AVIS Capital Campaign

Protect the Merrimack River and the Bay Circuit Trail on the former Franciscan Seminary property. (Donate)

As of May 1, 2017 AVIS has raised about $335,000 of its $400,000 goal from several foundations (in order donations were received: Foundation M, Highland Street Foundation, Stevens Foundation, Fields Pond Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation and Bafflin Foundation), leadership donor Rosalyn Woods and many loyal AVIS donors. We ask the community to support this effort to protect the Merrimack River and the Bay Circuit Trail.

A full description can be found in this document. (PDF)

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April 29th, 2017 - New Reservations Celebrated
(photos by John Hess)

The Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS), and the Town of Andover Conservation Commission celebrated the acquisition of three recently acquired parcels of land along the Merrimack River off River Road in Andover. A new AVIS parcel (26.6 acres) was purchased from Melmark New England. The Town parcel (7 acres) was donated by Pulte Homes as required by a condition from the Town on their permit to build an over-55 housing complex on an adjacent site. Both parcels were part of the former Franciscan Seminary which closed in 1977. The celebration also included a thank you to the Behrakis family which donated six (6) acres to AVIS along the Merrimack River.

Over sixty (60) people celebrated these new reservations on a sunny and breezy day. The event was hosted at the property of Melmark New England, a school for children and young adults with autism. Festivities included hikes through the conservation land and along the Merrimack River as well as speeches by Town Manager Andrew Flanagan, Conservation Commissioner Kevin Porter, and AVIS President Mike Timko. June Black, representing Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, spoke about the commitment to protect and preserve rivers and habitat for native species. Kristen Sykes of the Appalachian Mountain Club, speaking on behalf of the Bay Circuit Alliance, highlighted the importance of protecting the recreational access to over two miles of the Bay Circuit Trail which follows the river in that area.

The attendees enjoyed picnic lunches as well as dessert and beverages provided by My Marketing Solutions. Children enjoyed activities such as planting seeds and learning about Moose antlers and other items found in nature. All were excited about these new properties which will be available for all to enjoy.

Nature Lesson - David Dargie, AVIS Land Manager, teaches Kate Livermore and Naomi Wilson about nature during the celebration.

New Trail Sign - Trustees Susan Stott and Mike Timko present a new trail sign to George Behrakis. Mr. Behrakis (on left in photo) and his family donated six (6) acres of land to AVIS to help protect the Merrimack River.

AMC Support - Kristen Sykes of the Appalachian Mountain Club explains the importance of protecting the Merrimack River and the Bay Circuit Trail along the River.

Boy Scouts - Eagle Scout Robert Pothier talks about the plans to have Boy Scouts improve the recreational trail system along the Merrimack River.

National Trails Day®

June 6, 2015 is American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day®, the country’s largest celebration of trails. National Trails Day events will take place in every state across the country and will include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects and more. If you are interested in learning more go to their website at http://nationaltrailsday.org/

AVIS Acquires New Properties

AVIS has reached an agreement to exchange land with Ironstone Farm to open a section of trail off Lowell Street. Please see the front page article in the Spring 2015 UPDATE, above, for more information.

AVIS has completed negotiations with owners of land in West Andover to acquire a parcel along the Shawsheen River. This purchase should be completed by the end of July 2015 and will help protect the River from future development as well as establish the southern portion of the Shawsheen River Greenway.

AVIS Receives Bequest from Ellen Fraser

The Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS) is the recipient of a bequest from the estate of Ellen F. Fraser, long-time resident of Andover. In 2011, AVIS received notice that it was remembered in the will of Ellen F. Fraser. Bequests are an excellent way for friends to remember their favorite charities. AVIS was notified in late 2013 that the amount of the gift was $62,700. This is the largest amount given by Mrs. Fraser to any one organization, out of a to¬tal of 16 gifts to area organizations. Mrs. Fraser lived on Boutwell Road in Andover for many years with her late husband, Robert Fraser, former President of the Community Sav¬ings Bank in Lawrence. As described in her obituary in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, Mrs. Fraser was a lover of nature and “…a member of many organizations, such as the Lawrence Garden Club, the Daffodil Society, and the Horticultural Society. At age 90, she even won a ribbon for a flower arrangement at the Topsfield Fair.” Mike Timko, President of the AVIS Board of Trustees, noted that Mr. & Mrs. Fraser, as avid hikers and skiers, were very active users of the more than 35 miles of trails in Andover that are held in trust for the public to use. He indicated that AVIS is indebted to Mrs. Fraser for her wonderful generosity in remembering AVIS in her will and went on to say that “The AVIS Trustees voted to add these resources to our Land Acquisition Fund so that additional land may be purchased for future generations to use, just as the Frasers would have wanted.”

