July 20, 2009

Contact:   Karl Wagener

               (860) 424-4000


   HARTFORD -- Forty years ago, the State of Connecticut bought lands along several state highways specifically to preserve the outstanding scenery.  Those Scenic Lands still are owned by the state but have been largely forgotten and are in jeopardy of losing their scenic value, according to a report of the state’s Council on Environmental Quality. 

   In a short memo titled Preserved and Forgotten: DOT Scenic Lands and Their Protection, the Council reports that the scenic lands lie outside the highway rights-of-way, and were purchased, at least in part, with federal Highway Beautification Act funds.  Their acquisition was not part of the original development of the highways; the Department of Transportation (DOT) bought the lands years after the roads were completed. 

   Most of the lands are woodland strips of varying widths along major highways. “The Council does not know their full extent,” said Karl J. Wagener, the Council’s Executive Director.  “A 1966 state planning document called for purchasing hundreds of acres along more than 60 miles of highway. Using that document as a guide, the Council examined DOT maps and found many acres of dedicated scenic lands along several miles of roadside.   There are substantial scenic lands along Route 2 in Glastonbury and Route 44 in Norfolk, and Council staff also confirmed state-owned scenic lands in Colchester, Essex, Middletown, Meriden, and Plainville.”

   The memo includes examples of how the lands' scenic value can be diminished over time, including the case of a cell tower that was built within a very narrow gap of a long scenic strip. 

   Wagener said that the memo was sent to the Connecticut Siting Council, the DOT, the Office of Policy and Management and the Department of Environmental Protection, as the memo includes recommendations for each of those agencies for improving the protection of these important scenic areas.

  Preserved and Forgotten is available on the Council's website

  The Council is a state agency, independent of the Department of Environmental Protection, that is charged by statute to report annually to the governor on the status of Connecticut’s environment.  The Council also publishes special reports. This memo on preserved scenic lands along highways was developed while preparing research on the broader question of how the state might better protect the beauty of its landscape, which the Council plans to submit later this year.