CRAAC was formally created in October 1987 by the adoption of state legislation. Its main purpose is to educate the public about the benefits of protecting the Canoe River Aquifer. This regional committee is comprised of 15 members, three from each of the five communities the river passes through. Most are municipal officials or sit on town boards. Among other activities, CRAAC advises municipal officials and residents on development impacts, water quality concerns, conservation practices, protective zoning bylaws and other issues. It also sponsors many educational conferences and meetings. State environmental officials regard CRAAC as a model for a volunteer, regional entity.
THE CANOE RIVER GREENBELT PROJECT
One of CRAAC’s most challenging and longterm goals has been to create a regional “greenbelt” -land controlled by the public and preserved in its natural state. The intent is to acquire parcels within the riparian corridor through friendly purchase or casement. The extensive wetlands and woods abutting the river are integral components in maintaining water quality and quantity. They are also prime habitat for numerous species of plants and wildlife – some of which have been designated “endangered” or “species of special concern.” Therefore, preservation of these unique riparian areas is critical to retaining the overall health of the river ecosystem which in turn protects this public water supply. Facilitating public access, another important goal, may also be accomplished.
Through the receipt of a $50,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) the committee has begun to address this important goal. The grant money is being used to create a Geographical Information System (GIS) which will be a database and map of all the parcels along the river corridor. Hundreds of parcels from the five communities are included. The complexity of this task clearly required outside assistance.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AT DARTMOUTH
Working with DEP staff, the Hydrology & Water Resource Group within the Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth was contacted to provide technical assistance and the necessary labor force. Students visited each of the five communities to obtain information on every parcel within the Canoe River aquifer. This data is being standardized and cataloged noting such important facts as ownership, parcel size, location, wetlands, frontage, etc. All this data and the applicable tax maps are being entered into a new GIS program employing state-of-the-art technology. The GIS will provide a comprehensive system for each of the five communities to immediately access various types of data on individual lots, print high quality maps and to perform other computer applications. This information will be the basis for *identifying and prioritizing parcels which could become part of a “Greenbelt” through the aquifer.
This type of project can only be accomplished with the strong support of the private property owners within the Canoe River aquifer. One of the objectives of this brochure is to provide information which will be the basis for this cooperation and assistance. DEP, CRAAC and U-Mass. Dartmouth will work in concert with all individuals and the host communities to preserve portions of this important resource for future generations. The concept of a “Greenbelt” of connected parcels from Sharon to Norton – based upon a computerized GIS, could be realized to the benefit of everyone who lives within this unique area.