

Pennisetum polystachyon


Cynanchum rossicum

European swallow-wort; pale *

Phalaris arundinacea

Reed canary-grass

Digitaria abyssinica


Phellodendron amurense

Amur cork-tree

Digitaria scalarum

African couch grass

Phragmites australis

Common reed *

Digitaria velutina

velvet fingergrass

Polygonum cuspidatum

Japanese knotweed; Japanese arrowroot *

Drymaria arenarioides


Polygonum perfoliatum

Mile-a-minute vine or weed; Asiatic Tearthumb *

Egeria densa

Brazilian waterweed; Brazilian eloda

Potamogeton crispus

Crisped pondweed; curly pondweed

Eichhornia azurea

anchored waterhyacinth

Prosopis pallida


Elaeagnus umbellata

Autumn Olive *

Prosopis reptans


Emex australis

three-cornered jack

Prosopis strombulifera

Argentine screwbean

Emex spinosa

devil's thorn

Prosopis velutina


Epilobium hirsutum

Hairy willow-herb; Codlins and Cream

Pueraria montana

Kudzu; Japanese arrowroot

Euonymus alatus

Winged euonymus; Burning Bush *

Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser celandine; fig buttercup

Euphorbia esula

Leafy Spurge; Wolf's Milk

Ranunculus repens

Creeping buttercup

Euphorbia cyparissias

Cypress spurge

Rhamnus cathartica

Common buckthorn *

Festuca filiformis

Hair fescue; fineleaf sheep fescue

Robinia pseudoacacia

Black locust *

Frangula alnus

European buckthorn; glossy buckthorn *

Rorippa amphibia

Water yellowcress; great yellowcress

Galega officinalis


Rosa multiflora

Multiflora rose *

Glaucium flavum

Sea or horned poppy; yellow horn poppy

Rottboellia cochinchinensis


Glyceria maxima

Tall mannagrass; reed mannagrass

Rubus fruticosus

wild blackberry complex

Heracleum mantegazzianum

Giant hogweed

Rubus moluccanus

wild blackberry

Hesperis matronalis

Dames Rocket

Rubus phoenicolasius

Wineberry; Japanese wineberry; wine raspberry


Cape tulip

Saccharum spontaneum

wild sugarcane

Humulus japonicus

Japanese hops

Sagittaria sagittifolia


Hydrilla verticillata

Hydrilla; water-thyme; Florida elodea

Salsola vermiculata

wormleaf salsola

Hygrophila polysperma

Miramar weed

Salvinia auriculata

giant salvinia

Imperata brasiliensis

Brazilian satintail

Salvinia biloba

giant salvinia

Ipomoea aquatica

Chinese waterspinach

Salvinia herzogii de la Sota

giant salvinia

Iris pseudacorus

Yellow Iris *

Salvinia molesta

giant salvinia

Ischaemum rugosum


Senecio jacobaea

Tansy ragwort; stinking Willie

Ischaemum rugosum


Setaria pallidifusca

cattail grass

Lagarosiphon major

oxygen weed

Setaria pumila


Lepidium latifolium

Broad-leafed pepperweed; tall pepperweed

Solanum tampicense

wetland nightshade

Leptochloa chinensis

Asian sprangletop

Solanum torvum


Ligustrum obtusifolium

Border privet *

Solanum viarum

tropical soda apple

Limnophila sessiliflora


Sparganium erectum

exotic bur-reed

Lonicera japonica

Japanese honeysuckle *

Spermacoce alata


Lonicera maackii

Amur honeysuckle *

Striga Lour.


Lonicera morrowii

Morrow’s honeysuckle *

Trapa natans

Water-chestnut *

Lonicera tatarica

Tatarian honeysuckle *

Tridax procumbens

coat buttons

Lonicera x bella [morrowii x tatarica]

Bell’s honeysuckle *

Tussilago farfara


Lycium ferrocissimum

African boxthorn

Urochloa panicoides

liverseed grass

Lysimachia nummularia

Creeping jenny; moneywort *



Lythrum salicaria

Purple loosestrife *



Certain other plants, such as poison ivy, are native and provide good habitat and food for birds, but are nevertheless a nuisance to people who attempt to enjoy hiking in areas of infestation. Poison ivy is rampant in West Newbury, and is predicted to be even more so with climbing temperatures related to global warming.   

Attempts should be made to educate landowners regarding the benefits of landscaping with native species, and the value of eradicating invasive species where they have been planted or taken hold.  Control of poison ivy and bittersweet  along popular trails and public spaces will be a challenge, but can be done in limited areas.


E. Fisheries and Wildlife


West Newbury's abundant wildlife is a tribute to the size and diversity of open spaces remaining within the Town.  The birds, fish and mammals within the community are characteristic of those found throughout much of Essex County, and consist both of migrant and resident populations.  Some species are found in large numbers throughout much of the Town; others are rare and are confined to localized habitats. 

The Town’s beaver population has increased greatly since 1996, turning wetlands areas on Moulton Street, Bachelor Street, Kelly Brook Lane, and Crane Neck Street into large “beaver lakes,” where otter have been sighted.

The Town’s large deer population has contributed to an increase in Lyme Disease in recent years. Rabies, which had been on the decline, made a comeback in the raccoon population in 2001. West Nile Disease, which most commonly affects birds (especially crows and other raptors), but which can also be found in horses and humans, has been found in West Newbury.

Moose and black bears are occasional visitors to West Newbury.  Recently, there was a confirmed sighting of mountain lion in nearby Newburyport.

The state actively manages wildlife for hunting in the Crane Pond Wildlife Management area, which lies partially within the Town.  The following tables list fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds found in West Newbury.


Table 4-7: West Newbury Fish

Atlantic Salmon


Yellow Catfish


Smallmouth Bass


Striped Bass


Channel Catfish


Sunfish (various)





Yellow Perch





American Eel


White Perch


Brook Trout

P and S






Brown Trout

P and S




Largemouth Bass












Shortnosed Sturgeon














M = found in the Merrimack River, S = found in streams, P = found in ponds

Atlantic salmon, striped bass, and shad are anadromous species, spawning and hatching in freshwater, then migrating to the sea to live out most of their adult life cycles.  The American eel is a catadromous species, and follows the reverse strategy by which the young hatch at sea and then migrate into freshwater.  A very small population of shortnosed sturgeon lives in the Merrimack River below the Rt. 125 bridge in Haverhill.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Table 4-8: West Newbury Reptiles and Amphibians


Snakes (cont.)



Common Garter


Northern Dusky

Spring Peeper


Eastern Hognose

Blue-Spotted *

Gray Treefrog



Four-Toed *


Red King




Eastern Ribbon







American Toad

Northern Water




Black Racer





Spotted *




Wood *







* - classified as "Species of Special Concern" due to rarity. 

The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) is found in select shallow freshwater and brackish wetlands.  The Blue-Spotted and Yellow-Spotted salamanders inhabit moist woods and wooded swamps and depend on vernal pools to complete their reproductive cycle, as does the Wood frog.  The Wood Turtle  ( Glyptemys insculpta),  last seen in 1965 is a species of “Special Concern” and the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), last seen in 2004, is threatened. 


Table 4-9: West Newbury Mammals


Common name



Common name



Whitetail deer



Eastern gray squirrel




Eastern cottontail



Red squirrel




N.E. cottontail



Eastern chipmunk




Varying hare







Striped skunk



Northern flying squirrel




Short-tailed weasel



Southern flying squirrel




Long-tailed weasel

















White-footed mouse







Red-backed vole







Meadow vole







Pine vole




N.E. coyote







Gray fox



Meadow jumping mouse




Red fox



Woodland jump. mouse




Little brown bat



Norway rat




Big brown bat



House mouse




Red bat



Eastern mole




Hoary bat



Hairytale mole




Silver-haired bat



Starnose mole




Eastern pitistrelle



Masked shrew




Eastern long-eared bat



Shorttail shrew










* abundance codes:            P = present, status unknown             A = absent             C = common          R = rare


Table 4-10:  Birds Common to Eastern Massachusetts (italics = not sighted in W.N.)

