Governor Lamont Announces $3.7 Million in State Grants To Preserve 1,025 Acres of Open Space and Create Five New Community Gardens
Applications Now Being Accepted for Next Round of Grants
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is awarding approximately $3.7 million in state funding to aid in the purchase and protection of more than 1,025 acres of open space in 14 communities throughout Connecticut. Additionally, $46,875 will aid in the creation of five new community gardens and green spaces in a targeted investment community.
The selected projects will receive funding through the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and the Urban Green and Community Gardens Grant Program, which are both administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
“These state grants will increase the availability of open space and protect our natural resources, moving us closer to meeting our overall goal of permanently protecting 21% of Connecticut’s land base,” Governor Lamont said. “The Urban Green and Community Gardens grants address needs within urbanized areas of the state, creating more equitable access to outdoor green spaces and promoting fresh, locally grown food. Both programs significantly improve the quality of life for our residents, attract visitors and businesses to the state, and make Connecticut a great place to live and work.”
Section 23-8 of the Connecticut General Statutes establishes a goal of protecting 673,210 acres (21%) of the state’s land base as open space. The goal calls for 320,576 acres (10%) to be held by DEEP as part of the state’s system of parks, forests, fisheries, and natural resource management areas, and 352,634 acres (11%) to be acquired by DEEP’s partners, which include municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies.
As of December 31, 2022, DEEP estimates that its partners hold approximately 252,197 acres or 71.5% of their share of the state’s open space goal, and that DEEP holds approximately 263,387 acres or 82.22% of its share of the goal. In total, 516,031 acres have been preserved (76.67% of the total goal), leaving an additional 157,179 acres remaining to meet the 21% open space goal.
“Since the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program began in 1998, more than $157 million in state funding has been awarded to municipalities, nonprofit land conservation organizations, and water companies to assist in the purchase of more than 42,000 acres of publicly accessible land.” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Open space preservation is more important now than ever – it is critical in our mitigation efforts to fight against climate change, protects our natural resources and wildlife, maintains healthy air and clean water for our residents, and provides outdoor recreational opportunities throughout our beautiful state.”
Today’s grant announcements are the 25th round of grants awarded under these programs. The application period to receive a grant under the upcoming 26th round is now open, with applications due by October 2, 2023. Grant application forms and instructions can be found online by visiting https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Open-Space/Open-Space.
The grants announced today include:
Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grants
Project Name: Quarry Hill
Sponsor: Cornwall Conservation Trust, Inc.
Location: Great Hollow Rd. & Todd Hill Rd. Ext., Cornwall
Grant Amount: $144,950
Size: 32 Acres
Description: This is the site of a historic granite quarry, featuring a forested ridgeline with a summit and old woods road which could serve as spur trail linking to the Cornwall Conservation Trust’s Cathedral Pines Preserve and the Blue-Blazed Mohawk Trail. Hand-cut stone blocks are present in and around the former quarry, unmoved since the time of its abandonment. Public access and parking will be from Todd Hill Road Ext. Natural resource highlights include whip-poor-will open woodland habitat, glacial erratics, rocky talus, and red maple shrub swamp. This property will add a unique cultural and outdoor experience to the abundance of nearby hiking options at the Cathedral Pines Preserve and other State and land trust owned open spaces.
Project Name: Kronberg Property
Sponsor: Town of East Haddam
Location: East side of North Moodus Road, East Haddam
Grant Amount: $243,100
Size: 75 Acres
Description: The town will purchase 95 acres next to the East Haddam Middle School with 20 acres adjacent to the school to be reserved for future development and the remaining 75 acres to be dedicated open space. The property contains hayfields, woodlands, a vernal pool, small inland wetland areas and intermittent streams which drain into the Moodus River. A 22-acre hayfield will have limited public access to protect agriculture viability. Public access and parking will be on North Moodus Road and at the Middle School. The walking trails will expand upon the school’s already extensive trail network.
Project Name: Honey Hill Farm
Sponsor: East Haddam Land Trust, Inc.
Location: North side Honey Hill Road, East Haddam
Grant Amount: $321,100
Size: 123.37 Acres
Description: This property features mature forest with shrub understory and inland wetlands. It is located entirely within the Whalebone Creek Watershed and hosts an inland stream draining into Roaring Brook and ultimately into Whalebone Cove, which supports diadromous migratory fish species. This acquisition contributes to a large open space corridor in southeast East Haddam including the Town’s Lena & Roaring Brook Reserves, Devil’s Hopyard State Park and The Nature Conservancy’s Burnham Brook Preserve. Lying within a Connecticut Breeding Bird Atlas block, it supports Audubon Connecticut species of greatest conservation concern including wood thrush, worm-eating warbler and cerulean warbler. The East Haddam Land Trust will develop a land management plan to enhance the property’s tree stands for a variety of habitats, such as shrubland for New England cottontail rabbits. Existing woods roads will be incorporated into hiking trails. The property’s rolling terrain will be available for hiking, snow shoeing, environmental education, and other passive recreational uses.
