On Tuesday, February 18, 2020 the Town of Barrington's Planning Board accepted, and approved the conditional use permit application, submitted by the Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center & Farm School to operate as an educational institution on their 77-acre farm property located at 270 Beauty Hill Road in Barrington, New Hampshire.
Originally founded in 2004, Wildlife Encounters is the most professional and successful science-based conservation public education program that teaches with Ambassador Animals in the region. Their Outreach Education Team, which consists of primarily current and retired public school teachers offer and deliver programs for schools, businesses & communities across the region year-round.
Additionally, they have been vetted and selected to work with such national and international entities as the National Wildlife Federation, NatGeo WILD, Discovery, Animal Planet and many more. Their educators and ambassador animals reach kids and adults in ways from the classroom & library, to the computer, through the TV, or standing in front of the TV in the living room at a kid’s birthday! In fact, they have won the Parenting NH “Family Favorite” award for the latter service 6 years in a row.
Having completed the acquisition of the last remaining parcel of the old “Swain Farmstead” from long time Barrington public servant and Swain descendant Peter Cook - founder and Director of Wildlife Encounters, Derek Small shares with Peter and other family members the vision of preserving the history & natural value of the property, of returning animals to the farm, and returning the property to it’s former stature as a valuable and contributing asset to the Barrington community and the region.
The following is an excerpt from the “Narrative” provided by Mr. Small to the Barrington Planning Board as a part of their application:
Wildlife Encounters, LLC is a community education organization that for 16 years has and continues to be based on a more densely developed 0.46 acre residentially/commercially zoned parcel in neighboring Rochester. It has, does and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future with the blessing and support of the City of Rochester on that property as a NH State Fish & Game permitted, USDA licensed and inspected wildlife facility (closed to the public) which offers educational services that are outreach in nature through the delivery of educational presentations and exhibits usually featuring a selection of small dependent, non-releasable Ambassador Animals.
The intent of this project is to restore and preserve a significant historic farm property and open space on Beauty Hill in a manner that enhances and promotes the community character, natural resources and agricultural nature of the farm property and the Barrington community. Proposed with an eye to minimal development impact on the 77 acres, approval of this application would support the restoration and development of the road-side acreage too that consistent with the appearance and character of a rural residence and working farm property - featuring a beautiful barn and support structures with grazing farm animals visible to neighbors and Beauty Hill Road travelers.
Much of the wooded and back-lot areas of the property we envision would be managed and experienced with minimal disturbance, featuring vast uplands, modest wetlands, small ponds and vernal pools, groomed and developed educational spaces, walking trails and farm roads, reclaimed field space and more. Much of the open space is intended to be designated as a native wildlife and endangered species protected area electively by the Ecology Center. Additionally, the property will be submitted as a candidate to become a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Sustaining and protecting the health and wellness of biodiversity, soil, open space and natural resources, while managing use in a way that benefits community, the environment and wildlife populations is one of society’s greatest modern challenges - and one our organization is committed to teaching about and advocating for.
As critical to acknowledge and address we feel, is the multigenerational and progressive decline in physical, mental and emotional health and wellness of an increasing percentage of our family, friends and neighbors, which studies show results in part from a lack of education about and engagement of the natural world and natural processes of ecology and life on Earth.
As we like to say:
“let’s turn a little screen time into green time so we can re-connect with nature, and human nature!”
We envision the development of the Wildlife Encounters Ecology Center & Farm School. As a community-centric business, our discrete nature-based operations would provide local and regional residents, schools, organizations, businesses and visitors to Barrington an opportunity to safely experience the beauty and atmosphere of a rural farm property. To learn about animals, science, food, ecology, health & wellness, stress management and more – while appreciating, connecting with and experiencing the diversity of habitats, animals and the ecology of the property we have to offer during scheduled or enrolled event/activity experiences.
Educational Services envision include but are not limited to:
- Farm Tours and Regenerative agriculture classes.
- Classes supporting mental, physical and emotional wellness education & practices.
- Stay-for-a-Day / Weekend experiences
- Volunteer & Internship / Apprentice Programs cooperatively with UNH, etc.
- Guided nature / habitat trail walks including Owl Prowls, Water & Soil testing tours, Outdoor Education, Hunter Education & Experiences, supervised snowshoeing, ice skating & other winter activities
- Community & Business Events such as conservation organization meetings, small corporate events, Chamber gatherings, Science conferences, etc.
- Private scheduled events such as Birthday Parties, family reunions, …
- Guest Speakers & Fundraising events, host community clean-up groups, etc.
- Hosting Home-School Groups, Summer Camp & School Field Trip visits as capacity allows.
- Hosting Wildlife Rehabilitation Classes and other special interest gatherings.
- School Break Day Camp Programs
If you would like to learn more about Wildlife Encounters Ecology & Farm School visit them at weecocenter.com. You can follow their progress on Facebook at facebook.com/weecocenter.