Acadian Flycatcher

Canada Warbler

Golden-Crowned Warbler

Alder Flycatcher


Golden Plover


American Bittern

Cape May Warbler

Grasshopper Sparrow


American Black Duck

Carolina Wren

Gray Catbird


American Coot

Cattle Egret

Gray-Cheeked Thrush


American Crow

Cedar Waxwing

Great-Crested Flycatcher


American Goldfinch

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Greater Black-Backed Gull


American Kestrel

Chipping Sparrow

Great Blue Heron


American Redstart

Chimney Swift

Great Cormorant


Amercian Robin

Cliff Swallow

Great Egret


American Tree Swallow

Common Bobwhite

Greater Scaup


American Widgeon

Common Flicker

Greater Yellowlegs


American Woodcock

Common Goldeneye

Great Horned Owl


Bald Eagle

Common Grackle

Green Heron


Baltimore Oriole

Common Loon

Hairy Woodpecker


Bank Swallow

Common Merganser

Henslow's Sparrow


Barn Owl

Common Moorhen

Hermit Thrush


Barred Owl

Common Night Hawk

Herring Gull


Barrow's Goldeneye

Common Redpoll

Hoary Redpoll


Bay-Breasted Warbler

Common Snipe

Hooded Marganser


Belted Kingfisher

Common Yellowthroat

Hooded Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler

Connecticut Warbler

Horned Lark


Black-Bellied Plover

Coopers Hawk

House Finch


Black-Billed Cuckoo


House Sparrow


Black-Capped Chickadee


House Wren


Black Crowned Night Heron

Dark-eyed Junco

Iceland Gull


Blackpoll Warbler


Indigo Bunting


Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Double-Crested Cormorant



Black-Throated Green Warbler

Downy Woodpecker



Black and White Warbler


King Rail


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Bluebird

Lawrence's Warbler


Blue Jay

Eastern Kingbird

Least Bittern


Blue-Winged Teal

Eastern Meadowlark

Least Flycatcher


Blue-Winged Warbler

Eastern Pewee

Least Sandpiper



Eastern Phoebe

Lesser Scaup


Bohemian Waxwing

European Starling

Lesser Yellowlegs



Evening Grosbeak

Lincoln's Sparrow


Broad-Winged Hawk

Field Sparrow

Little Blue Heron


Brown Creeper

Fox Sparrow

Loggerhead Shrike


Brown-Headed Cowbird


Long-Eared Owl


Brown Thrasher

Glaucous Gull

Louisianna Waterthrush



Glossy Ibis



Canada Goose

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Marsh Wren

Maryland Yellowthroat

Red-Tailed Hawk



Red Winged Blackbird

Vesper Sparrow


Mourning Dove


Virginia Rail


Mourning Warbler

Ring-Billed Gull

Warbling Vireo


Mute Swan

Ring-Necked Duck

Water Pipit


Nashville Warbler

Ring-Necked Pheasant

Western Sandpiper


Northern Bobwhite

Rock Dove



Northern Cardinal

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

White-Breasted Nuthatch


Northern Goshawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

White-Crowned Sparrow


Northern Harrier

Rough-Winged Swallow

White-Eyed Vireo


Northern Mockingbird

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

White-Rumped Sandpiper


Northern Oriole

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

White-Throated Sparrow


Northern Parula Warbler

Ruddy Duck

White-Winged Crossbill


Northern Shrike

Ruffed Grouse

Wild Turkey


Northern Shoveler

Rufous-Sided Towhee

Willow Flycatcher


Northern Waterthrush

Rust Blackbird

Wilson's Warbler


Olive-sided Flycatcher

Savannah Sparrow

Winter Wren


Orange-Crowned Warbler

Saw-Whet Owl

Wood Duck


Orchard Oriole

Scarlet Tanager

Wood Pewee



Screech Owl

Wood Thrush



Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher


Palm Warbler

Sedge Wren

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker


Pectoral Sandpiper

Semi-Palmated Sandpiper

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo


Peregrin Falcon

Snow Bunting

Yellow-Breasted Chat


Philadelphia Vireo

Snow Goose

Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Pied-Billed Grebe

Snowy Egret

Yellow-Throated Warbler


Pileated Woodpecker

Snowy Owl

Yellow Warbler


Pine Grosbeak

Solitary Sandpiper



Pine Siskin

Solitary Vireo



Pine Warbler

Song Sparrow



Prarie Warbler




Prothonotary Warbler

Spotted Sandpiper



Purple Finch

Stilt Sandpiper



Purple Martin

Summer Tanager



Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Swainson's Thrush



Red-Breasted Merganser

Swamp Sparrow



Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Tennessee Warbler



Red Crossbill

Tree Swallow



Red-Eyed Vireo

Tri-Colored Heron



Red-Headed Woodpecker

Tufted Titmouse



Red-Shouldered Hawk

Upland Sandpiper



Resident and migratory bird habitats

 Many areas of the Town contain excellent habitat for resident and migratory birds.  Species commonly nesting along the Merrimack River include the common yellowthroat, swamp sparrow and marsh wren.  Herons, egrets, American bitterns, mallard ducks, black ducks, wood ducks and Canada geese frequent the marsh grasses along the river.

Winter brings bald eagles to the Merrimack River; these can be found along the stretch from the harbor to Lawrence.  Rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk and harriers frequent the marshes along the river.  Great cormorants and numerous gulls appear upriver.  Many ducks winter on the river including common and red-breasted mergansers, common and Barrow's goldeneyes, ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks, buffleheads and scaups.  Canada geese are found year round.

The Pike's Bridge Road/Artichoke Reservoir area provides nesting habitat for many species, including yellow and blue-winged warblers, common yellowthroat, blue-gray gnatcatcher, rufous-sided towhee, tufted titmouse, chickadee, swamp sparrow, hummingbird, warbling vireo, Baltimore oriole, willow flycatcher, a variety of woodpeckers and rough-winged swallows.  Marsh wrens, Virginia rails and woodcocks likely nest in the marsh along with moorhens and least bitterns.  Wood ducks and red-winged blackbirds also nest here.  The fields off Pikes Bridge Road support bobolinks, and the woodlands near Garden Street are drumming grounds for ruffed grouse.  The reservoir also provides habitat for osprey, wild turkeys, Canada geese, pied-billed grebe and tree swallows.

Corridors for Wildlife Migration

Merrimack River:  Numerous passerine birds migrate along the Merrimack River or use the edge as a stopping point on northern or southern migrations.  Common migrants include warblers, vireos, thrushes, orioles, tanagers and blackbirds. 

Reservoirs:  The Indian Hill Reservoir is a stopping place for migrating ducks in spring and, especially, fall.  Large numbers of American widgeon, bufflehead, northern shovelers, gadwall, ring-necked and ruddy ducks, greater and lesser scaup, red-breasted mergansers, common mergansers,  brant, snow geese, and, of course, Canada geese often fill the reservoir.  Pied-billed grebes, redhead ducks and hooded mergansers also sometimes appear.  The area around the reservoir attracts spring and fall migrants, and northern shrike and sharp-shinned hawks in winter.  Bluebirds have nested near the Cherry Hill Nursery.

The Pikes Bridge Road/Artichoke Reservoir area is another popular spot for migrant birds, with numerous warblers, vireos, wrens, tanagers and cuckoos reported. 

Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species

The following animal species (all classified by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as rare, threatened or endangered) have been found in West Newbury.

