Funds to Finalize Preserve Purchase on State Bond Commission Agenda

Here is the complete press release issued by the Governor’s office on Friday:

GOV. MALLOY SAYS FUNDS TO FINALIZE PURCHASE OF THE PRESERVE ON AGENDA FOR BOND COMMISSION

1,000 Acres along Long Island Sound will be Protected as Open Space
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today said that $2 million in funding to help finalize and secure the purchase of the valuable shoreline property known as The Preserve is expected to be approved when the State Bond Commission meets Monday.

 
“Last spring, we promised that the State of Connecticut would be an active partner in providing funding needed to purchase The Preserve, and we are ready to fulfill that commitment,” Governor Malloy said.  “The permanent protection of The Preserve has been a goal of the land conservation community across our state for more than 15 years, and working together with the Trust for Public Land, and the towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook, we will now make that happen.”

 
The Trust for Public Land, a leader in the effort to protect The Preserve, reached an agreement with River Sound Development LLC to purchase the property in July 2013 for $8.09 million.  TPL’s intent was to seek partners and raise funds for the purchase, and to then transfer the property to conservation partners, including the State of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Town of Old Saybrook, and the Essex Land Trust, which will manage the land.

 
In announcing the arrangement in April, Governor Malloy said the state would contribute funds through the State Bond Commission, as well as $1.4 million in federal funds.  Since that announcement, DEEP has secured a $1.4 million grant from a National Park Service through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

 
“This critical conservation project is happening thanks to the great support from Connecticut’s conservation community and our conservation-minded citizens and leaders,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.  “Protecting this property ensures that critical habitats and wildlife will be protected, our water supplies will be safeguarded, and excellent recreational opportunities will be available.”

 
In addition, voters in Old Saybrook authorized the town to provide $3 million in funding for the purchase of the portion of The Preserve located in Old Saybrook and a small piece in Westbrook.

 
“We look forward to closing on this property and partnering with the State on the preservation of this important piece of property,” said Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl P. Fortuna, Jr.  “We will be adding great environmental and recreational value to the region with this purchase, which the Town has been championing for over 15 years.”

 
The Trust for Public Land is raising the final portion of funding for the purchase – estimated at $1.2 million – from private sources.

 
The Essex Land Trust, with the help of a $471,250 open space grant from DEEP, is purchasing the 70 acres of land in Essex that is a portion of The Preserve.

 
Following action by the State Bond Commission and the conclusion of the TPL fund raising campaign, a closing will be scheduled to purchase the property and turn it over to DEEP.

 
In the 2014 session of the General Assembly, action was taken to approve a proposal from Governor Malloyauthorizing the transfer of most of the lands included in The Preserve to the state and the Town of Old Saybrook for joint ownership and management of these critical lands.

 
“Residents of Old Saybrook have a strong interest in protecting this property and demonstrated that by making funds available to help us accomplish this goal,” Governor Malloy said.  “The agreement we have put in place with Old Saybrook allows for a positive and productive partnership between the state and the town that will provide lasting benefits for everyone.”

 
Other parties that strongly supported the purchase and protection of The Preserve include the Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Connecticut, The Alliance for Sound Area Planning, and the Old Saybrook Land Trust.

 
Monday’s meeting of the State Bond Commission will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

 
Background on The Preserve

 
The Preserve is considered to be the last, large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston.  The property is rich in natural resources, wildlife, and habitat areas and will offer hiking and other passive outdoor recreational opportunities.  The Preserve, which also provides an important coastal buffer against storm waters, connects to 500 acres of existing parklands in adjoining towns and miles of hiking trails. (Download map of The Preserve)

 
The Preserve consists of approximately 1,000 acres of land along Long Island Sound in three towns: 926 acres in Old Saybrook; 71 acres in Essex; and four acres in Westbrook.

 
The Preserve was the subject of development proposals dating back to 1998, including plans to build more than 200 homes and an 18-hole golf course. These plans met with strong opposition and lawsuits from conservation groups and residents. Over the years, multiple attempts were made to acquire the land for conservation, but an agreement was never reached and efforts to develop the property continued.

 
The Preserve includes 38 vernal pools, 114 acres of wetlands, more than 3,100 linear feet of watercourses, high quality coastal forest, and an Atlantic White Cedar swamp.  The dense canopy of forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond act as a critical refueling stop for many migratory birds, and the many freshwater seeps on the property are home to amphibian species such as the northern dusky salamander, spotted turtles, and box turtles. In all, more than 100 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds thrive on this property, some of which are state-listed species of special concern and others of which are declining in other areas of the state.

 
In addition to its recreational and habitat resources, The Preserve provides important water quality benefits to residents.  Surface waters on the property drain to three different watersheds: the Oyster River, Mud River and Trout Brook, as they make their way to Long Island Sound.  The protection of The Preserve will ensure that stormwater on the site is recharged to local aquifers.  An aquifer protection area is located just east of the Preserve and supplies an average of 200,000 gallons per day of drinking water to Old Saybrook and surrounding communities.

 
The Preserve also offers benefits for coastal resiliency in the face of climate change, and conservation of it will ensure lessened stormwater impacts from hurricanes and other intense storms.  It is located in the area designated by FEMA’s Hurricane Sandy Impact Analysis as having experienced “high impact” from Super Storm Sandy.  The Preserve acts act as a sponge for stormwater, releasing it slowly into the tributaries and rivers that lead to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, protecting downstream property owners from flooding.

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