Andover Day 2014

AVIS hosted a booth As part of the Annual Andover Day event that closes Main Street in Andover for a day of celebration and entertainment.

AVIS Participates in Essex National Heritage Trails & Sails – 2014

In September 2014 AVIS collaborated with the Andover Historical Society and the Addison Gallery of American Art at Philips Academy to provide coordinated events in Andover for the Essex National Heritage Trails & Sails event. This was the second year of collaboration on events designed to attract visitors to Andover. As part of over 150 events that highlighted the historic, cultural and natural sites in Essex County, AVIS sponsored two hikes, one along the Shawsheen River and one in the Sakowich/Bakers Meadow reservations. Look for information about AVIS hikes as part of the Fall 2015 Sails & Trails event.

Shawsheen River Greenway Update

In April 2013, AVIS hosted over 90 people at the dedication of the Shawsheen River Greenway, an improved trail that stretches from Ballardvale to Central Street near the Horn Bridge. In the two years since that dedication countless individuals have hiked, skied, and snow shoed this beautiful stretch of Andover property. Now AVIS is working with other citizens of the Town who are interested in replicating this Greenway model along further sections of the Shawsheen River. There are beautiful stretches of the River between Central Street and Essex Street. Part of this collaboration includes working with the organizers of Andover Tomorrow, a Town sponsored group that is looking at ways of revitalizing Andover’s Historic Mill District along Essex Street at the Shawsheen River. Many communities have reclaimed their riverfronts, many lost to industrial and commercial purposes for over 100 years. These communities recognize the benefits of creating for new uses for these areas and Andover is planning to do the same.

The 2015 Andover Town Meeting approved a zoning change to allow for the creation of an Historic Mill District near the intersection of the Shawsheen River and Essex Street. This increased attention to the river area will assist in the extension of the Shawsheen River Greenway north of Central Street.

AVIS Collaboration with Andover Historical Society

On October 19, 2013, the Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS) sponsored a successful hike along the Merrimack River.  The hike was held in conjunction with the Andover Historical Society (AHS) and introduced thirty (30) hikers to the AVIS Deer Jump Reservation and the Town of Andover’s Merrimack River Reservation.  The hike, which lasted two hours, was led by John Hess, Vice President of AVIS, and Jane Dietzel Cairns, President of the AHS. Ms. Cairns provided the narration during the hike based on her research into the history of the area.  At the first stop along the river Ms. Cairns showed the participants a large stone with a plaque honoring Harold Rafton, a former AVIS member, who spearheaded the purchase of the riverfront for AVIS beginning in the 1950’s. She discussed the history of the ownership of the land along the river.  In the mid-19th century, the Essex Company purchased the land from local farmers to protect the watershed from development and eventually built the Great Stone Dam in Lawrence to provide water power for the mills. 

At another stop, hikers learned that archeological digs as well as the daily work of many farmers have uncovered artifact from the Penacook Indians who used the river banks for fishing and hunting.  Evidence suggests that these Native Americans lived here only part of the year but the question is still open, as some experts think they may have lived along the river year round.

Finally, the group stopped at a scenic point of land that included one of many ferry stops that are believed to have been along the river during the 18th century. The ferries were used by siteseers and party goers who would come from up and down the river to picnic, in this case at Laurel Grove, a locally owned venue that catered to those who sought a day along the river.

April 27th - Shawsheen River Greenway ("Vale Trail") Dedication Ceremony
(photos by Fred Snell)

Vale Trail gathering - Some of the 175 people who attended the dedication of the Shawsheen River Greenway by AVIS on 4/27/13 stop for refreshments.

Vale Trail hikers - A group of the 175 people who attended the dedication of the Shawsheen River Greenway by AVIS on 4/27/13 listen to Amy Janovsky discuss the plant life along the trail.

Vale Trail speakers - As part of the dedication of the Shawsheen River Greenway by AVIS on 4/27/13 State Senator Barry Finegold offers congratulations to AVIS and the volunteers who made the Greenway possible. State Representative Jim Lyons and State Representative Frank Moran listen as Senator Finegold reads from a Citation from the State Senate.