Field near Shepley Hill in Devens, MA

Open Space Plans: Helping Communities Identify and Manage their Natural Resources

Open Space Plans are the principle tool used by our communities to identify and inventory their important natural resources, as well as to develop a program to protect and manage those resources. They are very similar to municipal Master Plans, but narrower in scope. These Plans typically include an inventory of the various types of open spaces, including forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands, along with a description of their geological makeup. The Plans may also include data on population and housing growth, changes in land use and the amount of open space over a period of time, and a list of key properties to be acquired or protected as part of an Action Plan. It is important that these Plans identify and describe the environmental challenges facing a municipality, and begin to explore how these challenges can be addressed. Municipal Conservation Commissions, along with the Park and Recreation Departments, are the main bodies responsible for updating the Plan and overseeing its implementation.

An Open Space and Recreation Plan, valid for seven years, is a requirement for participation in grant programs offered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Division of Conservation Services (DCS). Approval of a Plan by DCS makes communities eligible for these open space acquisition funds:

The NRWA can assist communities with their Open Space Plans, and served as the primary consultant for the update of the 2006-2011 Devens Open Space and Recreation Plan and the Dunstable Open Space Plan. Our professional staff uses GIS mapping technology and their vast knowledge of the local landscape and resources to advise and support municipal efforts to protect and manage their open space. For more than a decade, the NRWA has been an active member of the Devens Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee, paying close attention to developments on Devens that might impact key natural resources. The Committee’s work led to the creation of a Mirror Lake Recreation Area Improvement Plan and the expansion of The Trustees of Reservation’s Mirror Lake and Eskers Conservation Restriction.

To view a map of Massachusetts communities with Open Space Plans.

To learn more about Open Space Plans, or for assistance with your community’s Open Space Planning, please contact Al Futterman, NRWA Land Programs Director, at (978) 448-0299, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .