New Hampshire’s oldest barns are disappearing almost as quickly as maples lose their leaves every fall.
But the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is doing its best to reverse that tend.
The state has a barn tax incentive program, which allows municipalities to offer barn owners a tax break if they are committed to preserving their barns,
Barns must be at least 75 years old to qualify for the program.
Preservation Alliance executive director Jennifer Goodman has been trying to grow the program.
“They are an endangered species of sorts and we are losing them at a rapid rate,” she said. “This is a local option, and we want barn owners and community leaders to know this is an option available to them.”
Eighty-seven of the state’s 234 towns and cities participate in the program, including Atkinson, Hampstead, Kingston, Londonderry, Newton, Sandown and Salem.
Londonderry assessor Karen Marchant said the town has been participating for years.
“There’s about eight properties in the program in town,” she said. “We’re a town that likes to maintain its heritage and keep the structures that we have.”
The program allows towns to provide tax relief of between 25 percent and 75 percent of the assessed value of the building and land. In return, the barn owners agree to maintain their barns through a 10-year easement.
“We just want to be able to leave more money in the barn owners’ pockets,” Goodman said. “That way, they can do more work to maintain and enhance the barns.”
In Kingston, two property owners are taking advantage of the program, including David Smith, who purchased the historic Bakie Farm in 2012.
Atkinson has had the program available for several years, but not many residents have taken advantage of it.
“We’ve only had a couple people even inquire about it,” Atkinson administrative assistant Barbara Snicer said.
Although Goodman said Sandown was participating in the program, Sandown Selectmen’s Chairman Thomas Tombarello said he was unfamiliar with it.
“First I’ve heard about it, but this is something that really interests me,” he said. “I’m a barn owner with two horses; this is something the people should know about.”
The program, which started in 2004, had 462 structures enrolled in it by the end of last year. Goodman said she was at the New Hampshire Farm and Forest Exposition in Manchester this weekend, promoting the program.
“Every person we’re chatting with, we’re letting them know about the program,” she said. “This is something both barn owners and community leaders need to know about.”
Barn owners have until April 15 to apply for the incentive. Applications can be found at nhpreservation.org.