Project Name: East River Preserve Northern Inholding
Sponsor: Town of Guilford
Location: Westerly of Podunk Road, Southerly of Leatherman Road, Guilford
Grant Amount: $174,200
Size: 26.8 Acres
Description: This purchase secures an inholding and complements open spaces and trails at the town’s adjacent 583-acre East River Preserve and Guilford Land Conservation Trust’s 95-acre Eastwoods property. The public can access the property and existing extensive, popular trail network from the Leatherman Road cul-de-sac. The New England Trail, which traverses the northwest corner of the property, relies heavily on this preserve for a great distance, as it approaches its terminus at Guilford’s shoreline. A new trail bisecting the property, is under consideration. The property is forested with 10+/- acres of inland wetlands, including a natural spring. Swamp white oak, a very uncommon tree species, was documented during a vegetation survey by a licensed forester with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The property is capable of hosting spotted, wood and eastern box turtles.
Project Name: O’Connor Property
Sponsor: Town of Hebron
Location: 102 Chittenden Road and south side Hoadly Road, Hebron
Grant Amount: $312,650
Size: 115.36 Acres
Description: This large, undisturbed mixed forest contains inland wetlands and varying topography, oaks, hickories, yellow ash, beech, ironwood and cottonwood trees, interspersed with highbush blueberry and spicebush shrubs. There are three interconnected shallow ponds and outflowing streams that converge into an unnamed tributary of the Blackledge River. It is located upstream of a DEEP Trout Management Area where several rivers, brooks and streams converge and approach the Salmon River and within the town’s strategic future open space greenway corridor. A trail from the parking area at Chittenden Road will be designed to provide access to and around the existing ponds. Recreational opportunities include fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating, waterfowl and other wildlife viewing.
Project Name: Humphrey Farm Reserve
Sponsor: Morris Land Trust
Location: 83 Alain White Road, Morris
Grant Amount: $240,500
Size: 37.01 Acres
Description: This mostly forested property contains 6 acres of hay field/farmland, 14 acres of inland wetlands and the headwaters for Whittlesey Brook feeding Bantam Lake. Nestled among the open fields surrounding Bantam Lake, the diversity of land cover is capable of supporting wildlife nesting and foraging habitat. The Morris Land Trust will keep the fields open, implementing delayed mowing to help ground nesting birds and maintain early successional habitat. The property contains wood turtle habitat and wood turtles have been documented at the nearby 4,000-acre White Memorial Foundation conservation lands. Surrounding parcels are mostly undeveloped and serve as a wildlife corridor. The property has 1,200 feet of road frontage mostly occupied by hay fields. A public parking area is proposed at the northern side of the parcel, providing access to a new loop trail along the hay fields for passive recreational activities.
Project Name: Gunntown Road – Wilmot Property
Sponsor: Borough of Naugatuck
Location: Easterly side of Gunntown Road and west end of Andrew Mountain Road, Naugatuck
Grant Amount: $135,000
Size: 46 Acres
Description: This property is part of a larger parcel which will be subdivided together with a proposed access easement off of Andrew Mountain Road. It is bordered by two Naugatuck open space parcels and is a key final gap in Naugatuck’s public trails network. Naugatuck will formalize the trail on this property away from private land and through an extensive trail network. The trail traverses Middlebury, Oxford, and Waterbury, DEEP’s Naugatuck State Forest and Larkin Bridle State Park Trail, and the local “Mission 22 Trail,” which is dedicated to raising awareness of veteran suicide prevention. The property is steeply sloped, mainly forested and contains about 1.4 acres of inland wetlands. This acquisition will protect the water quality of the Long Meadow Pond Brook and support habitats associated with the state’s goal to reintroduce migrating diadromous fish from Long Island Sound to sub-regional basins of the Naugatuck River. It supports habitat and migration corridors for wildlife at the nearby Naugatuck State Forest and Audubon Bird Sanctuary.
Project Name: 135 Southeast Road
Sponsor: New Hartford Land Trust, Inc.
