Q&A

Voters wait to cast their ballots on July 8, 2014.

Old Saybrook voters wait to cast their ballots on July 8, 2014.

Bill Peace, Nicole Granath and Kate Brown at The Preserve info tent on voting day.

Bill Peace, Nicole Granath and Kate Brown at The Preserve info tent on voting day in Old Saybrook.

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Campaign to Save the 1,000 Acre Forest; the last unfragmented coastal habitat between New York and Boston.

For more information about the campaign and how you can help,  don’t hesitate to contact Kate Brown, Project Manager or Alicia Sullivan, State Director at 203-777-7367.

What is the Campaign to Save the 1,000 Acre Forest?
Why is it important to conserve The Preserve?
Why now?
How much will it cost to purchase the property?
How do we know the purchase price represents a fair value?
What will happen to the land after it is purchased?
Where will the funding come from?
What will happen if the property is not purchased?
How much will it cost the average town of Old Saybrook taxpayer?
What is the benefit to the taxpayer?
What are the long-term economic benefits of preserving open space?
Who supports this initiative?
Who is the trust for public land, and why are they involved?
How can I help?
May I go hiking in The Preserve?

What is the Campaign to Save the 1,000 Acre Forest?

The Campaign is a community effort to conserve The Preserve, the last unprotected 1,000 acre coastal forest between New York City and Boston, through a partnership between the Towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, the Old Saybrook and Essex Land Trusts, the Trust for Public Land, The Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Audubon Connecticut, The Nature Conservancy, community members and other organizations.

Why is it important to conserve The Preserve?

It will preserve the character of our coastal community that draws so many visitors by preserving a large forest that connects to 500 acres of existing town conservation land that is open to the public;

It will conserve important natural resources by protecting headwaters of tributaries to the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, providing high quality drinking water to 2 towns, buffering downstream owners from flooding, preserving significant wildlife habitat, vernal pools, woodlands and wetlands for people to enjoy;

It will connect people with nature and connect local conservation land via trails through trail connections to 500 acres of land owned by the Town of Old Saybrook.

Why now?

Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. agreed to sell the property to the Trust for Public Land for its appraised fair market value of $8.09 million. The opportunity to purchase the land will disappear soon. Under the agreement with the Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., all the funding needed to purchase and protect the property must be in hand by the end of 2014 or the land will go back on the market.

How much will it cost to purchase and conserve the property?

The purchase price is $8,090,000.  Stewardship and easement endowment funds will also be needed to permanently protect the property and provide funds for its ongoing management.

How do we know the purchase price represents a fair value?

The purchase price is based on 2 independent appraisals that have been reviewed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Town of Old Saybrook and the Town of Essex.

What will happen to the land after it is purchased?

The Town and the State of Connecticut will share ownership of the 930 acres in Old Saybrook, including an access point in Westbrook. The Essex Land Trust will own the 70 acres located in Essex. The property will be permanently protected with conservation easements. The trail system will be improved and connected to existing lands owned by the Town. The public will have access to the land from 4 locations: Ingham Hill Road and Bokum Road in Old Saybrook, Ingham Hill Road in Essex and Essex Road (Route 153) in Westbrook. The 2 existing structures on Essex Road in Westbrook and Old Saybrook have been razed and the Town of Old Saybrook intends to sell the existing house on Bokum Road in Old Saybrook to a private buyer.

Where will the funding come from?

The Trust for Public Land and its partners have committed to raising $10 million from public and private sources by the end of 2014 to cover the purchase price, costs and stewardship. Of this total amount, voters in the Town of Old Saybrook approved $3 million in a referendum on July 8, 2014.  The State of Connecticut has committed more than $3.7 million in acquisition and stewardship funds.  The Town of Essex approved $200,000 in open space acquisition funds in July 2014.  The Trust for Public Land and its partners will raise the remainder of the funding needed to acquire and protect the property through a private fundraising campaign.

What will happen if the property isn’t purchased?

If it isn’t purchased, the land will ultimately be developed with residential homes. As the real estate market improves, piecemeal residential development threatens the remainder of the property and developers have expressed an interest in proceeding with development. This land has been proposed for intense residential and golf development over the last 15 years. During that time, many residents and organizations opposed the development and fought it at local hearings and in court. In mid-2013, the Town of Essex granted approval for
5 lots on the northwest side of the property.

How much will it cost the average taxpayer?

The cost to the Town is only 37% of the value of the land.  The average annual cost to the median assessed homeowner to support the acquisition of The Preserve will be approximately $26 per year over the 20-year term of the bond at an interest rate of 3.75%.

What is the benefit to the public?

Protecting The Preserve from development will enhance the quality of life and desirability of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook as a destination for tourists and as a livable community. The land will be available for hiking and nature based activities and will enhance tourism, a large part of the local economic base. Visitors to the area are drawn by the historic character of the community, including its natural beauty. More families and children will explore the new trails, view wildlife, learn about nature, and visit local shops and restaurants.

What are the long term economic benefits of preserving open space?

Open space and parks increase property values. Sprawl does not. Numerous studies show that the cost to towns of providing services to residential developments exceeds the property tax revenue those communities generate. Other studies show that the creation of open space increases home values and adds valuable amenities to a community.

Who supports this initiative?

The campaign is endorsed by our neighbors in conservation, including the following local organizations:
Trust for Public Land

Old Saybrook Land Trust

Essex Land Trust

Westbrook Land Trust

O.S. Historical Society

CT Fund for the Environment

Save the Sound

Audubon Connecticut

The Nature Conservancy

Essex Meadows

O.S. Democratic Town Committee

Lower CT River Council

CT River Gateway Commission

CT Land Conservation Council

Old Saybrook Garden Club

Who is the Trust for Public Land and why are they involved?

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national non-profit organization that works to conserve land for people to enjoy as working landscapes, parks, gardens and natural areas; ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected over 6,000 acres of open space, watershed land, working farms, forestland and
historic resources in 40 towns in Connecticut. Since 1972, TPL has conserved over 3 Million acres nationally. Recent projects have included Coogan Farm in Mystic and the Griswold Airport in Madison.

How can I help?

Your support is essential. For more information or to donate, please contact Kate Brown, Project Manager at The Trust for Public Land at kate.brown@tpl.org, or Alicia Sullivan, State Director the Trust for Public Land at alicia.sullivan@tpl.org .

May I go hiking in The Preserve?

The Preserve is private property and is not yet open to the public. You may gain access to the property only if you are with The Trust for Public Land or its representatives. Dates for upcoming public hikes will be posted on our events page. Please join us!