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Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today a plan for the state to play a major role in purchasing and protecting the 1,000-acre parcel of open space in Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook along the Long Island Sound known as The Preserve.
"We will take action to make funds available for the state's participation in the purchase of the property and to address issues concerning joint ownership and stewardship of the land with the Town of Old Saybrook, which will also be making a significant financial contribution," said Governor Malloy. "The permanent protection of The Preserve has been a goal of the land conservation community across our state for more than 15 years and it's time to act to achieve this important goal."
The Preserve is considered to be the last, large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston. The property is rich in natural resources, wildlife, and habitat areas and will offer hiking and other passive outdoor recreational opportunities. The Preserve, which also provides an important coastal buffer against storm waters, connects to 500 acres of existing parklands in adjoining towns and miles of hiking trails.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a leader in the effort to protect The Preserve, reached an agreement with River Sound Development LLC to purchase the property in July 2013. Since that time, it has been working to secure funds needed to finalize the purchase, which is now set at $8.09 million.
Under the agreement, the State of Connecticut would be an owner of The Preserve and would contribute $3.3 million towards its purchase and management. $1.4 million of the funds would come from federal money for open space acquisition and $1.9 million is pending approval of the State Bond Commission. Additional funds for the purchase are expected to come from Old Saybrook, which plans to contribute $3 million, and the TPL, which will bring private funding in the range of $2 to $3 million for acquisition and management.
"The Town of Old Saybrook is grateful for the state's support as we move forward to protect The Preserve. We now have a chance to put to rest once and for all the question of what will happen with The Preserve," said Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl P. Fortuna, Jr. "I look forward to launching a public process in Old Saybrook that will conclude with a referendum to approve the town's financial support for this important land acquisition."
State funding may increase through a grant to the Essex Land Trust, an applicant for matching funds for the acquisition and protection of 71 acres of The Preserve that is located within the Town of Essex. This application is pending under the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program administered by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). In addition, the Town of Westbrook is discussing options to facilitate the preservation and public use of The Preserve.