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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    Groton Open Space Association acquires 104-acre Sheep Farm South property

    Whitney Adams, right, and Richard Dixon, members of the Groton Open Space Association, carry a fallen branch Monday, April 26, 2021, while clearing a trail at Sheep Farm South in Groton. The 104 acres of trails and wildlife, at the intersection of Flanders Road and Route 1, is the group's newest acquisition. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

    Groton — The Groton Open Space Association has purchased the 104-acre Sheep Farm South parcel on the corner of Flanders Road and Route 1, marking a long-held preservation goal that fits into the larger picture for open space in Groton.

    The property abuts the existing 63-acre Sheep Farm property on Hazelnut Hill Road and is across Route 1 from the 75-acre Merritt Family Forest, where people can connect to the 6-mile Cross-Town Trail, GOSA President Joan Smith said.

    The acquisition fits into a larger greenbelt that the association has been working on for years, starting with efforts more than 50 years ago to raise the matching funds to preserve the Haley Farm.

    Smith said the Sheep Farm South parcel is significant for its wildlife habitat and connectivity to other parcels for wildlife migration. It is also important for the protection of Fort Hill Brook, which runs through the property and flows down into Mumford Cove and Long Island Sound.

    The Sheep Farm and Sheep Farm South properties feature diverse fields and shrubby lands, along with wetlands and vernal pools, she said. The beautiful properties, with rocky outcroppings and ledge, are rich with birdlife and wildlife.

    GOSA closed on the property last week and members gathered there to celebrate the purchase and help clear trails.

    Smith said GOSA has been interested in the land since 2006, when it was subject to a proposed active adult senior housing development with more than 200 units, which the organization felt was too intensive a use for the property.

    She said GOSA intervened and tried to make improvements to the application but was unsuccessful. The project was never built amid the economic downturn and later the developer’s option on the property expired, she said, so GOSA then initiated purchasing it.

    “It’s a long time coming,” Smith said.

    She said the purchase price was $1 million. The organization raised funds from foundations and individual donors and received a grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program and is in line to receive a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant.

    She said GOSA will next work on improving the property, including upgrading an existing trail, which was a historical road, and development of a trail plan. She mentioned that the state studied the archaeology of the property and there were historical artifacts, remnants of the Pequot War.

    k.drelich@theday.com

    Richard Dixon, a member of Groton Open Space Association, works on clearing the trails Monday, April 26, 2021, at Sheep Farm South in Groton. The 104 acres of trails and wildlife, at the intersection of Flanders Road and Route 1, is the group's newest acquisition. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
    Groton Open Space Association members, from left, President Joan Smith, Marie Goe Olson and Bruce Jones work on clearing brush off a trail Monday, April 26, 2021, at Sheep Farm South in Groton. The 104 acres of trails and wildlife, at the intersection of Flanders Road and Route 1, is the group's newest acquisition. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
    A map of Sheep Farm South in Groton. The 104 acres of trails and wildlife, at the intersection of Flanders Road and Route 1, is the Groton Open Space Association's newest acquisition. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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