$9.1M grant allows for open space purchases

$9.1M grant allows for open space purchases

reporter photo

Hundreds of acres of open space will be purchased across the state through the awarding of $9.1 million of Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition grants, including 47 acres atop Lamentation Mountain and 5.5 acres in Southington.

Approximately a two-mile hike from the Mattabesett Trailhead at Guiffrida Park, the parcel acquired by the Berlin Land Trust protects the northernmost peak of Lamentation Mountain, located in the northeastern corner of Middletown bordering Berlin.

Land trust President Dennis Kern said preserving the parcel is important to protect the unique geology and ecosystems that exist on the state’s traprock ridges. The mountain is part of the Metacomet Ridge, which spans from New Haven to northern Massachusetts.

“There’s vernal pools down towards the bottom and there’s species that are unusual that are on the property, so it's a really wonderful piece,” he said.

State Senators Mary Daugherty Abrams and Matt Lesser also lauded the environmental benefits of keeping the land undeveloped.

“I am so happy that nearly 50 acres of land in Middletown will become open space, further adding to our incredible forests and preserving local wildlife, most prominently birds of prey,” said Abrams, D-Meriden. “I would like to thank Governor Lamont for his support of environmental protection and the Berlin Land Trust for its efforts in protecting this property.”

“I was proud to work with the Berlin Land Trust in support of this proposal over a number of months,” said Lesser, D-Middletown. “Protecting this vital landscape for future generations is a major win for Middletown and the state of Connecticut.”

The Berlin Land Trust closed on the parcel, known as the Tighe-Baldyga Property, for its owners, on Dec. 31, 2019 for $126,900 with the hope of the grant coming through to reimburse the land trust for a portion of the cost. The grant provides the trust with $63,450 for the purchase.

Opening the land for public use also brings new recreational opportunities by allowing the land trust to work with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association to reroute the Mattabesett Trail to follow the ridgeline. The path currently takes a sharp turn away from the peak to follow Stantack Road, essentially a dirt path, around the property, adding distance for hikers and depriving them of a wide spanning view of Mount Tom in Massachusetts to the north and Sleeping Giant in Hamden to the south, Kern said.

Southington land

The grant also awarded the town of Southington $82,600 to purchase two parcels totaling 5.5 acres near School Street and Marion Avenue.

Since the town has yet to purchase the land, it could not reveal which properties it’s negotiating to purchase, said Paul Chaplinsky, chairman of the town’s Open Space Acquisition Committee. The grant announcement said the land includes three acres of wetlands and a tributary of Judd Brook. 

“We’re really happy that the state has awarded us the grant for the parcels,” Chaplinsky said.

Assistant Town Planner Dave Lavallee has pushed for the town to receive a number of state grants for open space, Chaplinsky said, allowing it to preserve natural resources and features, expand hiking opportunities and run farm heritage programs for school children.

“It's saving land, it’s educating the community … it’s balancing residential development,” he said.

Twitter: @leith_yessian