Table 4-11:  Rare, Threatened and Endangered Animal Species






Last Year



Twelve-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela Duodecimguttata)




Purple Tiger Beetle (Cicindela Purpurea)




New England Siltsnail (Cincinnatia Winkleyi)




Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum)




Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)




Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)




Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)




Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)




Wood Turtle (Clemmys insulpta)




Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)




Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)         




Golden-Winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)




* LE = Federally Endangered, LT = Federally Threatened, C2/3C = Federal Candidate Status, +  E = Endangered, T = Threatened, SC = Special Concern


Unique Features Map

Click here to enlarge image...

»Download this Map-PDF
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 55 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


F. Scenic Resources and Unique Environments

West Newbury is defined by its scenic open vistas, wooded hilltops, farm lands and historic homes.  The Town's easily viewed, wide-open spaces coupled with its small-town charm give the Town a special flavor that is unique among the North Shore communities.  Many of the Town's special scenic features are listed below, and are illustrated on the Unique Features Map.

Scenic Landscapes

The Town contains many locally significant scenic landscapes, vistas and roadways.  A partial list of scenic landscapes is included below.

Table 4-12:  Partial List of Scenic Landscapes






River Road

views of the Merrimack River as seen along the entire length of the road, also of the Indian River from the unused portion of the River Road


Rocks Village Bridge

views of the historic bridge from Church Street; views of the river from the bridge


Merrill Farm

views of the river, fields and pastures


Long Hill Farm

views of the orchard and river


Emery Lane

pastoral and woodland views


Bridge Street

view of the river from base


Whetstone Street

views across the river; open space along street (McGrath, Sullivan properties)


Main Street

views of Brown Spring Farm, Daley's field, the Knapp's property, Cherry Hill Nursery lands, Parker’s Farm and Brake Hill.


Church Street

pasture and river views from the top of hill; river view from base


Coffin Street

views of open lands (Beaucher property)


Cherry Hill /Indian Hill Reservoir

view across reservoir


Mill Pond Area/Pipestave Hill

views of rolling farmland, woods and pond


Page School

views of hills, fields and river


Beaver Brook area

as seen from Middle Street, Tewksbury Lane


Crane Neck Street

views of farms, Ash Swamp and hills beyond


Crane Neck Hill

views of surrounding hills and the old Orcland Farm


Ash Street

views of Ash Swamp


Kimball Lane

views of surrounding hills and open lands


Rogers Street

views of open lands (Hayden Farm, Knowles property)


Indian Hill Street

Indian Hill Farm and meadows


Indian Hill

Views to the ocean, west to the Town center and the river


Moulton Street

Expansive views of the Reservoir, pasture lands, nursery lands and woods


Turkey Hill Road

Farm and Common pasture views


Pikes Bridge Road

Meadow views


Georgetown Road hayfields

As seen from Georgetown Road, Crane Neck Street, and Tewksbury Lane


Numerous local Christmas Tree farms

These include White Gate, Lovejoy, Tagney, Fusco, Elwell, and several on Crane Neck Street

 *  Some of these lands are private property.  The scenic areas listed above, along with other areas which contribute to the Town's character, are shown on the Unique Features Map.

The Town must continue to takes steps to preserve the most unique and scenic environments for the enjoyment of all townspeople and as habitat for the wide array of wildlife that still lives within our borders.

Since 1998, when the OSC hosted a “Conserving Family Lands” workshop, the idea of placing land in conservation restriction has really taken hold.  Thanks to the generosity of conservation- minded landowners, and to the help and cooperation of Essex County Greenbelt, 
 the Gowen, Nichols, Atherton, Berkenbush, Serheant, Kelly, and Ordway properties have all been preserved in perpetuity through conservation restrictions.

Other progress has been made, as well.  In Spring 2000, the Town  passed a “Scenic Roads Bylaw,” designating all roads within the Town of West Newbury, except Main Street, as scenic. In Fall 2001, the Town passed the Pipestave Hill Conservation Restriction, saving 200 acres of the most scenic acreage in Town from further development of any kind.  And finally, the new  “Green Neighborhoods” zoning bylaw is designed to encourage the protection of open space and viewsheds.

Major Characteristics or Unusual Geologic Features

West Newbury's major geologic/geographic features are its drumlin hills and its location next to the Merrimack River.  West Newbury's drumlins are the first major hills to be found moving inland along the Merrimack River.  An interesting geologic feature is the Clinton-Newbury fault line that extends into Town from Groveland.  The fault passes beneath the Elwell farm (on Moulton Street), into the Scotland Road area of Byfield and then runs north to Seabrook.  Active earthquakes were felt in Newbury in the 1700's, and several minor quakes have awakened townspeople in the last few years.

Cultural, Archeological and Historic Areas

The Town's only designated historic area is the Training Field on Main Street, which is surrounded by Revolutionary vintage homes.   The field was the site of training soldiers for the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War, and was also the Civil War training site for the 28th Massachusetts Regiment (the Irish Brigade).  Also of historic interest are the approximately eighty pre-revolutionary  homes and approximately ninety post-revolutionary colonial, Greek Revival and farm houses dating from post-revolution through the 1800s scattered throughout the Town.  There is a Quaker burying ground off Turkey Hill Road, and a potter's field and three other "old" burying grounds in Town.  There are remnants of a commercial wharf and ferry landing along the Merrimack River.  An old stone cellar on River Road dates to pre-colonial times and is attributed by some to Nordic explorers. 

Others areas of cultural importance include the Town Office Building, Old Town Hall, the G.A.R. Memorial Library, Cammet Park, the Mill Pond Recreation Area, the Hill House, the Fire Station, Page School, the Pentucket Regional Schools, the John L. Carr Post, the Rocks Village Bridge, the Curzon's Mill Bridge, St. Ann Catholic Church, West Newbury Congregational Church, and the All Saints Episcopal Church.

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

West Newbury does not contain any State recognized "Areas of Critical Environmental Concern" (ACEC) within its borders.  However, the Town does contain many significant resource areas, including

  • The Town’s many wetland areas, the largest of which is Ash Swamp

  • Large tracts in the southern end of Town identified as BioMap Core Habitat  (areas which represent the highest priority of biodiversity conservation and protection in the State)

  • The West Newbury wellfield, and potential new well sites

  • The Artichoke Reservoir system and watershed

  • The Mill Pond watershed

  • The Merrimack River, especially that section near the mouth of the Indian River that is classified as a "Gulf of Maine Tidal Marsh"

  • Beaver Brook, Indian River, Artichoke River and smaller streams

  • Remaining farm lands, nurseries, orchards and hay fields

  • Large tracts of woodlands (along the Merrimack River and in the eastern section of Town)

  • Land surrounding the entire Indian Hill and Artichoke reservoir system and its outflow, source of water for the City of Newburyport and West Newbury.

G. Environmental Problems 

Hazardous Waste Sites

There are no known hazardous waste sites in West Newbury.  However, Superfund sites exist in both neighboring Groveland and Newburyport.  In the late 1970's two of Groveland’s municipal wells were found to be contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE).  The clean-up process on these sites has been completed.   The Newburyport site is at the northern end of Rolf's Lane along the Merrimack River.  This site was contaminated by PCBs, but following a large cleanup effort now has a "remediated" site status.

Other notable pollution sources include the Crestfoam Company of Newburyport, which has been listed as 9th on the Top 10 Polluters List in the state.  Also, the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, within 10 miles of West Newbury, is a high-level toxic waste site.

The OSRC's research shows that there have been no major spills within West Newbury.  Underground storage tanks have been removed from the Page School and Brunault’s Auto Sales and Service (previously a gas station).


West Newbury has no landfills in current use.  Until 1985, the Town used a municipal landfill located in the southern portion of the Town, at the intersection of Middle Street and Georgetown Road.  The landfill has since been closed and capped and is being monitored in accordance with DEP requirements.  After closure, the landfill property was deeded to the Conservation Commission to be preserved as open space.  West Newbury currently disposes of its trash at the MRI incinerator in North Andover.  There are currently no Town bylaws regulating the importation of fill to Town.  Such a bylaw, requiring all fill materials to be certified as “clean” (e.g., not containing hazardous substances or waste), should be enacted.


