Mystic - The Clara Morgan Coogan Trust has transferred 11 acres of the Coogan Farm to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, which will preserve the old pastures and meadows as open space.
The land borders an 18-acre parcel that will be developed into the $40 million, 245-unit Mystic Preserve Senior Living project as well as another 34 acres that the nature center is trying to purchase from the trust for $2.8 million. It connects to Pleasant Street and land owned by the Denison Homestead to the east. And unlike the wooded property of the nature center, the 11 acres offer a different type of habitat.
Nature center executive director Maggie Jones said Sunday that during a private phase the center has raised $1.1 million toward the $3.5 million it need to buy the 34 acres, improve and maintain it. She said a public campaign will be announced later this month.
Supporters of the purchase say preserving the land is crucial for protecting the character of Mystic and that it would link other large tracts of open space and provide hiking trails and other passive recreation.
Last month the Stonington Board of Finance told the nature center and its partner, The Trust for Public Land, that it does not support the town borrowing $1.5 million to help buy the land.
Board Chairman Glenn Frishman told supporters of the purchase that with the town's annual budget problems and the upcoming vote to spend between $5 million and $7 million on road and athletic field improvements, he could not support spending taxpayer money to buy the land.
He also pointed out the Stonington Conservation Commission feels it is more important to preserve other properties in town before the Coogan Farm. He said he also has reservations about taking such a valuable piece of commercial property off Route 27 off the tax rolls.
Despite that decision, Jones said Sunday the nature center is moving forward and has submitted an application for a $500,000 state grant.
"We're exploring all avenues to raise the remainder of the money," she said. "And it doesn't mean we won't go back to the Board of Finance in the future."
Jones said the center is also keeping open the option of forcing a referendum vote on the question of the town helping to fund the purchase.