In 1984, the Sharon Conservation Commission approved a wetlands permit for the development of a house lot on the banks of Massapoag Brook in Sharon. When neighbors Dan and Peg Arguimbau realized the brook and surrounding wetlands were threatened, they felt the need to take action. They knew that building a house on the land would have a negative impact on the brook, wetlands, and wildlife habitat and they wanted to do what they could to try and prevent that from happening.
They learned that if they collected the signatures of 10 objecting townspeople (a “10 Citizens Petition”) they could appeal, and potentially halt, the subdivision. Peg and Dan collected names and made the appeal. The State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) visited the property and evaluated the sensitive landscape, and then overruled the Conservation Commission, stopping the proposed project.
That’s when Peg Arguimbau realized the importance of her local Conservation Commission. She realized that she could help her community to protect its land, wetlands, and water supply by getting more directly involved. When an opening on the Conservation Commission came up the following spring, she applied for the seat and got it. One year later she became Chairperson—a position she still holds today after 26 years.
As chair of the Conservation Commission, Peg has had many proud moments. Over the years she has played an essential role in facilitating the conservation of hundreds of acres of land in town.
The woods where Peg played as a child once came dangerously close to being lost. A housing development was proposed for a forest grove overlooking a Commission-owned pond and crossed by a popular hiking trail. The thought of the land being developed was devastating to many people in town, most certainly to Peg, and with another commissioner she began advocating for its protection.
Conserving the land took more perseverance than anyone could have predicted, but ten years later, the land was permanently protected. It wasn’t easy, and the solution wasn’t exactly simple—a land swap with the developer resulted in the Conservation Commission acquiring the woods while the developer gained three house lots in a part of town where new housing was a more appropriate fit. Peg says that it was a rich learning opportunity for her as a Commissioner.
Another one of Peg’s prized projects was the protection of 170+ acres that serve as a gateway to Sharon on Route 27, known as “The Griffin Land”. The property was bordered by Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, which made it a perfect opportunity for a conservation partnership. To raise the funds needed, the Conservation Commission applied for and was awarded a State Self-Help Grant, requiring a local match which came from a combination of Town Meeting appropriation and private fundraising by Mass Audubon. Today the land is owned by Mass Audubon and further protected by a Conservation Restriction, purchased and held by the Town. (A “Conservation Restriction” is a legally binding agreement that permanently protects certain conservation values of a piece of land while also allowing the land to remain in private ownership, for landowners to use and transfer indefinitely.) Peg says that there are tremendous benefits to having conservation partners working together in Sharon because “it adds another layer of protection to conservation land, and it shows the townspeople that it’s not just the Commission protecting land in Sharon.”
Peg says she is proud of the trust the Conservation Commission has built with their fellow townspeople. “The Commission has been able to acquire land for the town for very reasonable money, and we’re viewed as a fair and credible board. As a result, over the years we’ve been successful going to town meeting for financial support.”
This is the way land gets saved: one piece of land at a time, thanks to one person stepping up, and then another, and another. Peg understands the power of community and education in protecting the environment. “Kids are the place to begin, but we need to also bring awareness to everyone else. Mass Audubon does an excellent job of providing ways for people to become interested and involved in nature. Kids need to be outside, people need to be outside.”
Peg and her husband Dan have applied that same love and commitment to the environment to their own backyard, generously donating a Conservation Restriction on 28 acres of their own land to Mass Audubon. “The people who drive by our land can know that nothing will ever happen to this property—it will never be developed. We’re proud of that, and we hope that we have instilled in our children an understanding of the effort it takes to protect the environment around you.”
Peg’s husband, Dan, has an equally impressive conservation resume. He was one of the first people in Massachusetts to conserve land via Conservation Restriction when he gave one to the State of Massachusetts in 1972 on eight acres of his property. He was also named Conservation Teacher of the Year in 1988 by Mass Audubon. Peg describes her husband as having an incredible land ethic and love of the earth, and a “passion for the environment that has nurtured mine. Marrying Dan is what led me to have a true understanding and appreciation for the value of conservation.”
Mass Audubon is very grateful for the efforts of local leaders like Peg Arguimbau and others across the state that help save nature for people and wildlife.