The major erosion problem in West Newbury is along the Merrimack River where it appears that the banking on River Road is being eroded by increased boating activity.  Without remedial measures (such as plantings, gabions, or walls) River Road may be adversely affected.  The building of new subdivisions gives rise to temporary erosion problems during construction.

Chronic Flooding

Flooding is a recurrent problem on a portion of Ash Street which passes through Ash Swamp.  Winter and spring flooding has led to fairly frequent temporary closures of this road.  A 100-year flood would cause many more areas to be flooded, notably certain portions of the Merrimack River shoreline, the Indian River and the upper Beaver Brook watershed.


Sedimentation of streams and ponds can result from construction activities.  West Newbury's only notable sedimentation problem was at Mill Pond, which  experienced decreased depths and increased aquatic plant growth..  With State and local funds, the Mill Pond Committee  had the pond drained and dredged, and it has now been returned to its original depth. The Committee has also enacted a nutrient reduction management plan for the Mill Pond watershed. 

Development Impact

The population of West Newbury has grown approximately 20% per decade since 1950.  The population density per acre  in the town in 1990 was 253, and in 2000 was 306.  The current population (2006) is 4,286, giving a density figure of 317. The West Newbury Comprehensive Plan anticipates that the Town’s population and housing units will nearly double by 2020, from a baseline of 1,325 houses and 3,794 people (February 2000).  The population increase has had and will continue to have a marked impact on the cost of Town services, school overcrowding, and the Town's public water supply.  Road maintenance work can be used as an example of how growth affects infrastructure costs:   increased residential development not only increases the costs for road maintenance, repair and snow removal, but also strains existing storm drainage systems (causing problem runoff and, potentially, nonpoint source water pollution problem). Failing septic systems  are also potential sources of non-point ground and surface water pollution.  As development occurs within the more marginal lands (areas close to wetlands, on slopes, or with poor soils) the chances of septic systems working improperly rise, though the Board of Health rules and regulations strive to prevent this.   Increased development also has an impact on the Town's water supply, since most new subdivisions are required to have access to Town water.  West Newbury's current wells cannot meet its current needs, much less the needs of future residential development, and new well sites have been aggressively sought-out, tested, and purchased. However, due to the lengthy state permitting process, the new sites will not be available for the foreseeable future.  (See Section 4, Water Resources).

Ground and Surface Water Pollution

West Newbury has no known major problems with nonpoint source pollution which are not currently being addressed.  However, as noted above, storm water and failing septic systems are a potential sources of ground and surface water pollution - and both tend to increase as population density rises.  West Newbury's public water supply, Newburyport's public water supply, Mill Pond, and West Newbury's extensive wetland areas could conceivably be impacted by nonpoint source pollution if care is not taken to protect these resources from the effects of too many people living too close to them.  The Merrimack River, once severely polluted by industry and municipal sewage treatment plants upstream of West Newbury, has been the subject of recent concerted clean-up efforts and has improved greatly over the last twenty years.

Forestry Issues

Forests in West Newbury, like those all over New England, are growing because of the succession of farmland to forest, but are nevertheless threatened by fragmentation due to development  and declining health secondary to air pollution and warming temperatures. Conservation agencies,  and sensitive landowners are working with municipal and state cooperation  to preserve contiguous parcels to combat the fragmentation that affects our forests as habitat.

Invasive species such as  autumn olive, norway maple, winged euonymous, black locust and common buckthorn are crowding native species especially in areas of natural succession from field to forest. (See previous section on invasive species)  

Sugar maples are more sensitive to drought, road salt, soil compaction and pollution.  Many roadside sugar maples show evidence of crown die back, likely due to road salt, but forest pathologists also believe acid precipitation and other pollutants are involved as well. Climate change related warmer temperatures are forecasted in the long run to alter the ability of much loved trees such as the  sugar maple to remain healthy in this area.

Other trees are threatened as well.   The butternut is damaged by a canker, caused by a fungus, though the origins of this blight is unknown.  White ash is in decline from a mycoplasma like organism.  Red oaks have been seen to suffer a crown die back in some areas.

Global warming and higher local temperatures are forecasted to impede germination  of balsam fir, paper birch, yellow birch.  Because it will take a long time for newer species which do better in warmer temperatures to migrate north, we are likely to suffer a decline in species and tree diversity.

Environmental Equity Issues

West Newbury  does not include any environmental justice populations as of the 2000 census.  Our public open spaces are widely scattered throughout town as can be seen by our Open Space Inventory map.


Section 5

Inventory of Lands of Conservation and Recreation Interest

»Return to Table of Contents



A. Inventory Overview and Organization

In this section we inventory our open space.  Open space is broadly defined as unoccupied parcels that have or could have utility for recreational, water resource, natural wildlife, community or scenic value.  Our inventory finds 3,548 acres of open space in town.

Forty percent or 1,498 acres are unprotected, that is, they could be readily changed into other uses, largely residential.  This inventory includes 538 acres explicitly taxed under MGL chapter 61.  These lands enjoy a low tax rate so long as they continue to be used for forestry or agricultural use but the use can be readily changed to other uses.  The town has first right of refusal to purchase these lands at market value. 

Sixty percent of the open space, 2,050 acres, is protected.  Protection is afforded by specific deed provision or by its use in certain unchangeable purposes.  None of these lands can have their use changed without very specific and significant acts, generally involving the Legislature.

The protected lands by category of protection are:

            By perpetual deed

                        Conservation Commission Land                      255 acres

                        Privately owned CR                                     97 acres

                        Town owned, ECGA CR (Mill Pond)                 200 acres

                        Town owned, other                                    48 acres    

            By Ownership of Essex County Greenbelt

                        Lands owned for reservations                       236 acres

            By Perpetual Agricultural Protection Restriction

                        Rights purchased by town                           515 acres

            By Ownership for Specific Use

                        Massachusetts Fish & Game                         435 acres

                        US Fish & Game                                         7 acres

                        Newburyport Water Reservoir                       200 acres

                        Established Town Well Sites                         47 acres

                        Cemeteries                                               10 acres

            Total including reservoir                                          2,050 acres

            Total excluding reservoir                                         1,850 acres

The 2,050 acres of protected open space account for 21% of the town’s 9,443 acres of area.

The spatial distribution of the open space is shown on the map immediately following.  As the legend there indicates, the protected lands are shown in shades of green and blue, and are further separated by category. 

The yellow orange and brown shaded parcels are open space but they are not protected.  Notable are the brown because they are under Chapter 61, parcels which may be available for purchase on short notice.

The gray, pink and white shaded parcels are not open space.  The map is intended to be a comprehensive depiction of all land uses, including the non open space parcels. 


Open Space Inventory Map

Click here to enlarge image...

»Download this Map-JPG
Source: Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Map found on page 63 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


Importance of protecting key parcels – the Priority Parcels List

In 2000, at the request of the Board of Selectman, the OSC created a “Priority Parcel List,” or “watch list,” of lands that, for a number of reasons, are of special conservation or recreation interest.  (Please see Appendix C for the current priority parcel list, and the criteria for inclusion on the list.)

The priority parcel list was created over the course of several public meetings, with input from a wide variety of townspeople, including real estate agents; farmers; Conservation Commission, Water Department, and Parks & Recreation members; and others with interest in land preservation issues.  The list has been updated yearly by the Open Space Committee to reflect changes to the status of a parcel.  Recently, several parcels have been removed from the list because they have now been permanently protected through conservation restrictions or lost to development.

The properties in the Priority Parcels List are a generally a subset of the unprotected lands shown above.  They are in private or institutional ownership.  At the time of printing (June 2009) the list contained 1,320 acres. 

