Published December 16. 2013 4:00AM Updated December 16. 2013 8:29PM
Two hundred and ninety-eight acres of farmland, bogs, vernal pools, fields and forests straddling the Groton-Ledyard border will be protected from development through an agreement announced last week between the Groton Open Space Association and the landowner.
"We signed an agreement with the owner a week ago," said Sue Sutherland, treasurer for GOSA. "We're just starting the fundraising process."
Under the agreement with owner Julia Weber, daughter of the property's original owner, Latham Avery, 146 acres in Groton will be donated to GOSA. The Ledyard portion will be sold to the group for $1.02 million.
The property, which has been a farm and private conservation property since Avery purchased it in 1929, is along Lambtown Road and Lambtown Road Extension.
Sutherland said the group has begun soliciting donations and will apply for a state grant to fund the $1.02 million purchase. As part of the fundraising effort, a series of guided tours will be offered in December and January.
The property is adjacent to another GOSA-owned parcel, Candlewood Ridge, and would create "a greenbelt of protected land from Gold Star Highway into Ledyard," according to a GOSA announcement.
Weber said she is pleased about the agreement with GOSA, which allows her to keep the Colonial-era farmhouse where she lives.
"I'm thrilled," said Weber, 78, who grew up on the property when her parents ran a dairy farm there. "Now I don't have to worry about it. It's going to be protected by people who care about it."
She said her father was both a farmer and a conservationist, keeping wetlands and woodlands on his property as habitat for dozens of different bird species. After her father died, she helped her mother continue running the farm for several years. In the 1990s, after her mother died, the farm raised and bred horses.
"I just maintained the farm and tried to save it," she said. "I wanted to keep it as a unique place, with lots of brooks and ledges and fields. It's a nice isolated piece of property."
She said the family has let local residents hike the property. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center has used it for nature walks and college ornithology, geology and archaeology classes have also used it.
Sutherland said GOSA plans to keep the existing trails open to the public.