Old Saybrook referendum favors purchase of The Preserve

Jul 8th, 2014 | By | Category: Top Story

Referendum is major step in plan for towns and state to permanently conserve coastal forest

A long battle to permanently protect Old Saybrook’s 1,000-acre parcel known as The Preserve has leapt substantially closer to triumph tonight, as town residents voted overwhelmingly to provide $3 million in town funds towards purchase of the property, which was once slated to be turned into golf courses and a housing development.

Connecticut Fund for the Environment and The Trust for Public Land have been meeting the challenge to permanently protect this coastal forest that shelters wildlife and migratory birds, filters drinking water, and contains miles of hiking trails.

“As the last remaining unprotected coastal forest in southern New England, The Preserve holds a special place in my heart—and I couldn’t be more pleased that the huge turnout and 2002 to 242 vote tonight shows that my neighbors understand the importance of this land too,” said Chris Cryder, special projects coordinator at CFE and a longtime citizen activist to protect the forest. “Just days after the holiday celebrating our nation’s independence and freedom, it’s terrific that the voters of Old Saybrook have used their individual votes to collectively preserve The Preserve.”

“We’re thrilled that the people of Old Saybrook have made their voices heard and voted to protect the regionally significant ecological gem in their backyards,” said Alicia Sullivan, Connecticut State Director of The Trust for Public Land. “But we aren’t resting on our laurels yet: our passionate corps of volunteers will continue working to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase these 1,000 acres, and the Town of Essex will vote next week on its contribution. We look forward to the day the sale is finalized and The Preserve is safely held in public hands, protected from development, for the good of our wildlife and watersheds and the enjoyment of people for generations to come.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released the following statement in response to the results of the referendum:

“The permanent protection of ‘The Preserve’ has been a goal of the land conservation community across our state for more than 15 years, and now with voters’ approval, this land will be protected in perpetuity and enjoyed by residents for generations to come. As the last, large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston, this land is rich in natural resources, wildlife and habitat areas that not only offers residents with outdoor recreational opportunities, but also provides an important coastal buffer against storm waters during natural disasters. I am glad that the State of Connecticut could partner with the Town of Old Saybrook and the Trust for Public Land on this purchase that will provide lasting benefits for everyone.”

“Today’s vote was a monumental victory for the citizens of Connecticut and the residents of Old Saybrook, protecting the Preserve once and for all from shortsighted development and irreparable harm,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who has been involved in the fight since his tenure as Connecticut’s Attorney General. “This pristine coastal forest will be protected and preserved for the enjoyment of generations to come. I am proud to have fought alongside truly dedicated activists, who never gave up despite long odds and protracted battles.”

“While walking along The Preserve land with members of the Old Saybrook community a few weeks ago, it couldn’t have been more clear that this breathtaking open space needs to be protected for our future generations,” said Senator Chris Murphy. “This forest land is the ideal place to spend an afternoon hiking, exploring, and observing Connecticut’s natural beauty. I’ve been committed to open space protection issues since my days as a state official and I know how committed the land preservation community has been to protecting The Preserve. Tonight’s outcome is a huge win and I commend all those who worked hard to make it happen.”

“Old Saybrook’s residents have spoken, and they’ve said they want to protect The Preserve in its natural state,” said Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., First Selectman of Old Saybrook. “After nearly 20 years of public battles, the Town is one step closer to a resolution as to what will happen with this property. The Town will continue to work with The Trust for Public Land, the State of Connecticut and other partners to make sure all the necessary funds are in place for ownership and successful long-term management of the property. This was a true Town-wide effort from grass roots volunteers to the volunteers on the Town’s Boards and Commissions who had to make sometimes difficult decisions. I want to thank all those who participated for their thoughtfulness and hard work. We live in a great Town and this acquisition will make us a better place to live, work and play for generations to come.”

The next step in the process to permanently protect the land will see residents of Essex voting on a $200,000 appropriation for the purchase of the segment of The Preserve that lies within its town borders. The vote will take place at a public hearing and town meeting on July 16 at 6:45 pm in the Essex Town Hall.

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The longstanding efforts to save The Preserve from development took a significant leap forward over the last year when The Trust for Public Land helped negotiate a purchase agreement with the owner and the state pledged $3.3 million toward the $8.03 million deal. The remainder of the funds would come from the town, private donations, federal grants and about $200,000 from the town of Essex, where about 70 acres is located.

For more on this story, visit: The Day – For Old Saybrook, fate of The Preserve is finally out of the woods | News from southeastern Connecticut.

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