Definition of passive recreation
As we analyzed specific parcels of land, we noticed that a large number of them offer a wide range of passive recreation opportunities.  For the purposes of this section, passive recreation refers to the following activities:
  • Hiking and bicycling

  • Horseback riding

  • Cross country skiing, and

  • Nature observation

How this Inventory is organized

West Newbury has a gently rolling terrain interspersed by a series of elongated hills.  These hills provide a logical starting point for organizing the town into geographical areas for the purposes of this inventory.  A few areas are not defined by a hill, but by another resource, such as a reservoir, or by the Town center.

The areas are listed below in the order in which they are presented in this section.

  • Pipestave Hill

  • Lower Artichoke

  • Upper Artichoke

  • Cherry Hill

  • Indian Hill

  • Illsley Hill and Kimball Hill

  • Crane Neck Hill

  • Brake Hill

  • Long Hill/River Road

  • Elwell Square

  • Civic Center

Within the Private and Public/Non-profit lands, parcels are grouped within these geographical regions.   Out of respect for landowner’s privacy, unprotected private parcels are listed by parcel size and not by landowner’s names.

Note:  Lands identified as “Chapter 61”, which is a tax reduction program for agricultural and recreational lands, are not permanently protected.  Chapter 61 only allows the Town the right of first refusal if the land is to be sold or to come out of agricultural use.


Key to Abbreviations

BOS - Board of Selectmen, ConCom - Conservation Commission, WD - Water Department, WC - Water Commissioners,  MPC - Mill Pond Committee, ECGA - Essex County Greenbelt, LAC – Land Acquisition Committee, NBPT – City of Newburyport, PRSD – Pentucket Regional School District, P&R – Parks & Rec Commission, WNGC – West Newbury Garden Club, DEM – Department of Environmental Management

Description of geographical areas



Pipestave Hill

Pipestave Hill is the first hill one encounters entering West Newbury from the East on Route 113.  There is a large area of Town-owned land clustered here, stretching all the way from the Merrimack River, across the top of Pipestave Hill, and on to Archelaus Hill.  Significant Town-owned parcels include the Riverbend Conservation Area, the hill top site of the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School, Mill Pond/Pipestave Hill Recreation Area, and the newly acquired Dunn Parcel. This area forms the riverside end of a proposed cross-town trail and greenway. It is bounded on the west by the Indian River, and includes the scenic Mill Pond. 

Lower Artichoke Reservoir


This northeast section of Town is bounded on the north by the Merrimack River and on the east by the Artichoke River and the Lower Artichoke Reservoir.  This is the major entranceway to West Newbury when traveling from the east on Rte. 113 from Newburyport and I-95.   There are important defining views along the roadway here, on land owned by the Society of St. John the Evangelist. A public roadway, across the private Society land, connects via the historic Curzon’s Mill Bridge to Maudslay State Park in Newburyport.   Water resources are important here, including the Town’s only water well field, and frontage along the Lower Artichoke Reservoir.

Upper Artichoke Reservoir


The Upper Artichoke Reservoir is a scenic surface water resource that sits between West Newbury and the City of Newburyport along the Town’s eastern border.  Middle Street and Turkey Hill Street continue into West Newbury from Newburyport in this area of town. The area is mostly residential with some significant agricultural lands.  There are two very scenic bridges, where townspeople often fish and bird.  In 2003 the Ordway family worked with Greenbelt to permanently protect 55 acres with a marked trail, now known as the Ordway Reservation.



Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill is the former site of the historic Cherry Hill Nursery, founded in 1832 by the Thurlow Family.  The Nursery provided ornamental trees and shrubs, such as Norway spruce, laurels, lilacs, and rhododendron.  The Nursery also cultivated and hybridized peonies, which were famous throughout the world. The Thurlow family recently closed the Nursery, and began to sell off a number of the Nursery lands, including this central site, which overlooks the Indian Hill Reservoir.  The view from the corner of Cherry Hill and Bachelor Streets is one that defines West Newbury. In the fall of 2002, the Town voted to purchase two subdivided lots and to accept two gifted lots, for a total of eight acres, dedicated to passive recreation and viewshed protection.  Several other parcels in this neighborhood are possible routes for a cross-town trail.  Obtaining appropriate easements or other rights of way in this area will be important for this goal.

Indian Hill


Indian Hill lies just north of the Cherry Hill Reservoir.  It is one of the few remaining undeveloped hilltops in West Newbury.  There are several large lots in this area of significant preservation interest.  One family farm abuts the Reservoir and contains the outflow brook which courses from this reservoir to the Artichoke Reservoir system.  This piece has important water protection value.  Recently, 41 acres of the Indian Hill Farm, including the hill top, have been permanently protected by a joint Town/Greenbelt preservation project which was supported by a state grant.  These lands include important trails and habitats which connect to other town trail and natural habitat areas.

Illsley Hill and Kimball Hill


This area of town, considered “out back” by some, has some large hilltop parcels, significant roadside agricultural fields, pastural views, Christmas tree farms, and a network of informal trails.  Beaver Brook runs just south of the area.

Crane Neck Hill/Ash Swamp


This area lies in the southern tip of the Town and features a large contiguous area of protected lands.  There is the 184-acre Brown vegetable farm, which is protected by an Agricultural Preservation Restriction, and the adjacent Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area, which comprises more than 435 acres, including Crane Pond.  Some would argue that these are the lesser-known gems of West Newbury.   Much of the Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area has significant beaver activity, rendering large areas impassable for passive recreation except in deep winter. 

Brake Hill/West End


The area west of West Newbury’s Town center is named for Brake Hill, the Town’s highest elevation, where one of the West Newbury’s water towers sits.  Home to the Pentucket Regional High School and Middle School, this is the Town’s western town line, bordering Groveland.  The School parcels lie along the  Merrimack River, offering possible public access to the river edge. 

Long Hill/River Road


Arguably the most scenic road in West Newbury, River Road wends its way alongside the Merrimac River, offering views of Merrimac, Merrimacport, and Amesbury on the other side.  Teeming with bird life, eagles have made frequent appearances on the river in recent years. Long Hill Orchard is one of the largest orchards in New England.



Ellwell Square Area to Rocks Village Bridge


Named for the late Albert E. Elwell, venerable West Newbury native and former representative to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Elwell Square comprises West Newbury’s busy Town Center.  Fanning out from this small center are Whetstone Street, Maple Street, and Church Street.  Two of West Newbury’s three churches occupy the corner lots at the top of Church Street, which leads down to the Merrimac River and the Rocks Village Bridge.  An important 35 acre parcel which abuts the town center and stretches to the Merrimack River is currently on the market.  The Town is investigating the options for this parcel. 

Civic Center

In West Newbury’s thriving civic center, townspeople congregate at Cammett Park to cheer on Little Leaguers and soccer players in the "sports” civic center of Town.  The Bandstand brings families out during summer evenings for a popular concert series.  Townspeople come together to enjoy seasonal celebrations at the Training Field, where the Town's Historic District, its well-used library, and Old Town Hall form West Newbury's "historic” civic center.


Geographical Areas of West Newbury

Click here to enlarge image...