Location: 135 Southeast Road, New Hartford
Grant Amount: $227,500
Size: 77.3 Acres
Description: This property serves as an open space anchor and wildlife corridor between several already protected areas including 1,000+ acres of MDC drinking water supply lands across the road. The land gently rises along the slope of Bee Mountain and has a summit elevation of 950 feet. It features mature forest habitats capable of supporting state-listed species such as whip-poor-will, eastern box turtle, and eastern hognose snake. More than 175 species of birds have been detected at or near the property, including wood thrush, cuckoos, northern shrike, and ruffed grouse. The property contains a small area of headwater inland wetlands and an intermittent stream that drain to Nepaug River and Nepaug Reservoir. There are old woods roads and existing paths. The New Hartford Land Trust will formalize a trail system which links to the Blue-Blazed Tunxis Trail and establish a public parking area, which will become the closest and most convenient place to park to access the Blue-Blazed Tunxis Trail.
Project Name: Lovers Lane (Borden) Property
Sponsor: Norfolk Land Trust, Inc.
Location: 370 Lovers Lane, Norfolk
Grant Amount: $234,000
Size: 82 Acres
Description: This property features core forest and a wetland complex capable of supporting at least 15 state-listed plant, animal, and invertebrate species such as yellow-banded bumble bees, bog rosemary and New England cottontail rabbits. It is an eBird hotspot with reportedly more than 67 species of birds including vireos, warblers and flycatchers. It is proximate to other protected open spaces such as Barbour Woods (Norfolk Land Trust), Haystack Mountain State Park and Wood Creek Pond State Boat Launch, contributing to more than 1,100 acres of contiguous open space. It is within walking distance of Norfolk’s town center along Lovers Lane or via the Norfolk Land Trust’s trails. The property will offer passive recreational opportunities such as hiking, cross-country skiing, picnicking and nature observation.
Project Name: Beech and Pomps
Sponsor: North Branford Land Conservation Trust, Inc.
Location: West side of Beech Street and north side of Pomps Lane, North Branford
Grant Amount: $385,450
Size: 37 Acres (17.6 acres on Beech Street and 19.4 acres on Pomps Lane)
Description: The North Branford Land Conservation Trust will purchase two South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority Class III Watershed parcels, one on Beech Street and one on Pomps Lane. The forested parcels are part of the Regional Water Authority’s Lake Gaillard reservoir lands where access is very limited to protect high water quality. They do not drain into Lake Gaillard but are situated in the Branford River watershed and drain into Notch Hill Brook. North Branford has limited town-owned land devoted to nature-based outdoor recreation and hosts no federal or state open space land. The town population and need for local trails and natural areas continues to grow. These parcels are a green space gateway to nearly one-third of the town. The North Branford Land Conservation Trust will create trails and an 8 to 12-car parking area with a bicycle rack. At the Beech Street property, two ADA-accessible parking spaces and a wheelchair accessible path (packed gravel or boardwalk) leading to a vernal pool will be built.
Project Name: Ledges Preserve
Sponsor: Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy
Location: 16 Dunsinane Road, Brookfield
Grant Amount: $325,000
Size: 45.31 Acres
Description: This property is contiguous with the Town of Brookfield’s 116-acre Burr Farm and includes 33 acres of a greater (524-acre) core forest block. This purchase will protect an intact wildlife corridor with bobcat, black bear and fisher sightings in and around the parcel. The property features two small ponds and Dingle Brook, which feeds into Pond Brook and then Lake Lillinonah. The Nortwest Connecticut Land Conservancy will formalize a loop trail, linking to an existing trail across Dingle Brook and the abutting Burr Farm. The Dunsinane Road cul de sac will facilitate public parking and access. Gentle slopes at the property will offer good hiking opportunities and steeper areas with outcrops will offer a more interesting challenge for hikers and nature enthusiasts.
Project Name: Stahlschmidt Preserve Project
Sponsor: Salem Land Trust, Inc.
Location: 460 Old New London Road, Salem
Grant Amount: $139,750
Size: 47.53 Acres
Description: This entirely forested property features a stream and around 15 acres of inland wetlands. Its wetlands and watercourse drain into a stream which feeds Latimer Brook, headwaters of the Niantic River watershed. The forest includes a mix of tree species such as oak, birch and maple, and shrubs such as highbush blueberry, winterberry and mountain laurel. The forested inland wetlands host flora and fauna such as wood frogs, salamanders, marsh marigold, jack-in-the-pulpit, and wood anemone. The Salem Land Trust will clear some trees to create a public parking area at the road and a single loop trail for passive recreational and environmental educational use. If timber foot bridges are deemed needed, the Salem Land Trust will seek local inland wetland permits to install bridges to minimize erosion, maintain surface water flows, and protect wetland resources from pedestrian use and travel. A management plan including public use, environmental education, and natural resource stewardship needs will be developed for the property.
