Negotiating for Open Space Acquisitions

January 2009 (Updated January 2016): When communities attempt to acquire open space, it is often beneficial to have a third party handle negotiations in private on behalf of the municipality. In addition to local land trusts, The Community Preservation Coalition’s partners, including the Trust for Public Land, Mass Audubon and the Trustees of Reservations, can help CPA communities meet their goals by providing land acquisition expertise. The Trust for Public Land has prepared a guide to the benefits of using a third party for CPA open space acquisitions.

The Trust for Public Land is a non-profit land conservation organization with a mission to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 with goals of protecting land in and around cities and pioneering new land conservation techniques. Over the years, organization's work expanded to include projects from inner city to wilderness, and our broad experience has made them a national leader and innovator in city park creation, state and local conservation funding, and using GIS for conservation planning. In Massachusetts, The Trust for Public Land works extensively where most people live and work -- in cities, towns and metropolitan areas -- and has protected over $15,000 acres across the Commonwealth since 1985.

Have your CPC and local Open Space Committee identified open space priorities, and need help putting a deal together or leveraging CPA funds?

The Trust for Public Land can help towns and cities meet their goals by providing technical assistance services, including feasibility research to assess conservation priorities, and managing transactions and campaigns that conserve open space for long-term stewardship. The Trust for Public Land has the ability and experience to work as an independent actor in the marketplace with landowners and a wide variety of public agency partners to negotiate deals, identify and secure funding, and complete all of the due diligence associated with a real estate transaction.

Why do towns ask The Trust for Public Land for help?
As a third party, the Trust for Public Land can assume much of the risk and responsibility of completing real estate transactions that can be a burden to smaller towns and volunteer boards, especially those that have not completed a land deal before. The Trust for Public Land is experienced and successful at addressing the following concerns:

Sensitivity: Municipal boards are often not able to negotiate in private. The Trust for Public Land can negotiate on its own behalf, 100% in private, and offer landowners a degree of confidentiality through the transaction process that municipal boards cannot.

Capacity: Negotiating and completing a transaction is time consuming and challenging. Often volunteer boards do not have the time to commit to this. The Trust for Public Land has staff dedicated to getting transactions completed and expertise that municipal volunteers may not be able to access on their own.

Complexity: The Trust for Public Land can work out partial sales, limited development, or other scenarios. The Trust for Public Land can also work with complicated ownerships and sensitive landowners by taking emotion out of the transaction and using professional expertise to negotiate and complete the best conservation outcome.

Funding: The Trust for Public Land can help towns access state and federal funds available for conservation, by assisting with grant applications and building support. The Trust for Public Land can raise private funds, through foundation grants and individuals, that can add capital to a land protection project.

Urgency: As a private organization, The Trust for Public Land can often react quickly and take on risk that public agencies can’t. The Trust for Public Land’s Massachusetts staff, based out of Boston, is working every day to take on new conservation challenges.

The Trust for Public Land is interested in helping your community evaluate and complete your priority conservation projects that fall under the following initiatives:

Parks for People – parks, playgrounds, and recreation amenities near where people live.

Community Agriculture – agricultural land, community gardens and urban farms that support resource-based livelihoods and provide local food.

Land & Water – providing recreational access to the state's waterways, and protecting watersheds for clean drinking water.

If your community has an open space project in need of help, or for more information, contact Kelly Boling in the Trust for Public Land’s Boston office at kelly.boling@tpl.org, or 617-371-0558.