Forestry plan outlined for 166 acres in East Lyme

East Lyme - The Board of Selectmen heard Wednesday a new presentation for 166 acres near the headwaters of the Niantic River, a parcel previously part of a larger open-space proposal.

The New England Forestry Foundation, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization, is proposing placing the parcel under a "sustainable forest management plan" in which it would harvest trees on the land. The parcel would serve as open space for passive recreation and trails.

The foundation wants the acreage to act as an "anchor parcel" for which other contiguous properties could also be acquired for open space, said Whitney Beals, the foundation's director of land protection. The foundation aims to harvest forestland in a responsible manner, he said.

KSK Associates, LLC., under managing member Steve Harney, owns the 166-acre parcel, part of an overall 200-acre stretch of land at 29 Goldfinch Terrace. Harney is also a Board of Finance member.

The parcel was previously a component of a larger open-space proposal, which the Woodsmen Land Trust presented to the board in September, but the board never moved it forward.

The earlier open-space initiative comprised the 166-acre parcel, called the Gurley Brook Preserve, which the Woodsmen Land Trust had a $500,000 matching fund grant from the state to acquire. It also brought an additional 45 acres abutting the town's Darrow Pond property and 7 acres on Mostowy Road. New England National, the development company with longstanding litigation against the town, would agree to remove several easements on the town's 301-acre Darrow Pond property.

Harney, who said the contracts for that deal expired, said the Gurley Brook Preserve now has the name Niantic River Headwaters Preserve.

On Wednesday, Harney said preserving the parcel would ensure water quality in the Niantic River, as well as keep costs down for the town and contribute to open space and recreation.

"It's that kind of quality of life that draws people here," he said.

The specific cost of the parcel was not included in the presentation, but Harney said the project could cost $2.50 per resident per year over a 20-year bonding period.

After the presentation, the board said they would need more specific information on the costs and specific characteristics of the land. Harney said he is happy to present the appraisals and information the next time the board wants to meet.

While the specifics will need to be determined, the town and state could potentially hold a conservation easement, while the New England Forestry Foundation would manage the property, according to the presentation.

k.drelich@theday.com

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