Broad Brook Coalition began in 1987, when people living in the neighborhoods surrounding the Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area in Northampton, Massachusetts, became concerned about a planned housing development, called Hidden Oaks Estates, in the area surrounding Cooke’s Pasture. BBC was incorporated in 1988 and became a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization in 1990.
The new organization turned out residents and raised concerns at City hearings on the developers’ plans, and it commissioned its own evaluation of the wetlands on the project site. The Planning Board rejected the developers’ preliminary plan. No revised plan was ever submitted, most likely because of the economic downturn of the early 1990s.
In the meantime, BBC turned its attention to supporting the existing Fitzgerald lake Conservation Area. It began by sponsoring volunteer days to maintain the conservation are. In 1990, BBC became an official co-manager of FLCA when it and the Northampton Conservation Commission signed their first Memorandum of Understanding. In 1991, BBC began a series of Walks and Talks to deepen Northampton residents’ appreciation of FLCA. It has drawn up an FLCA management plan for inclusion in each of the City’s 5-year Open Space Plans beginning in 1994.
BBC had its roots as a neighborhood organization, and it has maintained its geographic focus on the Broad Brook watershed in the northeastern portion of Northampton. Originally, only residents of the watershed could be active BBC members. In 1995, those members voted to open full membership to all, but 3 of the 9 seats on the Board of Directors were reserved for residents of the watershed.
BBC’s founders had a focus different from that of many anti-development groups in that they recognized that the open space preservation they advocated could raise the price of housing in Northampton. They believed that land preservation and affordable housing were not incompatible goals, and they made a commitment to include advocacy for affordable housing in BBC’s mission.
BBC has met with developers of watershed land to urge them to shape their projects to take open space preservation and housing affordability into account. It has supported development projects that do advance its goals—most notably Pines Edge and the Lathrop Community—and has raised objections to developments that do not. It joined the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition in 1993 (although it is not a land trust per se and does not own land). Although political advocacy is not, and cannot be, a major part of BBC’s mission, it has advocated for laws, ordinances, and policies that it believes to be supportive of open space preservation and affordable housing, such as adoption of the Community Preservation Act by the state and then by the city. It has surveyed candidates for City office for their views on issues related to open space preservation and affordable housing since 1989.
BBC has raised funds for a number of land purchases that have added to FLCA, beginning with the Abuza parcel in 1993. In 1995 it saw its original goal come to fruition when the City, with fundraising help from BBC, purchased the 161-acre parcel originally slated for development as Hidden Oaks Estates.
BBC celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008. It has been unusual among groups formed to oppose development not only in its longevity, but also in avoiding a “NIMBY” approach and instead growing into an effective and well-regarded land conservation and advocacy group.