A deal is in place to protect one of the last major forestlands on the Connecticut coast from development, now the challenge will be to close the deal by raising the necessary donations and gaining sufficient state and town aid to purchase the property.
The effort to protect the 1,000-acre tract of woodlands and wetlands in Old Saybrook known as The Preserve has gone on for 15 years. Plans for the property have included building 200 homes around an 18-hole golf course. It is a far better option to maintain the property in its natural state. Located in the northwest corner of the town, is adjoins a 500-acre town park. The Preserve teems with wildlife and includes 114 acres of wetlands, 3,100 feet of watercourses and 38 vernal pools.
River Sound Development, perhaps recognizing that efforts to develop the property would continue to face stiff opposition, reached a deal with The Trust for Public Land to sell for $10.5 million. The agreement gives the land preservation group until June 2014 to close.
That's a lot of money and the path to raising it is not yet clear. In announcing the agreement, The Trust said it would seek to raise up to $2 million in private donations. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pledged his support, calling the agreement "a major milestone in our efforts to preserve critical lands in this state," but did not suggest how much the state might contribute. The Trust also said it would seek a financial contribution from the town, with approval having to come through a bond issue.
First Selectman Carl Fortuna said the preservation of the land would benefit the town economically and environmentally. Figuring out a fair contribution that can win voter support must be a priority for his administration. The effort to protect the property already enjoys substantial grassroots' support in the community.
This is a challenge that needs to be met. It would be a terrible outcome to see this property slip from the protection of a land preservation group for lack of financial support.