»Download this Map-JPG

Index map to identifying location of parcels listed in Inventory of Lands in Section 5

Map found on page 68 of the 2009 OS&R Plan


B. Inventory of Lands

Private Parcels



Current Use

Recreation Potential

Public Access




Pipestave Hill


25 acres


·  Private trails

·  wetlands



Res. B



19 acres



·     Trails

·     Athletic fields

·     Greenway


Res. C



Merrimack Island


16 acres


Natural state with some hunting

Passive open space


Res. B



8+ acres


Con. Comm

Natural state

Passive open space

Via canoe

Res. B

In perpetuity via CR


Chase Street



~ 2 acres

Rural Cemetery Association


(Vacancy for 60 years)

·  Passive recreation

·  History field trips


Res. B



Lower Artichoke Reservoir





28 acres


·  Residential house lot

·  Woodland

·  Contiguous with large Society parcel

·  Merrimack River access

·  Passive recreation

·  Fishing

·  Canoeing


Res. B



Parson’s Woods



37 acres

Parson’s Woods property owners

Passive open space

Passive recreation


Res. A, C

In perpetuity via deed restriction


Upper Artichoke


157 acres


Agriculture – dairy farm

Passive recreation


Res. A

Chapter 61


Cherry Hill/Reservoir


48 acres



Wooded upland

·  Trails

·  greenway


Res. A

Chapter 61


20.6 acres



Meadow, trails

·  Trail

·  greenway


Res. A



43.0 acres


·  Residence

·  Woodland

·  Hilltop

·  contiguous woodland

·  Trails

·  passive recreation


Res. A, B



Bachelor Street Cemetery
~ 2 acres

Walnut Hill Cemetery Association

(Rick Thurlow)


(Vacancy for 100


Passive recreation

History classes


Res. B



Indian Hill


35.0 acres




fallow fields

river corridor

Mostly important for water protection, passive recreation


Res. A

Public Surface Water Supply Protection Area

Zone A


2 parcels
42 acres




hayed fields


wet lands

Roadside views, passive recreation


Res. A

Conservation restriction held by ECGA


Illsley Hill and Kimball Hill


64.5 acres


Christmas tree farm, very scenic roadside view

Passive recreation

Possible school and athletic field site


Res. B

Chapter 61


38.0 acres


Hill top woodlands




Res. A



20 acres, multiple parcels


Hay fields


roadside views

hillside views


passive recreation


Res. B

4 parcels in 61

totaling 43.2



36.0 acres


Christmas tree farm

long views


passive recreation


Res. A

Chapter 61



43 acres


Roadside hay fields


Passive recreation


Res. A, B

Conservation Restriction to ECGA


Crane Neck Hill/ Ash Swamp


184 acres

Annfield Vegetable Farm

Vegetable farm and farmstand,

horse pasture




Res. A

Yes.  APR

70.0 acres


Residence and farm

very lovely roadside views

some wetland


passive recreation


Res. A

Chapter 61

16 acres





Athletic fields

passive recreation


Res. A

Chapter 61

28 acres



·  Christmas tree farm

·  Hillside and roadside views


passive recreation


Res. A

Chapter 61

Brake Hill/West End
Chestnut Hill
12.7 acres


Former farm

River access




Res. B

CR held by Town

3.6 acres


Private residence

Adjacent to high school playing fields


Res. B


19 acres

Knapp’s Greenhouse

Private residences




Over-55 housing


Res. C

Chapter 61


12 acres


Private residence

former farm

Viewshed, with access to a Town-owned 117-acre protected parcel.


Res. C


Long Hill/River Road

Kimball Farm

144 acres.


Farm with fields

Viewshed from Bridge Street


Res. C


80 acres.



Natural state, wooded.  Some meadows

Passive recreation, trails with frontage on Main Street, Coffin Street, and Merrimack River


Res. B


63 acres.


Sheep farm

View shed, river frontage


Res. B

Chapter 61

187 acres.



apple orchard

farm stand

Passive recreation


Res. B


Bridge Street Cemetery

~ 2 acre

Trustees of Bridge Street Cemetery

(Rick Marchand)


(Vacancy for 15 to 20 years)

Passive recreation

History trips.


Res. C


Elwell Square to Rocks Village Bridge

9 acres


Private residence

hillside fields

Passive recreation



Res. C

Yes. CR


3 parcels =

3 acres




open land

Town parking

sewage treatment plant


Res. C


37 acres


Open fields


Possible mixed use

River access


Res. C




Open fields

Passive recreation



Res. C


14.8 acres





farm stand

Passive/active recreation

possible over-55 housing


Res. C

Chapter 61

13.0 acres




Trails linking Maple Street with Civic Center


Res. C


Pleasant Street Cemetery

~ 2 acres

Merrimack Cemetery Board of Trustees

(Rick Davies)




(Vacancy for 10-15 years)


Passive recreation

History field trips

Yes, with ADA access

Res. C


Civic Center

22 acres


Open field with pond and wetlands

·  Adjacent to Cammet Park

·  passive recreation

·  Town park, and/or

·  over-55 housing.


Res. C

No (Proposed development site)

3.3 acres



Contiguous to open field above


Res. C


12 acres



Contiguous to acreage above


Res. C



Public and Nonprofit Parcels




Current Use


Recreation Potential

Public Access

Type of Grant



Pipestave Hill


Mill Pond Recreation Area


222 acres, incl. 9 acres of Town Forest

·   MPC

·   BOS

·   ECGA

·    Passive recreation

·    boating

·    soccer

·    baseball

·    snowmobiling

·    Municipal area: highway barn, recycling

Well maintained

Used to potential

·   Yes

·   ADA access to new athletic fields


Res. B, C

·    200 acres protected in perpetuity via CR (ECGA)


·    22 acres unprotected for municipal use


Dunn property

71 acres


·   Agricultural

·   Trails

Well managed and maintained

·    Passive recreation

·    Athletic fields

·    Potential school site

·    water well field site

·   Yes

·   No ADA access


Res. C



Dr. John C. Page School

131 acres

·   BOS

·   PRSD

·    Playgrounds

·    Athletic fields

·    Woods, trails

·    Agricultural pastures

·    Passive recreation

·    Highway Dept.

·    Town–owned apartment

·    Park & Rec Buildings

Well managed and maintained


·   Yes, incl. parking

·   ADA access to school, apartment building


Res. B, C













Riverbend Conservation Area


68.3 acres



·    Passive recreation

·    Fishing

·    Canoeing

Improve trails to provide year round access

Used to potential

·   Parking at Page school

·   No ADA access

DCS self help grant

Res. B

·   Self-Help Program project agreement

·   Article 97 of MA Constitution

Town/ Well field


6 acres


Water wellfield

Well managed

N/A – Restricted access



Res. A

·   MA Drinking Water Regulations

·   W. N. Groundwater Protection Bylaw

Lower Artichoke Reservoir

St. John’s the Evangelist/
Episcopal church


131 acres

Episcopal church

·   Religious retreat

·   Agricultural fields

·   Woodlands


·   River access

·   Passive recreation

·   Fishing

·   Canoeing

·   Road open to public, land is not

·   No ADA access


Res. B


Upper Artichoke Reservoir

Ordway parcel


70 acres


Passive recreation

Natural state

Passive recreation



Res. A

Protected in perpetuity via CR

Upper Artichoke shores

24 acres

Con Comm.

Passive recreation

Natural state

·    Passive recreation

·    Fishing


Via 50’ footpath

3-car lot on Middle St

No ADA access

Self-Help Grant

Res. A

·   Deeded for conservation purposes

·   Article 97 of MA constitution

Pike’s Bridge Road

49 acres


Passive recreation


Passive recreation

·   Via footpath

·   No ADA access


Res. A

Protected in perpetuity



Quaker Cemetery


~ 2 acres




·   Passive recreation

·   Abuts Upper Artichoke Reservoir



Res.  A



3 misc. parcels near Rte. 95


10 acres


Open scrub

Natural scrub state

Passive recreation




Res. A



 Cherry Hill



6 acres


Open meadow,

Possible well site


Passive recreation



Res. A, B

Well site radius

Town/ Cherry Hill
8.8 acres


Open meadow,

passive recreation

important viewshed


Passive recreation only

·   Yes

·   No ADA access


Res. A

·   Town meeting vote

·   Land Bond requirement

Nbpt. /
Water Dept.


200 acres

Nbpt. Water Dept.

