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Investing In Land That Lasts




December 1 2005

SOMERS & NEIGHBORS -- More of Connecticut's fields and forests may be saved from development, thanks to $6.8 million in recent state Department of Environmental Protection grants for open space.

This money is a significant step toward the state's goal of preserving 21 percent of its open space by 2023. That's 673,210 acres. We're 70 percent of the way there.

One of the largest awards - $450,000 - will go toward purchasing the 286-acre Whitaker property in Somers at an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The town and the local land trust are pooling their resources to buy this valuable stretch of forest, open pasture and hills that borders the Shenipsit State Forest.

Thanks to the DEP grant, this daunting goal is within reach. The Dec. 1 deadline for buying the Whitaker land is approaching quickly. But the land trust and the town have received a three-month extension. By then, they expect to have enough money to buy the land.

Significantly, many grants went to "keystone" properties - those adjacent to large pieces of preserved open space. For instance, the Suffield Land Conservancy got $33,750 to buy 37 acres on West Suffield Mountain that will link over three miles of linear open space and protect a significant piece of the Metacomet Ridge.

Glastonbury received $377,550 for 116 acres of open space that abut the Meshomasic State Forest. Using a $329,175 grant to buy 40 acres in Farmington will connect three existing town-owned parcels, creating a 375-acre forest habitat.

Glastonbury's Kongscut Land Trust got $9,900 to buy a 9-acre plot to link the state forest with town property that's a timber rattlesnake habitat.

When the state shows enough confidence in these projects to give them money, that helps raise private donations as well. That gives the grants added value, making them even more prized by preservationists. It's money well spent.

Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant