Open Space Committees

Open Space Committees

As a trusted, local source of information, Open Space Committees (OSCs) stand in an excellent position to help increase the pace of land protection in their community.  In fact, perhaps the most effective role for OSCs may be helping their neighbors make informed decisions about the future of their land by getting them timely information and contacts when they are making decisions.  This role compliments the work of land trusts and state conservation agencies who can then provide the necessary expertise to help interested landowners conserve their land.

On this page:


Upcoming Events:

Below is a list of upcoming events specifically designed for Open Space Committee members, natural resource professionals, and conservation advocates. 

2021 Open Space Conference

Thursdays in March | 2-3:30 p.m. (seminar) and 7-8 p.m. (networking)
Click here to register

Join us every Thursday in March for the sixth annual Open Space Conference! This free, peer-to-peer conference is for municipal Open Space Committees, volunteers, and others involved in the development and implementation of community-based conservation planning and projects. Afternoon seminars will feature speakers on a range of topics related to open space, while evening networking sessions will provide an opportunity to meet other open space committee members from around the state.

All sessions will take place virtually over Zoom.

March 4th | The Open Space and Recreation Plan – From Planning to Implementation. 
This seminar explores the end-to-end planning of open space, from writing and updating the seven-year plan and finding funding to the tools available to protect open space.

 March 11th | Ecology – Conserving Forest and Wetland Open Spaces
This seminar focuses on open spaces’ ecological importance and the various resources available to protect them.  Speakers will help guide open space committees to build a solid understanding of the value, rules, regulations, and resources around the protection and conservation of open space wetlands and forests.

 March 18th | Trails and Recreation – How OSCs Develop and Maintain Trails
This seminar features speakers with case studies and information to towns looking to conceptualize, build support, and raise funds for trail development and increasing recreational opportunities.

March 25th | Community Outreach – Networking and Maintaining OSC Relationships
Outreach, networking, and maintaining relationships are key to successful open space projects. It is our goal that OSC members will leave this session feeling more confident in their ability to engage with members of their community.

For full conference information, please visit


Grant Opportunities

Landscape Partnership Grant Program: The Landscape Partnership grant program aims to protect larger areas of conservation land. Towns with less than 6,000 residents may also use this grant to build a park or playground. Applications muse be jointly submitted by at least two of the following groups: municipality, non-municipal public water supplier, 501(c)(3) non-profit, government agency. For more information:

LAND Grant Program: The Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) grant program helps municipalities acquire conservation and recreation land by reimbursement for acquisition in fee or conservation restrictions. For more information:

Neighborhood Outreach Grant: The working forest initiative is sponsoring grant funding for projects to implement “neighborhood-based outreach” to landowners on conservation-based estate planning, including land protection options. The goal of this project is to use social networks to help inform landowner decisions about the future of their land. Learn more about this grant: 


Open Space Plans

Community Preservation Act: The CPA helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. The CPA is funded through a local option surcharge on property tax bills and a state match or those surcharges. For more information, see the Community Preservation Coalition:

Cost of Community Services: Land protection and conservation have impacts beyond those directly involved with the conservation and it is important for communities to better understand how conservation and land protection impact things like taxes and town finances, economic growth and sustainability, and community health. See the following resources for more information:


Conservation Programs

Chapter 61 Current Use Tax Programs: The three Chapter 61 programs assess land at its current use (forest, agriculture, open space/recreation) as opposed to its development value and provides tax breaks if enrolled. For more information:

Town’s Right of First Refusal: Landowners entering one of the Chapter 61 programs agree to maintain the use of the land in a way consistent with their chosen program. However, if a landowner wants to sell their land or change its use a town may exercise their right of first refusal to buy the land or may transfer the right of first refusal to an eligible conservation organization. Fore more information:


Mapping Resources:

MassGIS OLIVER Mapping Tool:


Solar Citing:

Large scale solar installations have become a topic of interest for many towns in the state. Open Space Committees have the ability to put plans into place to support the wants of their town. See the attached link for a resource on this important issue:


Webinar Recordings from the 2020 Open Space Conference Webinar Series

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, originally recorded on April 8, 2020

Creating Open Space Committees and Keeping Them Alive, originally recorded on April 14, 2020

Land Protection Basics: How a Community can Protect Land, originally recorded on April 15, 2020

Stewarding Town Land, originally recorded on April 22, 2020 

Navigating the Community Preservation Act, originally recorded on April 29, 2020

Outreach to Landowners in your Community, originally recorded on May 6th, 2020