·   Watershed protection

·   passive recreation

·   views


Passive recreation only

·   Yes

·   No ADA access


Res. A

·   Wetlands Protection Act

·   MA Drinking Water Regulations

·   Public Surface Water Supply Protection Area (Zone A)

·   Surface Water bylaw

18 acres




Wooded upland, some wetland

Passive recreation trail

·   Yes

·   No ADA access


Res. A


Indian Hill



33 acres


§          Meadows

§          Wooded uplands

§          Historic stone walls

Natural state, some trails



No ADA access






6 acres

Con Com

Wetlands, scrub

Natural state

Passive recreation


No ADA access


Res. B

Deeded for conservation purposes

Illsley and Kimball Hills

Ownership uncertain

US Fish and Wildlife


6.5 acres


·   Landlocked and very wet

·   brook corridor

·   overhead power lines


·   Fishing

·   passive recreation

·   Yes, via other F&W parcels

·   No ADA access


Res. A



Off  Moulton and Ash


9 acres


·   Passive recreation

·   Wooded, much ledge

·   extension of Paddy Rock trail

Natural state

·   Trail

·   important link

·   passive recreation



Res. A




10 acres



Limited, very wet

Head-waters of Beaver Brook

Passive recreation

Limited due to wetlands


Res. B


Crane Neck Hill and Ash Swamp

Town /


28 acres








Con Com

·   Adjacent to Crane Pond WMA

·   Passive recreation

·   Wildlife observation

·   Equine and hiking trails

·   Natural state

·   Mostly forest among rock out-cropping

·   Some wet areas

·   Passive recreation.

·   Trail links Ash Street with Crane Pond WMA

·   Yes.

·   No ADA access



Res. A

Deeded for conservation purposes

MA Div of Fisheries and Wildlife/


435 acres


·   Wildlife observation

·   Hunting

·   passive recreation

·   snowmobiling

·   Wooded uplands, wetlands and grasslands.

·   Some dumping

·   beaver flooding

·   damage from vehicle use in wet season


·   Passive recreation

·   Hunting

·   snowmobiling

·   Yes, parking available

·   No ADA access


Res. A


Brake Hill/West End


Brake Hill-Craven Property


117 acres


Water tower access road; trails; contiguous to Groveland Town Forest

Well maintained. Natural state with good trails and road access to water tower.

Passive recreation,

active recreation

(athletic fields)

Limited. No ADA access.


Res. A



Hilltop Circle/Captain Pierce Drive

9 parcels totaling


121 acres

Con Com

Informal paths.  Perennial running brook feeding Beaver Brook.

Natural state.  One 13-acre parcel includes the old Town dump, now capped.

Passive recreation

101 acres contiguous to Craven (above) and its trail system.

Limited. No ADA access.


Res. A

Yes.  Deeded for conservation purposes



10 acres



Passive recreation

Natural state

Passive recreation



Res. A




31 acres



School buildings, indoor/outdoor recreation facilities

Well maintained

Active recreation, river access.



Res. B, C



River-meadow Conservation Land

3 parcels totaling


8 acres



Passive recreation

Natural state.

·   River access

·   River view

·   Trail linkages

·   Passive recreation

·   Buffer

Yes, along River-meadow Drive and  Place


Res. C

Deeded to ConCom for conservation purposes.


 Long Hill Orchard/River Road 

There are no Public/Non-Profit parcels of land in this section of Town  

Elwell Square


34.5 acres


Wooded interior parcel

Natural state, potential housing development site

§          Passive recreation

§          Trails

§          Possible mixed use

§          housing



Res. C



Off Mechanic Street


24 acres


Mostly wooded and wet

Natural state

Passive recreation

Yes, off Mechanic St. and George-town Rd. 


Res. B, C

Land preservation trust


Ferry Lane Park


¼  acres



Grassy open space with picnic tables

views of Merrimac River and Rocks Village Bridge

Well maintained

Additional picnic facilities possible



Res. C

Designated Park,

Article 97,

MA Constitution


Boat Ramp


.49 acres


Boat ramp provides Town’s only public river access, and the bank is a popular fishing spot

Boat ramp in poor condition

Used to full potential

·   Limited roadside parking

·   No ADA access.


Res. C


Civic Center


Cammet Park

Action Cove


23 acres


Active recreation: baseball, soccer


“snack hut”

Well maintained

Used to its maximum potential



Res. C




Protected by Article 97,

MA Constitution


Training Field


1.5 acres



War memorials

Destination of annual Memorial Day Parade

Town Christmas tree

Well maintained

Possible site for additional outdoor activities



Res. C

Historic District (Town-owned since 1700s.  Began as training field for soldiers.)

C. Open Space Equity

The town has no concentration of EJ population.   Access to open space and recreation is widely distributed, with no resident more than a mile from at least one resource.  Our Action Plan in Section 9 improves the distribution of quality recreation assets, particularly trails and small scale river access.  The plan also advocates active recreation improvements at existing school facilities.



Section 6

Community Goals

»Return to Table of Contents

Pipestave Hill

A. Description of Process


The following pages describe the ways in which the Open Space Committee solicited community input, including:

  • Summary of past efforts

  • Description of the community survey

  • Survey distribution and tabulation

  • Survey response demographics

Summary of Past Efforts

This Plan is a revision of the past plans and so contains many of the same goals. Since the 2003 Plan certain goals have been met and further progress has occurred therefore our needs and goals have been adjusted and refined to reflect that progress. In other areas our needs and goals remain much unchanged and are reiterated here as ongoing work.

Description of the community survey

The community survey was again drafted by the Open Space Committee with input from the Park and Recreation Department and was mailed to every household in West Newbury. For details of this process, please see section 2B. ( For a sample of the survey, please see Appendix B.) The survey solicited input in the following categories:

  • Town Priorities

  • Preservation of Open Space

  • Recreation

  • Growth of the Town

  • Community Preservation

  • Demographic data

In addition to multiple-choice answers, the survey enabled residents to include handwritten, narrative comments in response to many of the questions.

Survey distribution and tabulation

The survey was distributed by bulk mailing to every household in West Newbury. The completed surveys were returned either through the U.S. mail, or through collection boxes at the 1910 Building, the Library, and the West Newbury Food Mart. Upon receipt of the completed surveys, Open Space member Mike Mokrzycki entered the data into his computer program and tabulated the numerical portions. The narrative responses were compiled by Mike and summarized by members of the Open Space Committee.

Survey response demographics

We received 334 responses to the survey, which represents 20% of the 1650 surveys mailed. The people who responded are represented by the following groups:

Years lived in Town

Less than 1 year


1-5 years


6-10 years


11-20 years


More than 20 years


Age Group



















These numbers show that a diverse demographics of people responded.  Based on that, we believe that the information gathered from the survey is statistically significant and therefore provides us with meaningful data.  The thoughts and opinions gathered from, the survey served as the basis for the committee’s determination of the community vision and overall goals.


B. Open Space and Recreation Goals

Basis for defining goals

These goals were developed collaboratively by the Open Space Committee, Town board and committee members, and townspeople.  This collaborative effort is just one example of the community spirit which has allowed West Newbury to accomplish so many of the open space goals defined in the 1996 Open Space Plan, and which, in part, makes West Newbury such a special place to live.

Iterative nature of the goals

The goals are based on the Town’s current needs and will be used to help us implement the action items defined in the remainder of the Plan.  As the Town’s needs change, these community goals (and related parts of the Plan) will be reviewed and modified to reflect and address these changes.

Relevant data from the Community Survey

The following data was gathered from the Community Survey and served as the foundation for the Community Goals defined below.

1.  50 percent or more of the respondents cited the following as town priorities in descending order:

  • Good schools

  • Rural character

  • Environmental preservation

  • Working farms

  • Wildlife corridors

  • Scenic roadside views

  • Trails for hiking and other purposes

  • New well fields/water resources

2.  Rural Character- Throughout the entire survey, large numbers of respondents referenced their appreciation of West Newbury’s rural character, its lovely roadside views, small town charm and agricultural heritage. Many respondents value ongoing work to preserve these characteristics.