Project Name: Pinnacle Cliffs
Sponsor: Steep Rock Association, Inc.
Location: 51 Rabbit Hill Road, Washington
Grant Amount: $406,250
Size: 30.46 Acres
Description: Located on the Washington and Warren Town line, this property expands upon the Steep Rock Association’s Macricostas Preserve and a 1,056-acre intact core forest block. This open space corridor hosts bobcats, bats, sedge skippers, bronze copper butterflies, and many other species. It is situated within the Audubon’s Shepaug State Forest Important Bird Area, containing habitat for concern species like Louisiana Waterthrush. There are vernal pools, five acres of inland wetlands, and a half-mile stream which feeds Meeker Swamp and Washington’s largest aquifer. Public access will be from the Steep Rock Association’s abutting Macricostas Preserve. A trail spur will be created from the existing Macricostas Preserve network providing hikers with access to a visually stunning boulder, field and stream bed surrounded by soaring bedrock cliffs. The Steep Rock Association often lends its preserves for scientific research and would add this property to future monitoring for tree stand, stream temperature, insect and amphibian, acoustic bat, marsh and other nesting bird, and natural resource conditions.
Project Name: Cannavo Spring Watershed Property
Sponsor: Winchester Land Trust, Inc.
Location: Pratt Street and Alpha Avenue, Winsted/Winchester
Grant Amount: $90,000
Size: 25 Acres
Description: The Cannavo Spring is a locally famous landmark a/k/a Winchester’s “Fountain of Youth” and Winsted’s “Old Faithful.” It has been a source of drinking water for cottages without wells on Highland Lake for generations. After the 1955 flood destroyed the Town’s municipal water system, many townspeople turned to the spring for drinking water. The small area containing the spring, its piping, the stone monument and faucet will be retained by the Cannavo family and the Winchester Land Trust will acquire the forested watershed area, protecting the quality of the spring water as well as waters in nearby Highland Lake. 17 acres are forested and part of a greater, under-protected 860-acre core forest block. It adjoins a patchwork of smaller open space lands held by the Town and the Highland Lake Watershed Association. Located in downtown Winsted, the property will expand outside recreational opportunities for Winchester and Torrington, both targeted and/or distressed municipalities. An old woods road along the toe of the property’s slopes will be made into a linear trail for walking, bird watching, nature photography and other passive recreational activities.
Project Name: Townshend Phase IV
Sponsor: Wyndham Land Trust
Location: East side of Swedetown Road and Ragged Hill Road, Pomfret
Grant Amount: $354,120
Size: 227 Acres
Description: This is the Wyndham Land Trust’s fourth tract/purchase since 2019 from the Townshend Family, for a combined 1,100 acres, in the Nightingale Forest Preserve. The property features a dammed pond and headwaters to Nightingale Brook which drains into Mashamoquet Brook. There is an established trail system maintained by the Pomfret Horse and Trail Association, linking to trails on adjacent preserves. A public parking area and trailhead will be created on Swedetown Road. The property is situated within a 4,000-acre forest block and major wildlife corridor, supporting at least 20 species of greatest conservation concern and expanding destinations for bird watchers seeking hard-to-find species inhabiting mature forest such as black-throated blue warblers and broad-winged hawks. A local historian and curriculum specialist for the NAACP Windham-Willimantic Branch researched the lives of enslaved people living and working on these tracts during the 1700’s. The specialist reports that the original land proprietors used slave labor to clear fields, build stonewalls and dams for local mills, and tend livestock and crops. This acquisition ensures the land remains accessible to historians and the State Office of Archaeology for further research of enslaved history. The Wyndham Land Trust will support the specialist’s research, witnessing gravesites and inviting people from urban areas to visit and walk in the footsteps of the past, connecting to nature through a meaningful historic lens.
Urban Green and Community Garden Grant Program
Project Name: Five New School Community Gardens
Sponsor: Town of Hamden
Grant Amount: $46,875
Description: The Town of Hamden has selected five of its Title 1, economically disadvantaged public schools for the creation of new community gardens: the Church Street, Dunbar Hill, Helen Street, Spring Glen, and West Woods Elementary Schools. Currently, each school has underutilized, undeveloped spaces which are planned for upgrading with ADA-accessible raised beds and stone dust pathways, vegetable and flower plantings, seating tables, and perimeter fencing. The gardens will be accessible by public transportation and within walking distance of family neighborhoods. Like in many towns, local demand and appreciation grew for fresh produce and outside community and classroom spaces during the pandemic. The creation of these community gardens will continue fostering public interest and knowledge in food production, sustainability, and ecology.