Investment in North Stonington open space a wise and proper move

North Stonington’s Conservation Commission was unanimous in their support in recommending $40,000 of our Land Acquisition Fund be used to support Avalonia’s purchase of two large parcels totaling over 400 acres within the town’s borders. The author of the letter to the editor on April 4 − "North Stonington misuses land acquisition funds" − was correct that the budget has included $10,000 a year in this fund to allow for the purchase of land worthy of protection. Unstated is State Statute Sec. 7-131r which states, “Such funds shall be used by the municipality for the acquisition of land to be used for open space” without mention of restrictions to whom the funds are allocated. The town has already supported land acquisition with legal counsel supporting this manner of acquisition.

As our mission includes in part the “conservation of natural and historic resources, including water resources” within our borders, it was incumbent upon us to study, site walk, and evaluate our ability to otherwise protect the headwaters of Miller Brook and the Shunock and Pawcatuck Rivers in one parcel and the western border of a significant portion of the Green Falls River on the other. The properties not only significantly protect the waterways, but will protect pre-colonial artifacts and historical features of the towns mill heritage within the two properties.

Our Plan of Conservation & Development “Designat(ed) the Shunock and Green Falls River and valley . . . and their tributaries as areas of prime interest to the community as pure water resources and wildlife corridors.”

Although very desirable properties, the town was in no financial position to add these parcels to our open space holdings given the over $1.5 million asking prices. Considering the alternative of residential development this choice allowed us to not only contribute to the protection of the properties, but will allow its use for all the town residents with Avalonia responsible for the maintenance and upkeep while we work toward the 21 percent recommended by the state for open space preservation.

The town has already supported land acquisition in the budget with legal counsel supporting this manner of distribution just as the town supports numerous private organizations that serve all our residents, including in part the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, our ambulance service, volunteer fire department and Wheeler Library. We will continue to support the protection of our land, water, historical features, wildlife and those services that benefit our community.

Bill Ricker is chairman of North Stonington's Conservation Commission.  

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