Attend Forest Forum! Thurs, April 26, 2018 at the Simsbury Library.  See the event flyer here!

Final Phase PASSES!!! 70% to 30%! Simsbury Voted YES on Question #4
(May 6, 2014).  Thank You Simsbury!!!

Phase 1 Passes!
  (Nov., 2006) See the press releases here and here. See voting results here.
Phase 2A Passes! (May 15, 2012)  See voting results here.  See a sample ballot.  See flyer.  Also see the Federal Highlands Conservation Act – Ethel Walker Grant Request included in Phase 2.
Phase 2B Passes! (May 6, 2014)  See voting results here.  See the referendum questions.  See flyer. See grant information here.

See information on how this purchase was structured.

Get a map of the Ethel Walker Woods.

Hear an Earthday 2007 Midnight Recording from the EWS woods!

An Opportunity for Preservation Donate! The Town of Simsbury has the opportunity to protect 424 acres of land now owned by the Ethel Walker School (EWS). Under an agreement reached by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), the school’s remarkable forests, fields, trails, and wetlands would forever be preserved as open space.

Why Preserve the Ethel Walker Woods?

The Ethel Walker property recharges the invaluable Stratton Brook Aquifer, which supplies 73% of town drinking water.  It is also the sole source for numerous private wells. Development of the land above the aquifer poses a risk to the town’s water quality. The CT Department of Public Health has strongly recommended that the town support the acquisition of open space in this area to protect its water supply.

  • Preserving this land will help retain the scenic, rural character of Simsbury.

The Ethel Walker Woods provides an outstanding scenic vista along a major town road. The property is the largest remaining tract of unprotected open space in Simsbury, and is at the heart of an important regional network of undeveloped land. Preserving the Ethel Walker Woods is a long-lasting investment in the quality of life in Simsbury for present and future generations.

  • Preserving this land will guarantee public access to the land and its trails.

The property’s extensive trail system provides numerous educational and recreational opportunities, such as birdwatching, hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. The property also supports over 300 plants and animal species in a diverse set of habitats. Protecting the Ethel Walker Woods from development will permanently safeguard this important resource for future generations.

Questions and Answers about the Ethel Walker Woods

  • How will the Ethel Walker Woods be preserved?

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has negotiated an agreement that would allow the Town of Simsbury to purchase the Ethel Walker Woods and place a conservation easement on it, ensuring that the land remains in its natural state and guaranteeing public access to the property for recreational purposes. Simsbury voters have approved appropriating funds necessary to preserve the Ethel Walker Woods in two separate votes.  Private donations are still required to complete the agreement.

  • What is the cost to the town of preserving the Ethel Walker property?

The total cost of the property’s development rights is $13.85 million. TPL has committed to raising $2.75 million in private donations to support the purchase. Therefore, the town’s share of the acquisition price is $11.1 million spread over 5 to 7 years. However, the net cost to the town after the application of state and federal grants is expected to be less than $9.5 million.

  • What is the cost to the average homeowner?

The town will finance the acquisition through a combination of reserves, grants and a bond, subject to the approval of the voters of Simsbury. The bond is expect to result in an approximate 0.8 % tax increase.  Thus the cost to an owner of a median-priced home (approximately $300, 000 in Simsbury) would be approximately $40 a year for ten years (the life of the bond).  However the alternative, which is development of the Ethel Walker land, would increase municipal costs (for example by adding to the school population) thus increasing the burden for the town’s taxpayers.

  • What will happen to the Ethel Walker land if it is NOT preserved?

In May 2005, the Ethel Walker School submitted preliminary plans for subdivision of this property to the Simsbury Planning Commission. The plan would create 122 house lots throughout the Ethel Walker land. Although Simsbury voters have approved appropriating funds for this open space purchase, private money is still required.  If the funds necessary to complete the agreement cannot be raised privately, School officials have stated that they will pursue the option to develop the property.

The 424 acre Ethel Walker property is the centerpiece of approximately 1400 acres of open space in and around Simsbury.   Phase 1 Acquisition also includes less than 20 acres NOT shown in the figure above.  This image is an approximation based on maps available at Simsbury Town Hall and the USGS.

Structure of the Deal

The original deal negotiated by TPL with EWS was blessed by Simsbury’s Board of Selectmen (see story here) but turned down by Simsbury’s Board of Finance (see story here).  A modified deal proposed by the Board of Selectmen (see story here) has been accepted by the Board of Finance (see story here).  This modified deal has been approved by the Board of Trustees of EWS.  Simsbury voters approved the Phase I appropriation on November 7, 2006 (see story here). Theyapproved the Phase II down payment in Town Meeting on October 17, 2006 (see story here). Forthe deal to move forward, 2.75 Million needs to be raised privately to close on Phase I.  These funds have been raised and Phase I has closed (see story here and here).

The terms of the modified deal spread the appropriation of funds and the acquisition of land over time.  The final purchase price for the 424 acres is still $13.85 million dollars and the portion paid by the town (to be defrayed by state, federal, and private grants) is still $11.1 million.  The final outcome is still preservation of the entire parcel of land for all time.  The terms of the modified proposal are outlined below.

      • Phase 1:
        • July 2007 closing date
        • Approximately 334 acres for $9.75 million
          • $2.75 million (of the $9.75 million sum) is to be raised privately by TPL and its partners
          • $2 million (of the $9.75 million sum) to be appropriated from Town reserves
        • $5 million (of the $9.75 million sum) to be bonded (defrayed by State and Federal grants)
      • $1 million deposit will be paid from Town reserves to secure the additional acreage (approximately 90 acres) which will be purchased over 5 – 7 years in Phases 2 A and 2 B for a total additional $3.1 million.
    • Phase 2 A:
      • On or before May 2012
      • Two options:
        • Not buy the remaining acres and forfeit the $1 million deposit
        • Buy 45 of the remaining 90 acres for an additional $2.05 million with an option to buy the other half within 2 years.  The $2.05 million will be defrayed by a federal grant of $241,000 and a state grant of $450,000 (for a total of 1/3 the purchase price).  These grants bring the Town’s contribution down to $1.359 million for Phase 2 A.
    • Phase 2 B:
      • On or before May 2014 and only if Phase 2 A is completed (which was completed as of May 2012).
      • A 500K State Grant has been awarded to offset the town’s expense.  Town’s cost is 650K (100K was included in the appropriation to cover legal and bonding costs).
      • Two options
        • Not buy the remaining acres and forfeit the $1 million deposit
        • Buy the remaining 45 acres for an additional $1.05 million (defrayed by the state 500K grant).  Appropriation was for $1.15 million. The extra 100K was inserted by the Town to cover legal and bonding costs.

Simsbury Voters have approved this plan in the following steps:

  • Town Meeting on October 17, 2006
    • Discussed the $2 million reserves + $5 million bonding that then went automatically to Town Referendum on the November 7, 2006 ballot.
    • Voted to approve taking $1 million from reserves for the deposit on Phase 2 A and 2 B (see story here).
  • Town Referendum on November 7, 2006
    • Voted to approve the $2 million from reserves + $5 million bonding to fund Phase 1 (see story here).
  • Town Referendum on May 15, 2012
    • Voted to pass Phase 2A.
  • Town Referendum on May 6, 2014
    • Voted to pass Phase 2B.

The deal is done!  All phases have passed!  All ~420 acres have been preserved!  Kids, we’re Keeping The Woods!!!