WALPOLE, N.H. -- The Selectboard has been trying to find a solution to what the town should do about the Hooper Golf Course for about 18 years.
In 1995 the Charitable Trust Unit of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office began questioning if the town's management of the course was meeting the intention of the trust that turned the property over to the town in 1924.
Over the years the Selectboard has held countless discussions, with the state and with the residents of Walpole, about the almost 140 acre estate which includes the popular public course.
And judging from the more than 80 people who showed up for a special meeting Saturday, there is strong support for the latest plan, which includes selling the property with a conservation easement that would protect and preserve the golf course.
The Selectboard will vote on the proposal at its Aug. 29 meeting.
The Selectboard called the special Saturday afternoon meeting to gather input on the plan which was the recommendation of the Hooper Study Committee, a citizens' group that was formed in 2011 to reach a solution to the long standing debate.
The meeting Saturday lasted about one hour, and while there were some questions about the plan, everyone who spoke said they supported the sale, and many people recognized the work of the study committee.
Under the proposed plan the town would sell the property, which is valued at about $1.2 million, with a conservation easement of $450,500.
The conservation easement ensures that whoever buys the property would be prohibited from developing the land for anything beyond the golf course.
The Board of Directors of the Monadnock Conservancy supports the plan, though the conservancy can not move forward until the trustees formally agree to sell the land.
Monadnock Conservancy Executive Director Ryan Owens, who lives in Walpole, said there were many details to work out, but he said the plan was viable.
"We recognize the path forward is good for us and it also meets the needs of all," Owens said. "It makes sense."
The conservation easement money would have to be raised by supporters of the plan.
At the meeting Saturday study committee Chairwoman Peggy Pschirrer called the plan a win, win, win solution.
She said the land would be saved, the Hooper Trust would be enriched by the sale and the town would get the property back on to the tax roles without spending any taxpayer money.
"The town and the Selectmen have long struggled with the Hooper Golf Course problem," Vice Chairman Joe Dion said at the beginning of the meeting. "I hope this is the last time we will be getting together to talk about it."
Dion said it was the state that forced the sale, and not the Selectboard, which also acts as the trustees of the Hooper Trust.
The Charitable Trust Unit of the Attorney General's office has been patiently waiting for the town to make a decision about the property, Dion said, and he said if the town did not act then the state would force it to make changes.
"We have a plan," he said. "We hope you agree it is a win, win, win solution."
Steve Dalessio, who is also on the study committee, said that after so many years of questions and debate the proposed plan would ensure that the golf course and land remain open to the people of Walpole.
"All the parties say this is a permanent solution," he said. "Nothing would change with the use of the property."
If the trustees approve the sale the Cheshire County Probate Court will have to grant final approval.
The trustees will also get to decide who will buy the property. Selectboard Chairwoman Jamie Teague said a few parties have expressed interest in purchasing the Hooper Golf Course, but she said the trustees have not held any formal discussions with potential buyers.
Jerry Galloway said that while the state would require that the sale price be for at least the assessed value, the price could go higher if multiple buyers try to outbid each other.
There were not any criticisms of the plan voiced at Saturday's meeting.
Walpole resident Jayson Munn acknowledged that it had been a long and sometimes contentious debate but he said the study committee came up with a solution that worked for everyone.
"This tells me that as a community you care about this, and the Selectboard listened," Munn said. "I want to thank everyone. You have saved a gem of Walpole."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.