3.  Open Space- West Newbury residents clearly place a high value on open space. The preservation of land and the spending of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to that end were rated extremely high.

4.  Recreation Priorities- Respondents identified a continuing need for the expansion of passive recreation opportunities. Specifically identified was the importance of the trail system and its further expansion. Expanding youth programs was also identified as a priority. The Park and Recreation Department has identified a need for a Community Activity/Wellness Center which would address the needs of all ages.


West Newbury’s Open Space and Recreation Goals continue to be:

 1.  Preserve the town’s charm, rural character, and sense of community

2.  Protect and manage key natural resource areas

3.  Provide passive and active recreational activities for Townspeople of all ages



Section 7

Analysis of Needs

»Return to Table of Contents


The Hunt

A. Summary of Resource Protection Needs


As a result of information gathered from the 2008 Open Space and Recreation Survey (OS&R Survey), discussions with Town boards and officials, and public meetings, the following were identified as resources the Town must take steps to preserve and protect: 

  • Preserve and protect scenic resources and unique environments, including open space, views from roadsides and hilltops, meadows and farmlands 

  • Protect wildlife habitats and corridors

  • Protect wetlands

  • Protect water supplies

  • Protect surface waters

An analysis of the protection needs for each resource is provided in the following pages.

Preserve and protect scenic resources and unique environments

IssueSeventy-six per cent of OS&R Survey respondents cited West Newbury’s rural character as very important to them while a significant majority cited the Town’s natural beauty, and open spaces as the reasons they most enjoy living in West Newbury. These percentages represent an increase in the importance of rural character, natural beauty, and open spaces as reported in the previous 2002 OS&R Survey.

Additionally, 55% of respondents selected open space as the top priority for Community Preservation Act (CPA) spending.

A notable number of respondents also cited too much development and excessive traffic as forces eroding key elements which comprise rural character: the landscape, the old and diverse housing stock, the farms, fields, meadows, and roadside views.

The priority West Newbury residents place on open space reflects a national sentiment which highly values open space. In the November 2008 election, voters across the country approved 62 of 87 referendums to acquire or protect open space, allocating $7.3 billion in new spending for parks and open-space preservation. (New York Times, November 19, 2008) 

 Summary of Needs:

  • Build awareness of preservation mechanisms for land

  • Outreach to landowners, including pamphlets on options for land preservation

  • Articles or a series of articles in the Newburyport Daily News and West Newbury News, and

  • Open Space-related Forums or events

  • Enforce the Town’s Scenic Roads Bylaw, as well as the State Statute known as the Shade Tree Act.

  • Enact local bylaws designed to preserve hilltop vistas.

  • Consider enlarging the Historic District and/or establishing new Historic Districts such as the Training Field and parts of Main Street, as appropriate.

  • Encourage residential development to be sensitive to roadside views, and promote “interior” and “green neighborhood” developments in order to preserve farmlands, meadows, and other unique environments not otherwise protected by state or local regulations.

Protect wildlife habitats and corridors

   Issue: Although prime wildlife habitat areas and corridors exist in the Town, many are on private lands and are not protected by Town or state regulations.  Some areas are covered by the state’s Wetlands Protection Act, but this protection is partial at best.  A sizable majority of OS&R Survey respondents (60%) cited the need to preserve wildlife corridors as very important (wooded, stream, river and pond areas/corridors) while another 69% cited environmental preservation as very important.

Summary of Needs:

  • Identify, map, and prioritize wildlife habitats and corridors for protection.

  • Work with landowners to develop conservation easements.

  • Aggressively pursue grant funding to help acquire high-quality habitat lands.

  • Establish and implement a land management program for Town-owned lands.

Protect wetlands

Issue: Although most wetland areas receive protection under state law, they and their buffers are threatened by increased development.  Even development that includes buffer zones can harm these sensitive areas.

Summary of Needs:

  • Identify, map and prioritize wetlands for protection.

  • Establish more aggressive buffer zones through local zoning.

  • Enforce existing protections and buffer zones.

  • Establish and implement a vernal pool certification program.

Protect water supplies

Issue: West Newbury residents access their water from private wells or the Town water supply system. About one-third of the Town relies on private wells.  All private wells must be located within the same parcel of land as the house. In April of 2003, the Town passed an Inground Irrigation Bylaw which restricts the water source for inground irrigation systems for lawns to private wells.

All other residences are connected to the Town water system. Current practice allows homes that are located within 1,000 feet of the Town’s water lines to connect to this system.  As described in Section 4, the need for water by West Newbury residents connected to the Town water system exceeds the demand during certain times of the year.  Fifty per cent of OS&R Survey respondents cited new well fields and water resources as very important.

Summary of Needs:

  • Protect parcels of land which have been identified as probable sources of new Town water.

  • Enact aquifer protection districts for existing and future well sites.

  • Consider limiting connections to Town water until new sources of Town water come on line.

  • Protect existing water supply by increasing the buffer zone surrounding reservoirs.

  • Protect private drinking water wells.

  • Continue to develop potential sites for a new water supply.

Protect surface waters

Issue: West Newbury surface waters include the Merrimack River, Mill Pond, Little Crane Pond, Upper and Lower Artichoke Reservoirs, Indian Hill Reservoir, and a variety of tributaries to the Merrimack and Parker Rivers.  As the Town becomes more developed and as the population of nearby Towns increases, West Newbury’s surface waters are at risk of water pollution and habitat loss.

Summary of Needs:  

  • Identify and acquire critical parcels of river front property for water protection, habitat protection, and recreational use.

  • Consider changing zoning in order to limit the number of docks and the design of docks.

  • Strengthen West Newbury’s partnership with the Merrimack River Watershed Council to coordinate water protection efforts.

  • Work with the City of Newburyport to protect the Artichoke River reservoir system and its buffers.

Many parcels owned both publicly and privately are covered by various regulations which limit development within the Merrimack River flood plain and in areas subject to the Wetlands Protection Act.  The newly enacted Rivers Protection Bill will limit some development within 200 feet of Town waterways -- including the Indian, Artichoke and Merrimack Rivers and  Beaver and Saw Mill  Brooks. 


B. Summary of Community Needs


Several areas of concern surfaced in the public hearings and in the community survey conducted in the spring of 2008.  The Town needs that were most frequently cited by participants and respondents included:

  • Preserve the Town’s rural character

  • Provide  recreation opportunities for townspeople of all ages and abilities, including maintaining active recreation facilities  and creating more recreation/nature programs for youths and teens in particular

  • Analyze the Parks and Recreation proposal for a Wellness and Recreation Center

  • Develop and  maintain trails

  • Develop Merrimack River access for fishing and boating

Preserve the Town’s rural character

Issue:  “Rural character” emerged throughout the quantitative and narrative portions of the survey as the most striking and valued feature of the Town, encompassing open space, working farms, access to nature, and wildlife as well as a sense of history, community, and “small town feeling.” Respondents repeatedly cited rural character itself or its attributes as very important to them and as their reason for choosing to live in West Newbury. This finding reflects a similar strong feeling expressed in the 2002 OS&R Survey.

Additionally, and also tracking with responses from the 2002 OS&R Survey, many 2008 Survey respondents noted the Town is losing, or is in danger of losing, its rural character as more building reduces open space and increases population and traffic. Respondents identified a number of different land parcels that should be preserved. The Sullivan property near the Town center and stretching to the Merrimack River emerged as a key parcel to preserve.

In 2007, The Open Space Committee worked with other Town boards to accomplish passage of the Community Preservation Act (CPA). Through this act, the Town collects a Tax surcharge and must allocate the proceeds for open space, historic preservation, recreation facilities, and affordable housing. The CPA will be a positive force in helping to preserve vital parcels of open space. 

Summary of Needs