Groups Meet Fundraising Goal,0,1157995.story

Groups Meet Fundraising Goal

Donations Pour In To Provide $2.7 Million Toward Purchase Of Ethel Walker Woods

Courant Staff Writer

March 27 2007

SIMSBURY –A frenzied final month of fundraising that included a mass mailing and a flurry of donations from residents of neighboring towns has helped two groups raise $2.7 million in private funding needed to purchase the Ethel Walker Woods.

Melissa Spear is a project manager for one of the groups, the Trust for Public Land. Spear, who announced the official end to the campaign earlier in the day, told selectmen Monday night it netted more than 1,000 donations, including two each totaling $500,000, $250,000 and $100,000.

Spear called the response to the recent mailing remarkable. Money came from residents of Simsbury, Canton, Granby, East Granby and Avon, she said.

Support also was strong from Ethel Walker School alumnae, who donated about 40 percent of the money raised, as well as groups such as the Farmington River Watershed Association and Trout Unlimited. About 20 percent of the latter group’s membership made donations, Spear said.

“It was a really fantastic campaign,” she said. “A very good partnership and enthusiastic response. You should all be proud.”

Voters in November narrowly approved spending up to $7 million – $5 million from bonding and $2 million from town reserves – to purchase 330 acres of the preserve, owned by private Ethel Walker School. The Trust for Public Land and Keep the Woods, a local grass-roots group, committed to raise the remaining $2.75 million needed to close on the first phase of the $13.9 million purchase.

Town attorney Robert DeCrescenzo told selectmen he anticipates being able to close on the first phase within two weeks. At the same time, the town will make a $1 million deposit toward the second phase purchase of the remaining 90 acres of the preserve. Under the deal, the town has five years to come up the $3.1 million needed to complete the purchase.

Except for the regulatory blessing of the state departments of health and environmental protection, everything is place, Spear said. The Department of Environmental Protection is providing a $917,000 grant the town will use toward the purchase, and health department approval is required because the land sits atop an aquifer that supplies water to more than half of the town’s residents.

Spear offered to pass any money the campaign receives in excess of the goal along to the town to be used toward the purchase. Keep the Woods leader Susan Masino said earlier Monday she was gratified and relieved to have reached what seemed to many like an impossible goal.

“People really responded in the Farmington Valley and beyond,” she said. “It’s an issue in Connecticut that people really care about, and we just knew it could be done.”

Contact Loretta Waldman at

Copyright 2007, Hartford Courant


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