The Durham Town Council unanimously accepted a gift of 5.3 acres from University of New Hampshire (UNH) Emeritus Professor Dennis L. Meadows, located at 30 Newmarket Road; the news was announced on September 24 at 9:33 a.m. via Facebook.
“Thanks to the generous efforts of long-time Durham resident, Dennis Meadows, a key property located on Route 108 has been donated to the Town. This preserves a scenic gateway into town and provides the opportunity for town residents to enjoy pedestrian links from Rt. 108 to the downtown with many potential recreational uses,” Durham Economic Development Director Mary Ellen Humphrey said as she summed up the affair. “It promises to be a valuable asset to the Town long into the future.”
Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig claims the town first discussed the acquisition of the land 16 years ago, but only three years ago, in 2015 did a serious push for the parcel begin. At the time, the town was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the owner, but the goal for Meadows to purchase the land and donate it to the town for the purpose of preservation remained.
Once Tom Toye, owner of the neighboring Mill Pond Center property, purchased the land, he and Meadows eventually reached an agreement.
“[These were] private conversations that did not involve the town,” says Selig.
According to Town Council Member Sally Tobias, Meadows first introduced this idea to the Land Stewardship Subcommittee, then presented a formal offer to the town, which was later presented to the Town Council.
“There was a public hearing about the gift and it received overwhelming approval from the full Council,” Tobias said. “After that, a simple quitclaim deed was drawn up and the town took possession of the land,”
Regarding the purpose of the $175,000 gift, Selig said that in “the short term, it protects the viewscape and in addition, the Toye parcel to the left has some trails and the public can use those trails, but there is no place to park.”
The new property can reportedly suffice as temporary parking.
Meadows’ long-term goal for the land, however, is to build a pedestrian bridge over the river that would allow the public to walk a loop around the pond.
“Dr. Meadows wanted to preserve the viewscape….and help develop what he has referred to as a ‘ring of pearls’ around the Mill Pond,” Selig said. Despite this, “[t]he town has made no commitment and there is no money, but it is an idea of Dr. Meadows.”
“For me personally, Dr. Meadows is simply ‘Dennis’. I first met him when I became involved with the Wagon Hill Community Garden,” Tobias said as he spoke highly of Meadows’ membership to the town. “He was a founding member of the community gardens. He was simply ‘the cool interesting guy that hung out in the garden.’”
According to “The Systems Thinker,” Dr. Meadows previously served as director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research at UNH, and is currently the president for the Laboratory for Interactive Learning while also co-writing The Limits to Growth. He earned his B.A. from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in management at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management.
Dr. Meadows also holds four honorary doctorates and has lectured and consulted abroad, received international awards like the 2009 Japan Prize, and co-founded the Balaton Group to promote public policy and sustainability. Before his time at UNH, Meadows was a director at both M.I.T. and Dartmouth College.
“I think the gift is extremely generous and speaks completely to Dr. Meadows’ commitments to the environment and to the town’s values,” Tobias said. “Dr. Meadows is a man who does not seek accolades and I appreciate his humility and generosity.”